Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bullard on the Coming Death of Denominations

Catch some insightful thoughts and questions below with George Bullard. He has other recent videos which go into more detail in case you are intrigued by his synopsis here. A few of his thoughts--put into my words and context-- are found in 5 brief videos recently posted that caught my attention:

*He contends that a denomination needs to start new congregations in a 3% proportion to existing congregations. For North GA UMC that would mean around 29-30 new congregations a year. While we had a more aggressive pace a few years ago we've backed off of that due to funding and political backlash from existing congregations. Ironic, huh?

*"If 60-90% of a denominations churches are plateaued or dying then the denomination is on the slide toward death." I can see this in the Augusta District of the UMC as it is tough to see how half of the churches will be alive in 10 years unless there is a revival, renewal, and strong outreach to the younger generations. How quickly will 94 churches boil down to 20??

Bullard pushes me even more in my thoughts regarding denominations dying due to success.

*He points to denominations that are dying due to success in demanding or hoping for loyalty rather than earning it.

*Further, he talks about dying due to the success of a system of clergy education and support that has more control yet lacks success and lacks a "farm system" for engaging young clergy. Serving on a conference Board of Ordained Ministry I'd really like to see what he proposes which walks that tight rope between a cohesive denominational approach and a system which promotes effectiveness & a variety of clergy rising through the ranks in effectiveness.

*I'm also intrigued by Bullard's thought of denom's dying due to success in driving away congregations and constituents by explosively dealing with moral and theological issues. How might we be creating an "ensmallment rather than an enlargement" movement in the UMC and with upcoming conferences?

*The last major point is perhaps the most profound in terms of the UMC with upcoming conferences. Bullard says that some denominations are dying due to success as we "restructure or retask national agencies and denomination thinking that is the same as renewing the spiritual strategic direction" of the denomination. Such a move is actually "preparing for another restructuring which will happen in another 5-7 years." Perhaps if we do both-- follow God and seek to restructure in faithful ways--then maybe we find the right balance? With so many agendas, campaigns, and personalities in any denomination it would take a miracle of some sort to get us on task with a sense of shared unity and ministry purpose!

As I'm preparing for Easter I'm thinking of my personal salvation, and Bullard helps me to consider what resurrection means for the church and denomination that I love. A spiritual renewal, a transformation of clergy and laity, and obedient acts of faith are called for as we seek to be useful to the work of the Kingdom of God in our world today. Bullard certainly pushes in ways that call us beyond the norm in our denominational life. Surely God calls us to something we can act upon and can hand to the next generation in better shape than we found it.

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