I recently shared lunch with a friend of mine who is a pastor in another denomination. We shared ministry stories together and then the conversation turned to denominations. My friend did share a penetrating insight about the United Methodist Church with me.
He said, “You know, as I observe the United Methodist Church, my opinion is it has one fundamental weakness.”
I thought for a moment, “Here we go, I have no doubt he will point to the theological dissention.”
My friend continued, “You may think I believe the biggest issue facing the United Methodist Church is theology. But I don’t think that’s your biggest issue. The biggest issue I see is that the United Methodist Church is more concerned about the United Methodist Church than it is about the Kingdom of God.”
That stung. I spent a few moments in my defensive posture and we shared some give and take. As I processed my friend’s compassionate criticism, I started thinking, I’ve learned through the years that when someone says something to you that stings, we should ask, “What is true in what they said?”
The United Methodist Church is guilty of what many large institutions all struggle with – the creation of a large, bulky system that takes on a life of its own. This large system can do great things – reach more people, provide more mosquito nets, send more flood buckets. But a large system also demands more resources to continue its existence.
In the coming years, our denomination will need to do some soul searching. We are a great denomination and we are capable of impacting untold numbers of people in our country and around the world, but I believe two things will need to happen for that to occur.