Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The People Problem

John the Methodist addresses calls for reforming the process the Methodist Church uses for ordaining ministers by saying this:
But I think that none of these critiques address the root problem in the UMC ordination process. ... It is this: our denomination is shrinking in America. ... Were we a rapidly growing denomination, as we were in the 19th Century, the District Committees and Boards of Ordained Ministry would be struggling to find even semi-qualified candidates to fill pastorates in new churches as a wave of revival sweeps across the land.
I'm not a Methodist and the sum total of my experience with the process of becoming a Methodist minister is from a college buddy who married one.

I've given this some thought and I really don't think you can separate a declining church with a poor ordination system. Why? Because ultimately church growth is about going forth and making disciples. Ordination ought to be the final part of that discipleship process. Now not everyone is called to be a minister, I'm certainly not. But if you aren't training ministers and doing it well, then you ultimately aren't making disciples properly. That will effect church growth and could cause church decline. While the ordination process is not the only problem within the Methodist church, it is a serious problem and should be resolved.

Could a major social and religious change in America alter this? Probably not, no. If a huge American revival happened in the US tomorrow, how can you expect to exploit it without manpower (and womanpower in the case of the Methodists)? You need mature Christians to be able to start discipling those people. If you don't have leadership to offer them, then they will either fall away from the Church or go to another denomination. I've seen it happen.

Even in more mundane situations, an overstretched clergy has a hard time making headway. My aforementioned friends wife covers two churches on different sides of a small town. She preaches two sermans and she splits her Sunday mornings in half. I have no idea how she manages to build decent relationships with her congregants. I have no idea how she manages to tailor her sermons to something relevent to her churches.

Myself, I think having too many spiritual leaders is a far better problem to have than having too few. Reforming the system may not help, but good Lord it certainly can't hurt.

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