A member of the United Methodist Church’s Call to Action Steering Team says the team’s task was to be “prophetic” and to avoid the “terminal niceness” that has long inhibited realistic discussion of the challenges facing the denomination.
“We were asked to do a deep study of the church,” the Rev. Jorge Acevedo, lead pastor at Grace Church (UMC) in Cape Coral, Fla., said in a recent address to the Wesleyan Renewal Movement, a group of North Georgia Conference clergy.
Part of the Call-to-Action team’s work included a research project aimed at gauging the “relative health” of the UMC’s 32,000 church in North America.
It was a relative study in that we only had the information that we commonly gather across all 32,200 churches…. And there are only certain categories we [measure] across the connection — things like membership, worship attendance, professions of faith, adults in Sunday School, children in Sunday School….
I think it says about United Methodism what we don’t measure…. [Y]ou know what we don’t measure consistently across our connection? We don’t measure mission…. So that’s why you will not see in our report very much that has to do with mission….
[The research team we were working with] took the conglomerate materials…for all 32,000 churches and — after we gave them some measures of vitality [based on the things the denomination measures] — we were able then to come out and say that about 4,500…of our 32,000 United Methodist churches would fit in the category of being “vital.”
Now what that means is 27,500 of our church are not vital…. [This is] not an indiscriminate line in the sand [but] a very statistical line in the sand that says, “Is there growth in membership or in worship attendance or in professions of faith?”…
[O]ur fundamental conclusion…at Call to Action is that the focus of the church needs to be on vital congregations — period, end of story, nothing else matters…. If we’re not vital on the corner of Main and Maple, nothing else matters…. And if we do not have [— as the Call to Action report (PDF) says —] “an intense concentration on fostering and sustaining an increase in the number of vital congregations [effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ]” — if we don’t do that, we do not have a future with hope.
This is what matters — the local church…. [E]verything has to serve to the end that we have vital congregations in every community.
To listen to an 11-minute excerpt from Jorge Acevedo’s remarks, click the arrow on the audio player below, or download an mp3 file (5MB).
Before Mr. Acevedo spoke, attendees at the Wesleyan Renewal Movement meeting viewed this five-minute video, which was produced for the UMC’s General Council on Finance and Administration:
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Related articles and information
|•||Rev. Jorge Acevedo: 2009 Distinguished Evangelist of The United Methodist Church | Foundation for Evangelism|
|•||Letting Jesus build his Church (a profile of Jorge Acevedo and Grace Church) | Elizabeth Glass-Turner, Good News (November-December 2009)|
|•||UMC renewal demands vital local congregations | Andrew C. Thompson, UM Reporter (June 7, 2011)|
|•||Call to Action: Reordering the Life of the Church | Website of the UMC’s Call to Action Steering Team|
|•||The complete “Operational Assessment” report (PDF) and Appendices (PDF) | Call to Action Steering Team (June 29, 2010)|
|•||Tone deafness and the Call to Action | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2010)|
|•||United Methodist ‘Call to Action’ finds 15% of UM churches highly ‘vital’ | Mark Tooley, UMAction—IRD (July 17, 2010)|
|•||Call to Action offers signs of crisis and hope | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (July 13, 2010)|
|•||Momentum builds for major church change | Bishop John L. Hopkins, United Methodist News Service (April 12, 2010)|
|•||Call to Action seeks to increase church vitality | J. Richard Peck, United Methodist News Service (April 9, 2010)|
|•||Church leaders seek consensus on plans for change | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 12, 2009)|
|•||Connectional Table OKs new plan to study church | J. Richard Peck, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 9, 2009)|
|•||Committee assesses life of church | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (July 22, 2009)|
|•||Bishop Palmer says church is in ‘sweet spot’ for change | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (May 14, 2009)|
|•||Methodism’s coming death spiral | Donald Sensing, WindsOfChange.net (Nov. 15, 2007)|
|•||40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)|