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I am writing to you to express my great concern but also to tell you about an exciting opportunity in 2016 which you will want to share with others.
The concern is for the future of The Methodist Church in the UK. The figure speak for themselves, as year on year we as a church have continued to decline in numbers to the point where it has become a critical issue.
This is a ‘people‘ measure, counting those who have made and sustained a formal commitment to a particular Local Church. (as at 31 October.)
The annual reduction in membership numbers averaged:
A Discipleship Movement shaped for Mission
In the past, most mainline denominations, including our own Methodist Church, went through an intensive period of starting new churches, but then as our churches grew more stable we changed our focus. Today, if we expect Methodism to prevail into a new generation, we must regain that focus on starting new churches that reach new people in new ways. John Wesley was not afraid to identify the loss of spiritual vitality and true effectiveness in the Church. He knew that only plain speaking about and commitment to address the hard problems of his day would change the situation. He suggested that survival of the Church was not his worry:
“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast to both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out” (Thoughts Upon Methodism, London, August 4, 1786).
All that I have experienced and learned over the last few months reaffirms that when it comes to both the spirit and discipline that are required, Methodist leaders, lay and ordained across the Connexion, must lead and immediately, repeatedly, and energetically make it plain that continued use of many current approaches, structures, policies, and practices is likely to produce the same results we’ve seen of continued overall decline with decreasing mission impact. Business as usual is unsustainable.
‘Any enterprise that is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts’. Proverbs 24:3-4,
The Opportunity: The upcoming 2016 Conference could be a starting point for you and your leadership team to regain a sense of urgency and energy to begin the process towards growing and planting congregations.
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