Repent, Pray, and Stand for the UMC

No matter your position of influence in the United Methodist Church, your hope in Christ is needed now.

Faithful Standers and Failing Strategizers

by | May 15, 2018 | UMC Renewal | 0 comments

The UMC was not started by a man, but by God. It was not planned, organized, and successful in fulfilling a part of God’s mission by the power of men, but by the power of God. If it were started by men, then it would be natural and appropriate to decide its future by men’s faculties. But that man-made genesis does not describe the institution in which we find ourselves.

Observe in your own circles of Methodists how conversations about the future of the UMC always start with a prediction of what will happen (always negative or unsure) and therefore what people ought to do. The sentiment is that because I have analyzed the situation and don’t see hope, there isn’t any, and this is how Methodists ought to retreat for the best possible outcome (or what should have been done in the past to prevent this impasse).

It is God’s role to strategize, and our part to stand. The Wesleys and early Methodists were being faithful to God in their own lives together when God started a renewal movement. They never strategized a new global denomination. They stood. They led themselves and eventually their communities and culture by practiced faithfulness to the Gospel. They didn’t strategize but only obeyed the heavenly calling.

The current leadership landscape in the UMC is full of “traditionalist” fruitless strategizers and “progressive” faithful standers. To what spirit the progressive lobby is being faithful is rarely known, or if known, not called out and identified. But the traditionalist adherents are universally giving up the institution of the UMC because they don’t see a path to victory. There’s no viable strategy, by human means at least. But those who trust in chariots and horses[1] and money and status will be brought to naught anyway because by trusting in man, they became aids to the enemy rather than aids to God.[2]

Did the progressive lobby ever see a viable a path to victory? 40 years ago? Even 10 years ago? No, where would it have been? Hence the episodes of lashing out at the General Conference communion tables and other outbursts of rage without a productive outlet. Did anyone strategize the formation of a special General Conference and the Commission on a Way Forward? No, people stood and waited to see what would happen. But they have been faithfully standing to their cause, against human reason, looking now at the brink of success in February 2019 to obtain all or a portion of the UMC. When people stand, unified and persistent enough, in increasing numbers, they can achieve outcomes for good or evil they never thought possible, and it was always wrought by events and timing neither side predicted.

Our duty is not to own the exhausting politics of wrestling for human dominion, but to each individually and together corporately stand up for the Lord’s interests as the Holy Spirit leads. Faithfully fulfilling God’s call to stand is easier and more fruitful than the flesh’s desire to control and strategize. The inclination of the flesh is to strategize and work hard if it sees hope, and to abandon post if no hope by human effort is found.

God’s eyes are searching to and fro for faithful leaders[3] who will stand for Him because they love Him more than their own lives.[4] Where are the faithful standers preaching, teaching, and leading others to life in Christ in the standards of human flourishing that God has revealed? They are there, but we need more. Are we leading and standing up for the cause of Christ in our spheres of influence? Are we willing to stand firm as the whole of scripture demands rather than capitulate because the flesh’s desire to strategize doesn’t see a hopeful way forward?

The majority of traditionalists state that there would almost be no crisis now if only the Council of Bishops would enforce the Book of Discipline in some of these clear breaches of church teaching. “If only the other leader would do his/her job!” rings the cry.

There is a dereliction of duty at hand. But it is not exclusively a fault of progressive proponents. In fact, it’s not a fault they hold at all. They’re doing exactly what they feel called to do by not enforcing the rulings, teaching, and authority of the church and not being honest with themselves or others while doing it. That’s what leadership looks like from that worldview. A spirit of rebellion is part of it.

No, the dangerous dereliction of duty lies exclusively on the traditionalist side (not by each individual one, but by the vast majority whose instinct is to run before being given a reason, such as the entirety of scripture, to stand). The purpose of these posts is not only to help others see victory in the UMC, but to help brothers and sisters who are about to fall in dereliction of their duties. This mess was precipitated visibly by those holding the progressive viewpoint in formal positions on the Council of Bishops who chose not to fulfill the responsibilities of their office, but the real crisis was caused by traditionalists not standing firm in their offices for decades. Whether those offices are visibly official or not, they are spiritual positions instituted by God, with authority and influence to change the course of history.

The coward as well as the sexually immoral will be consigned to the lake of fire.[5] To feign bravery and wisdom by strategizing an organized retreat is to abandon the God-given post we have been gifted for the blessing of others. Capitulation to the enemy what belongs to God should be just as intolerated as homosexuality among church leadership. The time for ranking some sins as less worse than others is over. This crisis demands a public accounting, repentance, and a renewed will to fight for more than the preservation of one’s own immediate interests. At stake are the Lord’s interests in seeing all people come to a knowledge of the truth,[6] in destroying the works of the devil,[7] and in sanctifying the lives of everyone involved – including progressives and your own soul as well.

[1] “Now this I know: Yahweh gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of Yahweh our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” – Psalm 20:6-8, NIV

[2]  “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! And yet he is wise and brings disaster; he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together.” – Isaiah 31:1-3, ESV

[3] “At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, ‘Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on Yahweh your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on Yahweh, He gave them into your hand. For the eyes of Yahweh run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.’” – 1 Chronicles 16:7-9, ESV

[4] “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!’” – Revelation 12:10-12, ESV

[5] Scripture frequently places cowardice in the same rank as various forms of sexual immorality. “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8, ESV)”

[6] “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-4, ESV

[7] “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” – 1 John 3:8, ESV