Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

30. GREAT COMMISSION STRATEGY FAILURE

Pastors and church leaders are generally unwilling or unable to make a paradigm shift in Great Commission strategy. The UMC will be used as an example but the commentary applies equally well to other denominations. The United Methodist Church has been in a death spiral for many decades. A short list of remedial measures has been thrust in the faces of members tens of thousands of times by two generations of church leaders. These measures may have produced nominal success in the first half of the 20th century but, for the past 50 years, their influence has been overwhelmed by major changes in American culture. Now they have lost their effectiveness altogether. One example is the act of witnessing to the unchurched at work or in places of business. This is now considered “religious workplace harassment” and may result in penalties against those engaged in proselytizing. Another example is inviting your neighbor to church. In a modern American subdivision, you don’t know your neighbors well enough to invite them for a doughnut let alone invite them to church. Only superficial shifts in Great Commission strategy have been made, over the years, even though today’s culture is much more jaded, sophisticated and anti-Christian than the culture of the 1960’s. 35% of millennials don’t trust religious leaders. Some UMC leaders want to appease the un-churched by introducing social positions, which mirror our culture, into the church as God approved behavior (same sex marriage, abortion for convenience, etc.). Nevertheless, the average age of a Methodist is about 60 years and 90% of all UMC churches over 100 years old will close in the next few years. We re-double our efforts to implement failed programs in spite of that old adage, “If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you always got!” Any retail business exhibiting a downward spiral like that of the UMC would, long ago, have made a fundamental paradigm shift and the blame for failure would have been assigned solely to management and not the consumer base.