‘The future is very bright’
I write to express my opinion on the state of the church as we go to General Conference 2016. What is happening in the church in general and The United Methodist Church, in particular, is nothing new or unusual. A careful tracing of the history of the early church confirms that whatever is happening now is not something that should surprise the people of faith.
The United Methodist Church is at the "crossroads" (Jeremiah 6:16). We are faced with serious persecution for our time.
Religious hostilities in the world over have not spared The United Methodist Church. Christians in West Africa are being killed and tortured everyday for their faith. Extremist religious groups are causing untold suffering and terror in countries like Nigeria and in some parts of central Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda and others. In America, pressure has been mounting on issues of human sexuality that has resulted in hatred and irreconcilable relationships in some quarters and in others leaving the church. For me, all this is some kind of persecution.
When the early church suffered the same kind of persecution, the flame of evangelism grew bigger. Men and women of great faith did not go into hibernation or leave their churches but boldly carried the banner of Christ. Those persecuting them did not realize that people of faith were like seeds. When they thought they had buried them, they germinated in even greater numbers. As The United Methodist Church stands at the crossroads today, it will take great men and women of faith, bishops and pastors, lay leaders and those who are prepared to listen to God's word to "ask for the old paths, where the good way is" (Jeremiah 6:16b, NKJV), and God will show us.
The demand for the services of the church in the world around us far outweighs the time and resources that the church is expending on issues of differences in opinion. There are far too many naked people to be clothed, far too many hungry people to be fed, far too many to be healed, far too many to receive Jesus Christ as their personal savior. It is time to come out of our comfort zones and make Christ known. There is a clear way for the church to go, but it takes listening to God. It must be remembered that we live in an era of political polarization where shouting matches often drown out genuine conversation and reasoned discussion.
The future of The United Methodist Church is very bright.
Simon Mafunda is in his eighth year as lay leader of the Zimbabwe East Conference, where he and his wife, Hannah, are members of Chiisipiti ("Water of Life") United Methodist Church in Harare. The father of two and grandfather of one, Mafunda runs an automobile maintenance business.