By Jessica Brodie
News broke as we prepared to go to press on the Advocate this month that an economist has a grave warning for The United Methodist Church: the denomination is in crisis, and if we don’t turn things around soon, we’re in big trouble.
The May 20 article by United Methodist News Service reporter Heather Hahn, “Economist: United Methodist Church in Crisis,” details how, according to Donald R. House Sr., chair of the denomination’s Economic Advisory Committee, the UMC has only 15 years to reverse its decline in the United States if it is to have a sustainable future.
“By 2030, the denomination in the United States will either have found a way to turn around, meaning it is growing, or its turnaround in the United States is not possible. By 2050, the connection will have collapsed,” the article quotes House as telling the Connectional Table and General Council on Finance and Administration May 19.
With not enough people in the pews, House said, there simply won’t be enough money to pay for the UMC’s connectional structures, from bishops and agencies to conferences and missions. Hahn reported that House’s words came just a week after the Pew Research Center’s latest study revealed numbers for mainline Protestants, including Methodists, had dropped from 18.1 to 14.7 percent in the last seven years. Comments began pouring in about the news, blaming the decline on everything from the church’s stance on homosexuality to a loss of evangelism.
When we hear grave warnings about things close to our heart, it is tempting to rush about and do everything in our power to fix them. But take it from me—a notorious do-er known among her inner circle as “Little Miss Fix-It”—sometimes the best thing we can do is nothing at all.
For when it gets right down to it, it’s not really our problem to fix. It’s God’s church. And when we begin to think “oh, the answer surely is X or Y or Q or Z,” we get it wrong. God is in charge of the church. While God exercises His command through us, His people, He is at the reins, and the very God who created the universe and everything in it will make absolute certain that His wishes will be done.
And if He thinks His kingdom will be best served without the UMC, what exactly do we think we are going to do about it?
Jesus prayed to the Father at the Mount of Olives, “Yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Thy will be done.” God tells us He knows the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11). In Isaiah 45:7, God even tells us, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.”
Over and over again, Scripture tells us we are not in control here. God is in charge. Even a coworker’s coffee cup reminds me that He will be handling all of my problems today, thank you very much.
So while we’re going to give our all to being the light of Christ, to being God’s hand and feet in the world, let’s be careful not to point fingers or scurry about in fixing so-called problems. Let’s just be faithful to our church leader, God, and let His will work through us for His glory.
As Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
By Jessica Brodie