"Celebrity, Consumerism, and Competition are killing the church."
That's the title of an article that pops up on my Facebook timeline occasionally. I haven't read it. I don't need to. I already believe it. I live it sometimes.
I am writing this while sitting in Kansas City attending the Leadership Institute at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (COR). You might know it if I said, "Adam Hamilton's church - it started 27 years ago with four people, Adam, his wife, and his 2 daughters." Today COR is the largest United Methodist Church with about 20,000 members.
I have attended the Leadership Institute about 13 times. Actually, I've lost track. It's been a bunch. I have brought teams eight times, best I can remember (one from Mason UMC in 2012). The last few years I have come alone.
I realize as I get older that I am not Andy Stanley. I am not Joel Osteen. I am not Erwin McManus. I am not Rob Bell. I am not Adam Hamilton, even though I could lead a few of the workshops at the Leadership Institute. I so thought I'd like to be one of those other people. I have entertained the thought it was possible to become what they are if you just did x, y, z like "they" do. Viola! Instant success!
Here's the kicker. What is success anyway?
You see, in our American celebrity culture, we measure big as successful. The new is more appealing. We cast off the old and jump on the flashy bandwagon. We don't want to seem too out of touch or uncool. Pastors try to emulate the celebrity pastors. Church members shop around churches like they are buying a gym membership. People go where they can consume the most religious services at the lowest cost. In our shrinking pool of folks who are attending worship/church in today's world, the competition is fierce.
And, it is all killing the church... as it has become.
Today a pastor who was on the schedule to speak about reaching the next generations for Jesus, said, "You do you, Boo!" She was saying to us pastors and leaders that we can't be anyone else. God made each and every one of us with gifts to use in ways no one else can. So, you be you!
No one else can be you and that's great! You can't be anyone else and that's great! Be your authentic self and let's get moving. What can you do no one else can? That is true for every one of us.
The same is true for congregations. At Mason UMC, I encourage us to be the best community of committed followers of Jesus we can be. We can't compete with other churches. And, we shouldn't. We are uniquely suited for what God has called us to be and do. We will equip disciples to live God's mission to renew the face of the earth. We will be faithful to that call. We will be healthy while we do it. We will be vital and vibrant in our unique way. We are not COR, Cornerstone, Faith Community, Willow Creek, or Crossroads.
Every congregation has to decide how that will look for them. It makes me think about Esperanza Viva, the Hispanic ministry that worshiped in the MUMC building for about 10 years. Esperanza Viva started a journey about their future in the fall of 2016. They decided it would be best to move closer to the Hispanic population core. As of August, Esperanza Viva is now worshipping in Hamilton. This is a bold move for them and one that positions them for living out their unique place in God's kingdom. They are partnering with First UMC in Hamilton as they come ever closer to their goal of chartering as a local United Methodist congregation. Edinson DeArco will still be using office space at MUMC, and we will continue to help them manage their finances for the near future. We wish them all God's blessings.
Mason UMC is positioning ourselves for our unique purpose and place in the universal Church. If we commit to be disciples (followers of the teachings, apprentices of Jesus) everything else will take care of itself. If love is genuine and authentic, people will find Jesus in us. The next generations can tell right away if we are fake or authentic.
Everyone in the world is looking for love.
Genuine authentic Christian communities where love is the root will always be in style. Let us claim who we are. Let us be the healthiest we can be. Let us love as Jesus loves us. Then people will know something is happening with those folks on the corner of Mason-Montgomery and Tylersville. NO, not THAT corner, the other corner! We can't be the Presbyterians either!
When the church of Jesus Christ lets go of all barriers to loving others, there will be no need for celebrity, consumerism, or competition. Everyone in the world is looking for love. That's more than enough for all of us.
We Christians should know a few things about love. Jesus said, "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples-when they see the love you have for each other." (John 13:34-35)
Love that is genuine and authentic is the measure of our success.
Pastor Dale Lykins