Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

A Monday afternoon tweet by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, received sharply negative responses from several United Methodist tweeters.

Dr. Albert Mohler

At 4:19 p.m. Eastern Time, Mohler tweeted: “Join me in praying that the General Conference of the United Methodist Church will hold firm for biblical standards of sexuality.”

Mohler apparently was referring to the sexual standards detailed in the United Methodist Book of Discipline in paragraphs 161F and 304.3. Petitions that would alter those paragraphs will be debated and voted on later this week.

The Discipline language upholds human sexuality as “God’s good gift” but teaches that not all forms of sexual expression are within the boundaries of holy and appropriate Christian conduct.

“Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage,” paragraph 161F states.

Paragraph 304.3 requires clergy members of the UMC “to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world,” further noting that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as [clergy] candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

A few UM tweeters thanked Mohler for his comment about praying for the upcoming vote on sexual standards, but most responses directed to him (via the @albertmohler designation) were decidedly negative and in some cases even derisive:

Although a Southern Baptist, Albert Mohler served two Methodist churches while pursuing his seminary education. He has been president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., since 1993.

Mohler is the author of Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth (Multnomah, 2008), Desire & Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance (Multnomah, 2008), and He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Moody, 2008).

Related posts
Astonishing preaching
A conversation with Mark Tooley on General Conference 2012
Rob Renfroe of Good News on General Conference 2012
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
General Conference 2012: More attempts to change UM standards on sexual behavior
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Pro-homosexuality foundation pours millions into Catholic and mainline Protestant dissident groups
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Podcast: Charles Keysor – ‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’

Related articles and information
Defining the issues: A Methodist witness | Albert Mohler (Nov. 1, 2006)
Book Review: Forgetting How To Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution by Karen Booth | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (March/April 2012)
Outsider influence over homosexuality at General Conference | Karen Booth, Good News (January/February 2012)
Compromising positions | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May-June 2011)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 2011)
Should the UMC change its ordination standards and allow sexually active homosexuals to serve as clergy? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
Anyone who works under the authority or auspices of the Church must be held to the highest standards of behavior, free of misconduct in any form | UMSexualEthics.org
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
UM Judicial Council backs clergy dismissal over affair | Linda Bloom, UMNS (April 27, 2010)
Speaking the truth in love | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2009)
Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church (ordering info) | Thomas C. Oden, Baker Books (2006)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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On this April Fools’ Day, we’re setting aside theological discussions and denominational news in favor of something a bit lighter. — Ed.

For more than two decades, singer-songwriter Mark Bradford has been putting smiles on the faces of morning-show radio listeners in cities such as Philadelphia, Houston and Kansas City with his dead-on parodies of popular songs that replace the original lyrics with new lyrics that satirize current events.

Bradford at Denver's First Church of the Nazarene

But there is more to Mark that just zany morning-show humor. Mark is a follower of Jesus Christ — and a member of First Church of the Nazarene in Denver, Colo. — who has turned his talent for parody into a ministry opportunity. (The Church of the Nazarene is part of the the World Methodist Council.)

Working with One Way Street, Inc., a provider of resources for puppet ministry, Mark has created a series of recordings that he calls “Righteous Pop Music” (RPM).

Each of his 14 RPM CDs features well-known pop songs with newly written lyrics inspired by the stories, characters, and themes of the Bible. The recordings are often used as a musical adjunct for puppet ministries.

Mark Bradford’s mission statement is “To glorify God, uplift and challenge believers, appeal to non-believers, and reflect in my music the power and intimacy we can have with God through Christ.”

Need a smile on your face today? Use the audio player to listen to Mark’s recording of “Sacred Agent Man” (about the Apostle Paul), a “righteous” version of the 1966 hit, “Secret Agent Man.” The song is from Righteous Pop Music—Volume 2, released in 1996.

Mark Bradford’s YouTube channel is here. His blog, focused on Scripture, is here.

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The hyper-commercialization of the Christmas season is nothing new. Fifty-two years ago satirist Stan Freberg produced “Green Chri$tma$,” a memorable indictment of the profit-above-all mindset that seeks to transform the celebration of the Incarnation into an endorsement of everything from soft drinks to soap.

Stan Freberg in the late 1950s

“All my life I had been disturbed by advertising’s increasingly blatant intrusion into Christmas,” Freberg recounted in his his 1998 book, It Only Hurts When I Laugh (Crown Publishing).

[H]aving been raised as a Christian, in a minister’s home, was mostly responsible for my feelings about it, but once I began working as a professional advertising person around people in agencies and clients, I suddenly realized that the overcommercialization simply didn’t have to be….

If a company wanted to tie some product into Christmas that just didn’t fit or that was grossly out of place, it was the job of its advertising agency to talk them out of it. If the agency was the one who had dreamed up ways of lashing some extraneous product into the holiday… it’s the client’s job to talk the agency out of it. Client and agency should save each other from themselves.

Why? Because it is the ethical thing to do.

“Green Chri$tma$” was greeted with controversy even before its release, Freberg recalled in his book.

[After we made the recording,] I was in New York when a call came in from a man named Lloyd Dunn. He was the new president of Capitol…. He…did not share my sense of moral outrage that Christmas had deteriorated into a sell-a-thon. He was calling now to tell me that on the advice of legal and many other people at Capitol he was pulling “Green Chri$tma$” off release…

“This is a very offensive recording[,” he said].

“Who is it offensive to?” I asked.

“Everybody in the world of business!” he said. “You’ll offend everybody in advertising!”

“Not everybody,” I said. “Just the ones who should be offended.”

When Stan Freberg threatened to leave Capitol over the company’s refusal to release “Green Chri$tma$,” Dunn relented, but he demanded that Freberg “take out any mention of whose birthday we’re celebrating,” according to the account in It Only Hurts When I Laugh. Freberg refused.

Eventually, “Green Chri$tma$” was released as originally produced, but with no publicity from Capitol.

Nonetheless, the recording gained attention — including plenty of negative attention from advertisers and those businesses (i.e., newspapers and broadcasting stations) supported by advertising.

A Christmas Day (1958) editorial in the Los Angeles Times accused Freberg of attacking the spirit of giving. In a rejoinder, published in the paper three weeks later, Freberg wrote that Times had misidentified the object of his satire.

[“Green Chri$tma$”] is an attack on one thing and one thing only: advertisers who…decide to take a crack at tying their extraneous products into Christmas with Alka-Seltzer, soap, hair tonic and whiskey ads (to name a few), implying that it is indeed the Christian thing to be alkalized, clean, dandruff-free and loaded for Christmas.

Somehow this is a little sickening and a far cry from the gift giving that took place in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.

In a interview decades later, Freberg noted that despite a few dated elements, the satirical point of “Green Chri$tma$” remained remarkably sharp. “I’m amazed that it holds up all these years,” he said.

Stan Freberg donated the proceeds from “Green Chri$tma$” to the Hemophilia Foundation.

To listen to “Green Chri$tma$” (4:30), use the audio player below. (This version, with some of the more-dated elements removed, is about two minutes shorter than the original production. The full version is available for purchase — as an mp3 download — here.)

Stan Freberg grew up in Pasadena, Calif., the son of a Baptist minister. He began providing voices for cartoons while still a teenager, then broke into network radio. After making series of popular satirical recordings in the 1950s, he concentrated his career on advertising and became known (in the words of Advertising Age magazine) as “the father of the funny commercial.”

In 1995, Stan Freberg was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.

Related articles and information
Let’s run it up the fir tree | TIME (Dec. 15, 1958)
Transcript of “Green Chri$tma$” | MyMerryChristmas.com
For the sake of the record (letter to the editor) | Stan Freberg, Los Angeles Times (Jan. 14, 1959)
Green Chri$tma$—fifty year$: An appreciation | A Christmas Yuleblog (Nov. 21, 2008)
Maestro of the mike | TIME (Oct. 18, 1999)
Commercials for God | TIME (July 12, 1963)
(NOTE: In 1963, Stan Freberg wrote and produced a series of commercials for the United Presbyterian Church, a denomination that was later part of the merger that formed the Presbyterian Church (USA) — tagline for the spots: “The blessings you lose may be your own.” In the 1970s, he wrote and produced several audio essays for the Southern Baptist Convention.)
Stan, the man | TIME (July 29, 1957)

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To reverse the United Methodist Church’s decades-long membership decline in the United States, local UM churches must embrace innovation and commit themselves to constant improvement, according to Adam Hamilton, leader of one of the UMC’s largest and most successful churches.

Hamilton, founder and senior pastor of  the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (COR) in Leawood, Kansas, was the lead speaker at COR’s 12th annual Leadership Institute, attended last week by nearly 2,000 pastors and leaders.

Even if local churches are willing to embrace innovative change, a net membership increase in the UMC is still likely to be at least 10 years away, Hamilton predicted, because the next decade will see heavy membership losses due to the deaths of tens of thousands of older members.

“If we act now, in 10 years we might actually see that we begin to reverse the decline,” he said during the conference’s Friday afternoon session. “In 10 years, we’ll actually start to see that we have a future with hope.”

He did not address the serious doctrinal disagreements or sharply differing approaches to social concerns that have roiled the denomination over the past four decades and have helped fuel membership decline.

Adam Hamilton illustrated the need for innovation and improvement at the local church level by looking at how computers have changed during the 20 years since Church of the Resurrection was founded.

I bought a computer for us four weeks before our first worship service. It had just come out…. It was a Macintosh Classic…. And this was the hottest computer you could buy in 1990….

And I want you to imagine if Apple Computer had said…, “We have just built the best computer that anybody could ever build.”… [Or maybe they said,] “We’ll make if faster, but we’re going to keep it [looking] just like this.”…

The Rev. Adam Hamilton

Instead, they developed laptops… that had the capacity to do things that nobody had ever dreamed of when [the Mac Classic] was built….

And [now in 2010 they’ve] invented a whole new way of doing computers…[with the release of] the iPad….

[T]hey studied how people used computers, they studied to try to understand…the needs of people, and then they formed a product….

And so [as the church,] part of this [is] in our hands. We have to be able to ask: “What needs to change [so that we can better speak to people’s needs today and connect with them]?”…

[M]ost of our churches [haven’t] had leaders who understood that and we [have] just kept doing the same thing over and over and over again. And we’re realizing that can’t work. It simply can’t work for the future.

You either…innovate, you improve, or you’re going to die. That’s a [Church of the] Resurrection classic principle we use around here….

[W]e’re not changing the gospel, we’re not changing the Scriptures. But we are changing how we talk about faith. We’re changing how we help people experience the presence of God in their lives.

Hamilton also focused on ways new communication technologies are improving the ability of local churches to connect with people — and with other churches.

The world is changing. Are you willing to shape the future by embracing technology?…

I think our future [in the United Methodist Church is] rooted and grounded in our past. When the early Methodists went to start churches across the United States, here’s what they did: they sent circuit riders out, and those circuit riders were given two books — they were given a hymnal and a book of John Wesley’s sermons.

And they would preach in a place and they would form a church, and after three weeks they would say, “Now, you’re in charge while I’m gone…. Here’s a copy of John Wesley’s sermons. And while I’m gone, why don’t you just read one sermon a Sunday when the people gather together for worship?” So the circuit rider would go start five or six or seven more churches and would circle back around 12 weeks later….

How do you think John Wesley would do this today? Would he give them a book of his sermons? No, he would say, “Why don’t you log on…online and then you can join me and I’ll look in the camera and I’ll say ‘Hey’ to all of you….”

Circuits were the groupings of churches that worked together and they shared one pastor and then they had lay leaders and they would work together for the discipleship of the people….

Is it possible that there are super circuits in the future where there are multiple churches, not bound geographic areas — they may be in different parts of the country — and they join together voluntarily and become connected to one another in these circuits?

Some of them [would] have ordained pastors who are overseeing. Some of those ordained pastors [might be] excellent preachers and some of them, maybe not so much. So sometimes they [would] use the sermons from another congregation…. Maybe some of them [would] only use the sermons from the largest church.

They [would] all share the IT resources of that [largest] congregation, and all of the churches [would] work together and bring their strengths to the table to help them all be more effective and stronger congregations….

There are 19,600 churches in the United Methodist denomination in the U.S. that have less than 60 people a Sunday in worship. Currently, most people say those churches have no future. They’re going to have to close because they can’t afford pastors, they can’t afford benefits, they can’t afford apportionments — they simply are going to die.

But what would happen if each of those was seen…as a place that could be [connected by technology]? And…it costs nothing to do it in this place. The building is already paid for. And if we get 25 people and over the next three years we can grow it to 30, we’ve seen a 20 percent increase in attendance in that place in three years, as opposed to closing it down….

What could you do with this? How could you help other churches in your community? Is there a way that you could create a voluntary circuit in which you are helping support and nurture one another in being healthy, vibrant congregations?

Renewing the church is going to require all of us looking at how we do share we share the resources we have so that other might have a chance to have future with hope.

Use the audio player below to listen to Adam Hamilton discussing the need for innovation and improvement in United Methodist churches (this 12-minute excerpt has been edited for length).

The purpose of the annual Church of the Resurrection (COR) Leadership Institute, launched in 1999, is to teach “practical, translatable principles” that have helped COR grow from four people in 1990 to about 17,000 today with multiple meeting locations.

DVDs of this year’s Leadership Institute will be available through The Well, the Church of the Resurrection bookstore.

Related posts
Adam Hamilton: ‘We are in desperate need of excellent preaching’
‘Assessment’ report: United Methodism faces compound crisis
Podcast: Billy Abraham on connecting doctrine and evangelism
Riley Case: ‘Operational Assessment’ shows UMC has lost its way
Four things the UMC must do ‘to serve the present age’
Podcast: Dr. James Heidinger on ‘United Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Bill Hinson on ‘The Making of a Minister’
John Ed Mathison: Six ways for a pastor to make a lasting difference
Bishop Robert Schnase on ‘The Five Practices’
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘The primary task of the Church’
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The New Birth’

Related articles and information
The church offers ‘what’s desperately needed’: A conversation with Adam Hamilton (video) | Faith & Leadership (Duke Divinity School) (March 31, 2009)
Institute gives UM churches renewed hope | Robin Russell, UM Reporter (Aug. 22, 2008)
How to grow a church: Kansas pastor offers tips at Methodist gathering | David Yonke, The (Toledo) Blade (via Google Newspapers) (June 16, 2007)
Fewer whiffs: Too many sermons are ‘swing-and-a-miss’ strike outs | Adam Hamilton, Leadership Journal (Fall 2007)
4-H sermons: Connecting with your audience | Adam Hamilton, Leadership Journal (Summer 2007)
Reaching the unchurched | Adam Hamilton, Leadership Journal (Spring 2007)
‘Should we fret the back door?’ Why the departure of church members hurts me so | Adam Hamilton, Leadership Journal (Spring 2006)
Opening closed minds | Adam Hamilton, Leadership Journal (Spring 2004)
Christmas Eve at Adam’s house: Adam Hamilton’s Church of the Resurrection enjoys the fruit of the season | Kendrick Blackwood, The Pitch (Dec. 19, 2002)
Purpose, passion drive church growth, pastor says | Michael Wacht, United Methodist News Service (Feb. 26, 2002)

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During MethodistThinker.com’s late-summer hiatus, we’re highlighting podcasts from our Spring 2010 season.

This podcast features one of the most influential United Methodists of the 1960s and 70s: Dr. Charles W. Keysor, founder of the Methodist renewal ministry known as Good News.

Dr. Charles W. Keysor

In a 1986 tribute, published several months after Dr. Keysor’s cancer-related death at age 60, Good News magazine described him as a “minister and journalist who almost single-handedly forged an influential evangelical movement within the United Methodist Church.”

Charles Winchester Keysor was born in Pittsburgh, Penn., in 1925 and was raised in Illinois. After receiving a journalism degree from Northwestern University, he married Margaret (Marge) Wickstrom, the daughter of a Swedish Methodist pastor, and began a career in journalism.

In the 1950s, he served as managing editor for The Kiwanis Magazine and later as managing editor of Together, the now-defunct official magazine of The Methodist Church.

Then, in 1959, he had a profound encounter with Christ at a Billy Graham crusade. Soon, he felt called to leave journalism and enter seminary.

By the mid-1960s, Charles Keysor — known to his colleagues and friends as Chuck — was serving as the pastor of Grace Methodist Church in Elgin, Ill. During a late-1965 lunch meeting with James Wall, then-editor of the Methodist ministers’ magazine, New Christian Advocate, Keysor shared his concerns about the prevailing liberal theology in the denomination, which he saw as a departure from the historic, orthodox Christian faith.

Wall invited him to write an article for the Advocate “describing the central beliefs and convictions” of the evangelical wing of Methodism. That article, “Methodism’s Silent Minority: A Voice For Orthodoxy,” was published in July 1966.

Within The Methodist Church in the United States is a silent minority group…. Its concepts are often abhorrent to Methodist officialdom at annual conference and national levels.

I speak of those Methodists who are variously called “evangelicals” or “conservatives” or “fundamentalists.” A more accurate description is “orthodox,” for these brethren hold a traditional understanding of the Christian faith….

Here lies the challenge: We who are orthodox must become the un-silent minority! Orthodoxy must shed its “poor cousin” inferiority complex and enter forthrightly into the current theological debate….

[W]e must be heard in Nashville, in Evanston, and on Riverside Drive. Most of all, we must be heard in thousands of pulpits, for the people called Methodist will not cease to hunger for the good news of Jesus Christ, incarnate, crucified, risen, and coming again.

“Methodism’s Silent Minority” sparked an overwhelmingly positive reaction from hundreds of Methodist pastors and leaders, several of whom asked why the church couldn’t have a publication that reflected an evangelical understanding of the Christian faith.

Months later, Keysor launched such a publication: Good News magazine. Bishop Gerald Kennedy (Los Angeles Area), the most well-known Methodist bishop of the time, wrote an article for the inaugural issue, which rolled off the press in March 1967.

In 2007’s 40th-anniversary issue of Good News, James Heidinger (who succeeded Keysor as editor) described how the new magazine led quickly to the formation of a full-fledged renewal ministry.

Seeing [an] immediate surge of interest in his magazine, Keysor chose 12 Methodists to serve as board members, and the Good News effort became incorporated as “A Forum for Scriptural Christianity.” The board’s first meeting was in May of 1967, only two months after the appearance of the first issue of the magazine.

Good News was a breath of fresh air for Methodists seeking spiritual renewal, quickly becoming their rallying point. Pastors and laity began organizing clusters of like-minded Methodists who came out of a felt need for fellowship, support, encouragement, and prayer. Soon, they began to map strategies for increasing evangelicalism within their annual conferences.

Good News' logo

In 1972, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, president of Asbury College in Kentucky, asked Charles Keysor to join the Asbury faculty to teach journalism part-time, so the Good News ministry relocated from Elgin, Ill., to Wilmore, Ky., where it remains headquartered today, just a few blocks from Asbury College and Seminary.

In addition to leading Good News, editing Good News magazine, and teaching journalism at Asbury, Dr. Keysor wrote several books — including Our Methodist Heritage (David C. Cook, 1973), Living Unafraid (David C. Cook, 1975), and Come Clean! (Victor Books, 1976). He also edited What You Should Know about Homosexuality (Zondervan, 1979).

In 1982, weary from 16 years in the trenches of renewal ministry, he left the United Methodist Church to become a pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church, a denomination founded by Swedish immigrants to the U.S.

Charles W. Keysor died at his home in Clearwater, Fla., on Oct. 22, 1985, two months after being diagnosed with advanced liver cancer.

The address on this podcast was recorded in August 1970 at the inaugural Good News Convocation, held in Dallas, Texas — an event attended by more than 1,500 pastors and leaders.

To listen, use the audio player below (22 min.) — or right click (Windows users) to download an mp3 (10.5MB).

For previous MethodistThinker Podcasts, click the “podcasts” tab at the top of this page. To subscribe via iTunes or other podcast software, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link at the top of the right column.

Related posts
Podcast: Dr. James Heidinger on ‘United Methodist Renewal’
A salute to James Heidinger of Good News
Podcast: Bishop Gerald Kennedy on ‘The Marks of a Methodist’

Related articles and information
Methodism’s silent minority: A voice for orthodoxy | Charles W. Keysor, New Christian Advocate (July 14, 1966 — via Good News)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
Theological orientation and renewal in the United Methodist Church | Riley B. Case (via The Sundry Times) (March 15, 2011)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)
From the margin to the mainstream: United Methodism’s renewal movement (PDF) | Riley B. Case, Good News (November/December 2007)
Lessons from United Methodist renewal (PDF—see pp. 4-8) | An address by James V. Heidinger II to the Presbyterian Coalition Gathering (November 2005)
A charge to reclaim | W. James Antle III, The American Spectator (Oct. 5, 2005)
Leader of ‘Good News’ movement leaves Methodism | St. Petersburg Times (June 26, 1982) — via Google Newspapers archive
The story of Good News: A recollection by Charles W. Keysor (PDF) | Good News (March/April 1981)
Group shakes up Methodism | George Vecsey, New York Times News Service (April 1979) — via Google Newspapers archive
The Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)

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MethodistThinker.com is observing its second anniversary this week.*

The site receives an average of 2,000-3,000 unique visitors each month, and over the past two years has enjoyed nearly 120,000 page views.

The five most-viewed posts during the past 12 months all involved original reporting:

1. Adam Hamilton: ‘We are in desperate need of excellent preaching’
2. Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
3. United Methodist Church facing health bill fallout
4. How did the UMC come to define health care as a ‘right’?
5. House Speaker thanks UMC for help in passing health bill

The most-listened-to audio file during our second year was a May 2009 podcast featuring a 1960 sermon by the late Methodist missionary, E. Stanley Jones.

(*The site launched on Aug. 9, 2008. The right-column archive of posts dates back to July 2008 because it includes “test” posts written during site development.)

For next several weeks, MethodistThinker.com will take a break from posting new material. During that time, we’ll highlight podcasts from earlier this year. The ThinkerTwitter feed (see right column) will remain active, with new material “tweeted” each weekday.

Lord willing, fresh blog posts will resume just after Labor Day.

Although MethodistThinker.com has been warmly received by many readers (and podcast listeners), the future for this site is cloudy. For reasons spiritual and practical, it is unclear how long MethodistThinker.com can continue, at least in its present form.

At a minimum, we’re hoping to press on until the end of 2010 and feature a full fall season of podcasts with the following speakers:

    • Methodist theologian Billy Abraham;
    • Bishop Alfred Norris;
    • Evangelism scholar George Morris;
    • Rob Renfroe, president of Good News; and
    • The Rev. Billy Graham, speaking at the 1980 UM Congress on Evangelism.

Thank you for visiting MethodistThinker.com. If you have comments and/or suggestions, post your feedback below (click “Leave a Comment”) — or, if you prefer, send an e-mail to feedback@MethodistThinker.com.

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Dr. Richard Hunter

This post is by Richard Hunter, senior pastor of Snellville United Methodist Church (North Georgia Conference). He holds a doctorate in parish revitalization from McCormick Theological Seminary (Chicago) and teaches on the adjunct faculty at both Asbury Theological Seminary and the Candler School of Theology. — Ed.

I want to be a part of renewing our Methodist movement for faithfulness in the 21st century.

Renewal requires facing facts — namely that reversing our downward spiral of membership losses and evangelistic ineffectiveness calls for dramatic changes and creative innovations across the church.

I suggest four areas where we need to embrace a different way of doing things:

  • We must bring an emphasis on church planting into every district and place it in the DNA of every church.

After 20 years of existence, the average United Methodist congregation brings one new believer to Christ for every 85 members (an 85-to-1 ratio)! In contrast, our new churches reach new believers at a 2-to-1 ratio. After five years, they are still reaching new people, 3-to-1.

The future of our denomination depends on starting new churches every week just as we did at the beginning of the 20th century, yet we put far more resources in serving ourselves rather than church planting.

We must welcome innovative and “out-of-the-box” church plants. To reach today’s culture, we must be starting churches in coffee houses, in warehouses, in homes and movie theaters. Not all church plants can succeed with the UM label. We need to insist on UM theology and accountability but not require these new starts to carry a label that is a huge hurdle for some people.

  • We must recognize that growing churches of the future will be multicultural.

Thirty years ago I was taught that fast-growing churches were homogeneous. Not anymore! Many thriving churches are multicultural, especially in our cities.

Most of our conferences are behind the time on this trend. We need to educate, place, and promote pastors who are bilingual and effective in developing these churches.

  • We must encourage and embrace innovative and contemporary worship.

This does not mean churches like mine should stop offering “traditional,” main-sanctuary worship services. Our traditional service is still relevant and growing. Yet the trends tell us that innovative worship is here to stay.

We must be wiling to use modern media to 1) reach the unchurched, 2) teach the Gospel to a visual culture, and 3) communicate with people through the modes of communication that they use daily. We must require our seminaries to respect this trend and teach how to be effective in using communication technology.

Virtual churches will be common in the next decade. Will the UMC be a part of this movement or leave it to non-denominational churches?

  • We must offer sound doctrine and serious discipleship.

People may choose a church based on the style of worship, the preacher, and the programs. But they stay and commit to a church that disciples them to a cause and a movement that is changing the world. Therefore, we must embrace our Methodist roots and bring scriptural holiness to every community we serve.

People are drawn to high-commitment churches. So let us clearly state the membership expectations of prayer, worship, tithing, and servant living.

Thirty years in ministry have demonstrated to me that God’s Kingdom-design for a community will be served by faithful churches and visionary leaders.

The future of our movement depends on our willingness to be committed to change and innovation regardless of the hardships. May God find many United Methodist churches that will be faithful to His call.

To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill:
O may it all my powers engage to do my Master’s will!

—Charles Wesley

A version of this column previously appeared in the newsletter of the Wesleyan Renewal Movement.

The WRM is a group of North Georgia clergy seeking “to promote the election of delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences who are committed to ensuring the Book of Discipline and the election of bishops reflect [the] principles of Wesley and the Bible.”

Bishop Scott Jones (Kansas Area) is scheduled to speak at next month’s WRM annual breakfast (June 18) in Athens, Ga., concurrent with the 2010 session of the North Georgia Annual Conference.

Related posts
Podcast: Randy Maddox on Methodist ‘doctrine, spirit, discipline’
Adam Hamilton: ‘We are in desperate need of excellent preaching’
John Ed Mathison: Seven concerns about the UMC (address to N. Georgia’s Wesleyan Renewal Movement)
John Ed Mathison: Six ways for a pastor to make a lasting difference (address to N. Georgia’s Wesleyan Renewal Movement)
Bishop Robert Schnase on ‘The Five Practices’
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘The primary task of the Church’

Related information
Planting new congregations (PDF) | Bishop G. Lindsey Davis (chapter one of The Future of the United Methodist Church: 7 Vision Pathways — Abingdon Press, May 2010)
United Methodists seek 250 to start new churches | Jeanette Pinkston, United Methodist News Service (June 2, 2009)
UMC Path 1 (Collaborative UMC leadership for church starts in the USA)
High expectations: How to raise the bar so people will stay | Sam S. Rainer, BuildingForMinistry.com (April 6, 2009)
The Spirit and the holy life (PDF) | Bryan Stone, Quarterly Review (Summer 2001)
Richard Hunter’s blog
Sermons by Richard Hunter

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