Trust and numbers
The Call to Action report got one thing 100% right.
The report says the United Methodist Church suffers from a profound lack of trust running up and down its connection. How true is that?
The latest evidence of this for me is on display at Jeremy Smith blog where he has called for a rebellion against the metric-based Vital Congregations initiative. Read the comments section. It is just a few people posting back and forth, but the communication and trust issues are pretty plain to see.
I’ve had my share of criticisms of the Call to Action report, mostly on the grounds that the statistics don’t add up and are poorly interpreted. The lack of theological content bothers me as well. But as a Wesleyan, I have no beef at all with the argument that one thing we are supposed to do is reach new people.
We are supposed to be the ones who believe Jesus Christ died for everyone and that everyone needs Christ. We tell our little stories about John Wesley taking to field preaching because that was the only way to reach the people.
Yes, we absolutely care about what happens after you reach out. Salvation is about more than getting a rear end in a pew. To bring in bodies and not move them on to perfection is a tragedy. Sometimes to do this, we may do things that drive a few people away. Hopefully, our systems will be nuanced enough to take such things into account.
But we care about numbers. We are Methodists for Pete’s sake.
Let us be wise in how we use numbers. Let us collect numbers that actually have some meaning. Let’s tell the stories and pay attention to things that numbers cannot tell us. But we care about numbers. Or we should. Each number is a beloved creature of God.