The presenter provided some compelling statistics (and being a baseball fan- I like statistics!) Just two to share with you.
- The United Methodist Church is losing 1200 members a week.
- 67% of new attenders in our churches were invited by laity rather than clergy
The second statistic about new attenders responding to the invitation of laity rather than clergy says a couple of things. First, laity need to catch the vision of bringing people to faith in Christ and growing as disciples. They must understand the priesthood of all believers. Laity must grasp the joyous opportunity to invite people to participate in God's Kingdom and God's Kingdom community- the Church.
What discouraged me about the brief part of the meeting that I attended was that the present talking about getting people into our pews. When I heard that statement, I felt that we were trying to revitalize old paradigms where we expect the unchurched to come to us, and come into our churches (hopefully, they will come and tithe as well!). If the UMC is going to plant new faith communities- we need to embrace new paradigms of what "church" is. Maybe it's a home church, a cell church. Maybe it's the pastor and/or laity discipling in the coffee shops, gyms, and community centers. Maybe it will take losing the emphasis on our buildings, our rituals, our liturgy, and our institutionalism in order to go to the people and compel/inspire/give witness that JESUS CHRIST has made a difference in our lives and wants to transform their lives as well!
Path1 is meeting with our Congregational Development group today. I pray that God's wisdom and a passion for reaching the lost moves us to be open to embracing new paradigms of ministry that we have not even imagined yet!