"Holla At The Church" or "My Favorite Methodist"

Not too long ago, one of my parishoners forwarded me an email that had been sent to them.  The author of the email was a denominational representative from the United Methodist Church named Sandy Jackson. 

I call this her "Jerry Maguire Memo."  If you don't know what that is... well, just watch the movie Jerry Maguire and you'll figure it out.  At any rate, I am not sure what the "higher ups" in the UMC thought of this brilliant, biting and stream of consciousness outpouring from one of their own.

I sort of wish someone from the Presbyterian Church (USA) bureaucracy would dump something similar.  It might give me some hope. 

As it stands, this memo says a lot of awesome stuff, calling out the Church on it's own hypocrisy and lack of real mission.  Here it is... 

It is time.  Maybe it is beyond time.

We have talked long enough.  We have taught, preached, written articles, published books, created websites and blogs, and spent massive amounts of money to purchase airtime on television and radio stations.  We have recorded and sold tapes, videos, DVDs and movies for adults, teenagers and children.  We have argued, we have debated, predicted, rationalized, prophesied, excused, explained, justified, judged, ridiculed, condemned and waited for the right time.  We have fought meaningless battles among our own people, within our fellowships, and with people we probable will never even meet.  We have erected buildings, purchased property, established financial and real estate empires, and we have retreated into seclusion behind our walls to prevent being contaminated by the people and the events that exist beyond those walls.  We have told people, "This is what the church is about..."  We have described with correct Biblical terminology, "This is how we are organized and this is how we do what we do." We have written impressive mission statements, laid out elaborate plans for "reaching the lost," for growth and expansion, and devised beautiful organization charts which explain to anyone who might possibly be interested in our master plan for doing church work.

We have fought battles on how we should sing, whether we can clap, if it's okay to raise our hands in praise to God, and whether or not it's a sin to worship with a musical instrument.  We have condemned people (even those we once called brother and sister) for things they do during one hour on Sunday morning.  We have taught our kids to "Rejoice in the Lord always," but when they join the adults in "Big church" we insist that they sit quietly and do things like we do, "decently and in order." Yet we continue to be shocked as we ask, "Where did they go?"  We have gathered inside our buildings and held meetings to discuss how we are going to "Reach the world for Jesus," but we have failed to walk next door to ask if there is any way we can serve them.  We have posted bold statements, even Scripture on the walls of our internet communities about who we are, what we believe and the reasons for our faith, as we demand the respect we rightly deserve because we follow God's teaching.  We have spent millions of dollars and countless hours traveling to foreign lands to "Share the Good News of the Gospel" with people who speak another language, then we've come back home give our reports and ignore the lady who works in the office next to ours. 

As we have done all these things we have memorized, quoted, printed, framed, carried signs, and written on our faces these words: "For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)  We have done all these things with these words of Jesus from Mark 2:16-18 echoing in our mind: "But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, 'Why does he eat with such scum?' When Jesus heard this, he told them, 'Healthy people don't need a doctor-sick people do.  I have come not to call those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners." (NLT)

Surely it is time to do something different!  Surely it is time we stopped trying to out-do, out-shout, out-shine and out-grow the group that meets down the street.  Surely it is time we moved beyond words to action.  Surely it is time for us to stop talking about acting like the church, stopped talking about what the church is supposed to be, stopped talking about what we will do once we get the right programs in place, and stop promising that the church is going to do great things once we get everything and everyone in the right place at the right time and with the right attitude.  Surely it is time we stopped all the talk and started being the church.  Surely it's time to read these words from Scripture with fresh eyes, open our hearts so we will not only hear what God says, but commit our lives to be what He desires.  

From 1 Corinthians 12:27, 
"Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it. (NIV)  

From Colossians 1:27, 
"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (NIV) 
From 2 Corinthians 5:15-21, 
"And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)
 From John 1:14
"The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood." (The Message)
 So how do we do it?  The answer to that question may be simpler than we realize.  We begin.  We take one step.  We accept this truth:  we are the Body of Christ.  The hope of glory is Christ in us.  He is the hope of glory.  He is life.  He is security.  Then, we take a second step.  We do what Jesus did:  we move into the neighborhood.  We life the life wherever we are.  We move out among the people and live as ambassadors of Christ.  Speaking words of hope.  Offering real help to hurting people.  We do so knowing God's Spirit is within us to empower us, to strengthen us, to guide us, and to give us wisdom and discernment and confidence and peace.  

Surely it is time for God's people to move out, beyond our sanctuaries of safety, and move into the neighborhoods where God has placed us.  Where we live (literally).  Where we work.  Where we play.  Where we are.  

Surely it is time for us to be the church.

Sandy Jackson
Director of Connectional Laity Development
Office of External Connectional Relations and Strategic Intiatives
GBOD - The United Methodist Church
Nashville, TN


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