Leading Edge

As I write, I am attending The Leading Edge meeting with active U.S. Bishops.  The Leading Edge is an informal group of the Senior Pastors of 100 largest United Methodist Churches in the United States based on worship attendance.  Thirty-two active (i.e. not retired) bishops in the U.S.  are meeting with them to share in discussion and discernment about the future of the United Methodist Church.  Together we are asking the question of how we can best help each other, our conferences and all the churches and clergy to move forward with the mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” It has been good to be present along with some Sr. Pastors in the Leading Edge group from Central Texas.  The presentation and discussions have been engaging and stimulating.  We have been wrestling with issues like: 1) Reaching Young Adults and Cultivating a Culture of the Call; 2) Outwardly Focused Missional Churches; 3) Improving Preaching in Worship; 4) Starting New Faith Communities. Some random notes that I’ve garnered so far:
  • The number of young adults (16-35) that have no religious affiliation has increased by 100% in the last decade; 
  • 40% of young adults are outsiders to the Christian faith;
  • The two types of churches that young adults are most attracted to are a) very large churches and b) new churches;
  • Young adults are extremely attracted to missional causes!
  • Sr. Pastors have shared the need for a concentrated missional focus (not being spread all over the map);
  • Urban ministry and transformation of society must pay attention to foot and bus traffic (it is a middle class assumption that everyone has a car!);
  • Growing diversity is a given both for new missional focus and for reaching young people;
  • Thematic preaching is a strong point of larger churches. They are very media engaged and savvy!
  • Given technological advances, larger churches can actively help smaller churches with worship resources (many list resources on their web site);
  • All of us are struggling with hope to open up the process of ministry wider engagement.
  • The apportionment system as we know it is not sustainable.
 We have also taken a look at the Call to Action report.  You can find a copy of it online at www.umc.org.  The winds of the Holy Spirit are blowing through the United Methodist Church anew.  This is a time of great Spirit-led change.