“Fiddling while Rome burns” is widely applied as a caricature of faulty leadership that just doesn’t get it. Nero “fiddled” while he watched Rome burn; a fire he deliberately set – then blamed on the Christians. I think we Methodists are playing with matches.
(For those of you reading this who are not Methodist, please forgive me for tending to our soiled wash load on your time. This is our current dilemma, but it is a good example of how to destroy a denomination.)
Having attended yet another meeting this week on the dilemma our denomination faces concerning the constant tug-of-war over LGBTQ issues, I came away (again) frustrated that we are arranging the parlor’s pictures on a ship that is going down.
It’s not that the issue over “full-inclusion” for LGBTQ persons is without weight; it is! However, it is a much greater issue that our incredibly shrinking denomination has a consecutive losing streak that dates back to the presidency of Richard Nixon.
In 1968 the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches merged to form the group known as The United Methodist Church with about 11 million members. Since then membership has dwindled in the U.S. to about 7 million…a loss of more than one-in-three. In that same time frame the U.S. population grew from 199 million to 319 million. The UMC went from 5.5% of Americans to 2.2%; not exactly something you’d want to write-home about.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result, we Methodists are riding that horse into the ground!
And if the above statistics continue to be our yearly experience, in a few decades there will not be anyone left in the UMC to debate whether LGBTQ persons ought to wear the robes and serve communion.
Well – that’s one way to solve a problem.
So, let me get to the point before I don’t.
The problems we face are not church law breakers, LGBTQ insurgents or doctrinal weakness…our problem is we don’t care about evangelism enough to make it our focal priority.
We are good at arguing social principles and splitting the finest theological hairs around; we are terrible at winning souls and discipling them to be Great Commission believers. We are fiddling while Nashville is drowning in General Conference amendments to amendments of amended motions to certify what kinds of fiddles to use.
Now, I’m not so naïve as to think we can “opt-out” of social responsibility in favor of becoming a denomination of soul-winning, scalp-counters. But, geez….give it a rest, guys; a whole generation of “millennials”, “X’s” and whatever else you call groups these days, have faces, names and souls. They deserve more than an educated-derelict standing before them, holding-forth on social trends and pre-packaged Bible studies.
They may not know it (mainly because we haven’t identified it clearly and unashamedly lately), but the thing their hearts are really crying out is: Sir….we would see Jesus.
I dearly pray we can get back to announcing that.
For You, Today…
If you’re a clergy person reading this, I’m sorry…..well, no I’m not really sorry; I’m really hopeful we will get back to preaching and leaving social engineering to elitist politicians.
If you’re a believer, I hope you’ll follow Jesus and bring a whole bunch of your friends.
He’s worth it, even when others, supposedly leaders, are fiddling in the fire.