Success at starting something new is never a sure thing. New restaurants fail at a rate of 60% in the first year and 80% within the first five years. And that was the failure rate in 2016, before the COVID-19 shut down. In our neighborhood near Rt. 64 in St. Charles, On the Border, Chili’s, and Wild Tomatoes have all gone under.
If you ever attended the Annual Conference Session at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, you may well have eaten lunch at Sweet Tomatoes. It was a nearby and popular stop for NIC members. Oh, and speaking of Pheasant Run…well RIP: February 15, 1963 – March 1, 2020. Out of business. Gone. Pheasant Run is being bulldozed as I write this.
If we think beyond restaurants, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first 10 years. Only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more.
So why would anyone think the Global Methodist Church will succeed after its launch this weekend on May 1st?
Great question. Here’s one response.
There are already roughly 41,000 Christian denominations in the world, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Why would we think adding another denomination would have any hope of sustained growth and effectiveness?
Here are just three of my reasons to expect great things – now and into the future – from the launch of the Global Methodist Church:
1. Combustible Kindling
The launch of the Global Methodist Church is not an impulsive, fist-pounding, thoughtless, reactionary, racist response to the third postponement of the 2020 General Conference. This has been a long time coming. The majority of delegates to United Methodist General Conferences since 1972 (that’s 50 years!), have voted generally to maintain traditional theology and ethics. A survey by United Methodist Communications in 2019 found that the largest group of United Methodists (44%) self-identify as “conservative-traditional” with 20% identifying as progressive-liberal. What Do United Methodists Really Believe?
The Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) had its first meeting at the Donald Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL in 2016. We planned on 800-900 people coming. Nearly 2,000 showed up from around the country and across the globe. The WCA will have its seventh Global Gathering on Saturday, May 7th in Indianapolis and over 60 livestream sites in the USA and other countries. (If you want more info on how you might attend in person or at a livestream site, go to More Than Conquerors 2022 ).
The doctrinal commitments, organizational plans, social witness priorities, and administrative policies are already drafted and awaiting a convening conference of the Global Methodist Church for final debate and approval. If you want to review them for yourself, go to What We Believe.
Unfortunately, the bureaucracy of the United Methodist Church has remained largely unaccountable to the people in the local churches. Many of our Bishops, as well as some of our annual conferences, have refused to abide by the decisions of the General Conference.
The point here is simply that there is a large, called, committed, diverse, global, Christ-centered and mission focused community of believers already leaning into this new network of theologically traditional Wesleyan Methodism. It is a glorious synchronicity that this is taking place between Easter and Pentecost. I think of it as a Holy Spirit wildfire…lots of combustible kindling already gathered and ready for the releasing and empowering ignition of the Holy Spirit!
2. A Christ-centered gospel for a spiritually searching culture
Perhaps you’ve heard the lamenting of pastors, bishops, church officials, etc., etc. about the rapid rise of the “Nones”; that is, people who, when asked what religion they are, respond by saying “None.” All the handwringing, moaning, and blame shifting about denominational decline is summed up in the phrase, “They aren’t buying what we’re selling anymore.”
The wrong-headed conclusion, however, is that everyone — shockingly — has morphed into a rabid secularist.
Not in the least!
Our culture is wildly, unabashedly, irrepressibly spiritual. From video games, to movies, to music, to the unexpected runaway hit sit-com “Ghosts” (CBS), the reality of good and evil, heaven and hell, the intersection of the material and the spiritual is everywhere around and within us. N.T. Wright contends that the longing for justice, the quest for meaning, the hunger for relationships, and the delight in beauty in every person are all echoes of God’s voice, reminders that we are all created in the image of God, and every one of us is called to be all that we have been created to be (Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense ).
Dr. Patty Van Cappellan is an experimental social psychologist and principal investigator at the Belief, Affect, and Behavior Lab of Duke University. In a Pew Trust Podcast entitled, “Rising Spirituality of America”, she summarizes much of the research they have done and reviewed related to the innate spirituality within every person:
If we’re thinking about when we travel to beautiful places, when we see a beautiful sunset on the beach, visit a national park, seeing the joy of other people across the globe, seeing, for example, how much people can help each other after disasters or other events, welcoming your child into the world—those are like very profoundly positive and meaningful experiences. They create a yearning for growth, for something more, and I think many people kind of express this desire for transcendence, growth, by turning to a religion or spirituality.Pew Trusts Podcast Rising Spirituality in America
The point here is that while many are leaving religion behind, they are, at the same time, deeply religious. All around us are people searching for meaning, for connecting the material world and spiritual world in which we all live. We’re searching for something worth giving our lives to. To whom or what shall we devote ourselves? As many social scientists are coming to conclude, human beings are incurably religious. It seems to be part of the “original equipment” for being human.
While United Methodism has a long history of seeking to de-mythologize, deconstruct, and generally domesticate orthodox Christian theology into a flat-earth political advocacy agenda with some Jesus-y language drizzled on top, most of us, it turns out, are looking for something much more transformational, something more redemptive, something worth laying our lives down for as part of a company of the committed. We’re sojourners in a strange land wanting to connect with other sojourners on a similar journey. We want authentic, deeply-rooted, spiritual community.
The Global Methodist Church, in is doctrinal commitments, missional focus, and global reach invites individuals to stand up and take sides in the ageless spiritual conflicts of the human soul and human society. There is no apology for the gospel of Christ; it connects us to the redemption and transformation we all so deeply seek (Romans 1:16,17). Though many are done with the watered down, compromised religion of accommodating faith to whatever happens to be the latest trend of our culture, there is an ongoing search for that personal encounter with the Lord Jesus that “demands my soul, my life, my all” (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, UM Hymnal, #298, v.4).
As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died… What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.Galatians 6:14-16
The Global Methodist Church is committed to sharing Christ’s life-transforming gospel, helping believers grow as cross-centered disciples of Jesus Christ, and so, being salt and light for the transformation of the world.
3. God’s affinity for the improbable
Remember the proposed Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation ? We anticipated the approval of that plan at the May 2020 General Conference. We are now two years beyond that time and waiting at least another two years before it can be considered. Because of the readiness of many traditional/orthodox Methodists to be done with the conflict and get on with the mission, the Global Methodist Church has chosen to begin operations now. (See item #1 on the “readiness” to go and grow). Rather than a large wave of churches and pastors becoming Global Methodists through approval of the Protocol in 2020, we’re in a situation where each congregation, each pastor, and each annual conference is attempting to find its own way. The Global Methodist Church officially launches on May 1st, but nobody planned it would go this way.
But that’s just like God, isn’t it?
God has an affinity for working through the improbable, small, and hidden.
Think of Moses overcoming Pharaoh, Rahab hiding the Hebrew spies, David and five smooth stones against Goliath, Esther’s request to King Xerxes, Mary’s and Joseph’s faithful response to the angel’s message, the willingness of the young boy to share the loaves and fish from his lunch, above all the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Then, what do you think about a small group of fearful followers of Jesus hiding from the authorities? Those few believers have become, under the empowering influence of the Holy Spirit, 2.5 billion Christians today.
Launching a new denomination? How improbable! But God does the improbable through people who are willing to take the next step of faith and committed to follow where the Holy Spirit leads.
I have great expectations for the future of the Global Methodist Church because of the many called and committed people leaning into it, the hunger of every human being for the kind of personal and social transformation the gospel alone provides, and, above all, because of the Loving God who continues to bring a new heaven and a new earth in so may improbable ways. J. Hudson Taylor, 19th Century British missionary, wrote: “There are three stages to every great work of God; first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.Ephesians 3:20-21 NLT
If you or your local church would like to get more information about the Global Methodist Church, go to www.GlobalMethodist.org.