The overwhelming consensus about the United Methodist Church right now seems to be that we are “dying.” Thus, we speak of “death tsunamis,” and “declining memberships.” Charts show us plummeting downward, as if to indicate a plunge toward the grave.
This line of thought drives me crazy for a couple of reasons.
First, the concept of dying does not necessarily carry negative implications. Jesus made this very clear in John 12, when he said, “Hey, a grain of wheat is worthless unless it is buried in the ground. Only then can it come back to life in a significant way.” If “the church” is dying, that might be a good thing. Because then it might come back to life in a fresher, more vibrant form. In fact, particular forms and expressions of Christianity and church are constantly dying and being reborn. There is nothing bad about this.
But on the other hand, the idea that the church, in the sense of “the body of Christ,” or the community of God’s people on earth, will ever die is a preposterous one. In Matthew 16, Jesus himself said that the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. The church, or the people of God, is the one thing that we can be assured will last as long as the earth. In other words, God will never leave the world without an embodiment or incarnation of God’s own purpose and will.
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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.