I wonder if you’ve ever considered this question, not for yourself, but for the church? Do we simply exist because it’s a good idea? Are we, as my father believed, here to temper the culture by being its ethical and moral compass?
The only body authorized to speak for the United Methodist Church as a whole is called the General Conference. Meeting every 4 years delegates from all over the world, each one elected by their Annual Conferences, gather to discern the way our churches operate, our governance. The doctrines are based on the Holy Scriptures, the sermons and “Notes on the New Testament” by John Wesley, and The Articles of Religion found in the first part of the United Methodist Book of Discipline. These never change, though interpretation plays a large part in how we perceive them.
We do have a Mission Statement, which lays out the purpose quite clearly:
¶ 120. (Paragraph 120) The Mission-The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. (Italics mine) Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.
I am the 3rd verse of a 4-verse set.
Often forsaken, unused, without regret.
Preachers and song leaders, brisk on time,
The verse they ditch is always mine.
People rushed, hungry and over hung,
I’m the verse ever left unsung.
Not sure how all this transpired,
1, 2, or 4 no more inspired.
Profuse in what I have to say,
Still cut for reasons gone astray.
According to psychology professor Thomas Gilovich wisdom grows out of our “ability to see a problem from multiple ways and to pick the approach that most benefits you and others.” Sometimes it’s how you ask your questions.
Gilovich uses information from an insurance survey from a decade ago to illustrate the point. People in the study were asked, “Could you save 20% of your income?” When faced with the issue most people on the study balked. In looking at the question this way they were forced to give up something to hold on to more of their money. Most decided it was too much trouble to discern what needed to go or decided they didn’t want to give anything up.
However, when asked “Could you live on 80% of your income?” almost all said yes. By posing the question in this way they could see their ability to forgo some items or experiences and get along just fine with less.
The calendar says we begin again and lots of us will try. We’ll “reboot” our diets, our fitness, and many other habits we think we would like. Self-improvement is the name of the game. Most of us could use a little!
I love the Alcoholics Anonymous program myself and go as often as I can. Usually I make it once a week or so. While I’m not an alcoholic, I found the 12 Steps beneficial in my spiritual life and spiritual growth is my chosen path for self-improvement. I don’t have enough resolve for resolutions, self-discipline for restraint, or strength for “white knuckling!”