With conversation in The United Methodist Church surrounding low church attendance and dying congregations, it would be easy to say that the state of the church is not so great. That is not how I see it.
When I think about the overall picture of the church, I am encouraged and full of hope. Sure there are places where we are falling short as a denomination, but there are many places that are full of vitality. We are at a point in history where we have a choice to make. Are we going to focus on numbers and what we would historically think of as things necessary to survive, or are we going to focus on relationship building and programs that are changing the world? Are we going to invest our time, energy and financial resources in "membership" and buildings or in making disciples for the transformation of the world? That is what we are about, right?
When I talk to young United Methodists and when I look at my own faith journey, transformation is what keeps me and others coming back. It is transformation that God calls us to, that makes me excited for the work of both the local and global church. I see transformation on a local level as local United Methodist congregations fight alongside the people in Flint, Michigan, in the midst of a water crisis. And I see transformation on a global level as the General Board of Global Ministries continues to equip and send young adult missionaries to be in ministry WITH others. It is this type of ministry – ministry WITH others – that is transformational. Ministry WITH calls us to listen first; it calls us to learn each other's stories; and it calls us to work together, combining our strengths and recognizing what we need in order to compensate for where we fall short. Ministry WITH is more focused on relationships than buildings and that continues to give me hope for the church.
The United Methodist Church does not look so great if we continue to speak before we listen or think that we have the only right way. But when we begin to take time to hear one another, to learn from our past and listen to new voices moving us into the future, to build relationships and love before anything else, the church will really begin to look like the kin-dom here on earth. May we continue to work together to serve and to love as God calls us to do.
Chelsea Spyres is in her second year as a Global Mission Fellow US-2 in Detroit, Michigan, at the NOAH (Networking, Organizing and Advocating for the Homeless) Project. Growing up in Newark, Delaware, she attended Newark United Methodist Church. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in human services from the University of Delaware.