By: Carl Ellis On 3/13/2012
In the past five years, 1,045 United Methodist churches were closed in the United States. We can rationalize the closing of some churches because there are just not enough people left in the community where the church is located. Or maybe the demographics have changed and the people the church once served have moved to the suburbs. The church may need to die so that God can raise a new people, and a new church can be born.
Even more disturbing is that in the past 10 years, the United Methodist Church has lost more than 400,000 members. Some may try to rationalize this figure, but if we are honest, we have lost our vision and mission. Some play the blame game, members blame the pastors, pastors blame the member, others blame the government, annual conference, other groups or societal trends. Rationalization and blame have never solved the problems we face and are not a substitute for living as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of how to live a faithful life and move beyond rationalization and blame. Imagine how easy it would have been for Jesus to say to God, “There is just no hope because the earth is filled with people who don’t get it. Why come to earth and help when they are unwilling to pray and learn?” And when all of his disciples deserted him, his own people cried crucify him, and Pilate washed his hand of the matter, he said, “Forgive them they know not what they do.”
What Jesus does say to us is, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” If you go to the Ancient Greek (texts) Bible you will discover that “you” is plural not singular. Jesus was not talking about one light but many. The best example is our Christmas Eve worship when all the lights are turned out and only the Christ Candle is left to shine. When the light of Christ is shared and each person’s candle is lit, the sanctuary is no longer overcome by darkness.
Unfortunately for some of us, we keep coming back to the fact that 1,045 churches closed and more than 400,000 members were lost and not replaced. The very thought can cause us to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. BUT! The darkness has never overcome the light of Christ. Today, if you look around, there are churches sharing the light of Christ with their community and the world. Yet there is more we can all do and our light, with the help of God, can be even brighter.
God’s does not desert us but is there to help:
as we pray for God’s guidance and help for our church and all churches.
as we study and share God’s word
as we share what is working and successful in our church and community.
as we join together for worship, support and training.
I invite you to let your light shine and more than that, to share your light with others. If you see a light I invite you to respond to this blog with an Amen and let us know how you and your church are the light of Christ.