A spirit of adventure

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

A spirit of adventure

Jan. 21, 2005    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0234}

NOTE:  A headshot of Whitaker is available at http://www.flumc.info/photo_gallery2.shtml.

An e-Review Commentary
By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker**

There is nothing wrong with the church that a dose of adventure can't cure. Demoralization and decline are the results of losing our nerve in embracing the adventure of being the church of Jesus Christ in the world.

If a pastor begins to lost interest in preaching then she should consider being more bold. Who wouldn't grow a little bored with offering general platitudes week after week? Yet, preaching is proclaiming exciting news of what God is doing. That involves not being afraid to speak the truth in love about controversial subjects or going more deeply into the creed of the church to overturn conventional religious notions. Most congregations respect the freedom of the pulpit when they know this freedom will be used in a caring and responsible way with respect for where others are. In fact, they hope to be challenged by God's Word, as well as to be comforted.

When a congregation settles down to a nice routine of fellowship and activities, it loses its vitality. Being the church means participating in God's mission in the world. Inviting the people in our communities, especially those who are different from most of the members, is one way of upsetting the deadly status quo of a congregation. Having the imagination to serve the needy in the community will be the beginning of becoming an exciting missionary church. And why stop with your own community? There are opportunities for every congregation to go deeply into the global mission of the church in ways that will transform the members' view of the world.

A whole Christian communion like The United Methodist Church loses its vitality when it does not invest its energy into mission. In our own communion we have allowed ourselves to drift into institutional inertia because we have not been open enough to change and because we had let controversy over sensitive issues turn us toward too much preoccupation with our own divisions. Yet, at the same time, our Church is growing overseas, and we have a tremendous opportunity to extend the cause of Christ by investing in the growth of the Church outside the United States. 

There is also no excuse for our continuing to have General Conferences that have no proposals for a focused, relevant and challenging mission for the next quadrennium. The Spirit can use us and work through us once we grow sick and tired of inertia and plunge right into mission with a spirit of adventure. It is my hope and prayer that we are reaching this point in our life together with a new Council of Bishops and a new Connectional Table.

The spirit of adventure atrophies in the church when our faith grows weak. Faith gets flabby when it is not exercised by listening to God's Word in Scripture and then living in God's Spirit. To be the church is to be a people of faith, and there is no faith where there are no risks.

In "Teaching A Stone to Talk" (Harper and Row, 1982), Annie Dillard wrote: "The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church, we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews." 

Exactly. Look out: who knows what God is going to do or say to us?

This commentary relates to Christian Mission.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker is bishop of the Florida Conference.

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