Today, we are going to conclude our preaching series on time. That aspect of our life that challenges us , confines us, and at times rules us. Last week, examined how possessing an understanding of the two types of time, chronos and kairos, can help deepen our understanding of God and God's will for our lives. Today we are going to apply those lessons to the five practices of the Methodist Way to see how they inform one another.
Christ is the King
Today has been a wonderful reminder, a tremendous opportunity for us experience the high points of the Christian calendar. We have read Scriptures about and sung songs dedicated to the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. And for me this helps to reinforce the reality that Christ truly is the King. That Christ is the ruler of us all. So what does that have to do with kairos time and with the five practices of the Methodist Way? I am so glad you asked!
In looking at time, if we understand that Christ, that God Incarnate, is in control, that will help us to let go of the reigns. It can help us give ourselves permission to let go of our own assumed power. When I was a chaplain at Tampa General, my biggest fear going into a room was whether or not I was going to have the right words, the timely words, to help the person I encountered. My first few visits with patients, were horrible. I prayed that since I was sure I had not helped them, please God, do not let have done more harm. Eventually, I shared these concerns with my supervisor. He gave me a great bit of advice. He told me that when people are hurting, if you simply take their hurt, hold it in the palm of your hand, walk with them, empathize with them, pray for them, and love them, when they are ready, they will take that pain back and be able to deal with it. He told me that I did not have to alter it, make it go away, or fix it. What a relief! I no longer had to worry about fixing other people's hurt. I simply had to walk with them through it. God will fix it. While I could be a vessel, it was no longer only on me. Giving myself permission to not have to have all the answers was extremely liberating.
It is the same with our understanding of time. If we will abide by the reality that God is the one that is truly in control, that we do not have to have all the answers about when things will get done, how opportunities will present themselves, then we free ourselves to be obedient. We free ourselves up so we can focus our efforts on doing whatever it is God has called us to do.
I want to share with you one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It comes from the Gospel of John, chapter 15, verse 1-4 and 8, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Christ tells us, “neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”. If we go off on our own, without Christ; if we go off on our own, dictating the time and the season in which we feel things must occur, we will not bear fruit.
It is well known that the United Methodist Church has gone off on its own a bit and we are in decline. Let me share with you some numbers about where we stand as a denomination.
In the US, between 1998 and 2008:
- Average weekly worship attendance has dropped 7%
- Professions of Faith have declined by 25%
- Baptisms have declined by 31%
- The number of congregations have decreased by 6%
- Our membership of persons 65 and older doubled and our membership of persons 18-44 was cut in half
- 90% of our members are white – our diversity has not increased in the last ten years
- The average age of clergy rose from 49 in 1998 to 54 in 2008
- Local church expenditures have increased by 49% over the period and by 64% per average worship attendance
I do not share these numbers with you to scare you, just to inform you. Our denomination is in no worse condition than any of the others out there. Sure each groups has their mega-churches and their churches that are growing, but by and large things need to change, or in 30-40 years there will be nothing left to change.
How Do We Bear Fruit?
Therefore, we have been charged by our denomination, “to redirect the flow of attention, energy, and resources to an intense concentration on fostering and sustaining an increasing the number of vital congregations effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”2
Here is where our five practices come in, Passionate Worship, Radical Hospitality, Salty Service, Intentional Disciplining, and Extravagant Generosity. At Charge Conference today, after consultation and discussion with the leadership of this church, we are going to submit advancement goals in each of these practices on behalf of our church. These goals are not radical, but do represent our desire to see our numbers increase in each area. For Passionate Worship, measuring our weekly worship attendance, we want to grow 4% a year for the next four years. That means we want four new attenders every year so that our 105 member average now, grows to 121 by 2015.
For Radical Hospitality, that area that measures our Professions of Faith, those people that join our body and have never been a member of a church before, we want to bring in six in 2012, seven in 2013 and 14, and eight in 2015.
For Intentional Discipling we want to increase the average number of people involved in these type of discipling groups from the 44 we have now to 50 in 2012, 55 in 2013, 60 in 2014, and 65 in 2015.
For Salty Service, that time we spend serving others outside of these walls, we want to increase by two people a week, each year. That represents an increase from the 13 a week we average now to 15 in 2012, 17 in 2013, 19 in 2014, and 21 in 2015.
For extravagant generosity, the amount we give to the church, our goal is to see a $1500 increase each year over where we are now. That represents a 1% increase each year.
All of these goals will be printed in next month's newsletter and I share this with you because I want all of us to be on the same page. All of these goals are attainable, and if we see an increase in one, chances are we will see an increase in all of them. I also tell you this so when you see some changes to the way we do some things, over the next four years, you will have the chance to embrace them rather than resist them.
So over the next four years look for ways to be attached to the branch. Can you imagine the wonderful things we can do, the number of lives we can change over the next four years, if we are all attached to the branch that is Jesus Christ. I am so excited about you. I look out over this congregation and I see people with the gift of teaching, I see people with the gift of compassion, I see people with the gift of generosity, and a whole host of others. Folks, we are blessed here at Druid Hills. The experience we have, the love we have, is incredible.
I want you all to know where we are heading so we can go there together. The only way for us to get there is together. If we work together, each of us doing what the Holy Spirit has equipped us to do, each of us treating one another with love and respect, each of us seeking out the heart of God, these numbers will not matter. Because we will be so far ahead of them. I want this body to be strong, connected, and full of the power of God.
So, if you are unsure of where you fit in, if you are unsure of what you can do, if you have any questions at all about your place here, and you all have a place, come to this rail and pray. Each of us has a gift for this body, come and ask God to share what it is with you, to give you the strength to use it, to show you where and at what time to use it. Together these goals are easy, together this world will be changed, together we can show Ocala that Christ truly is our King!