Re-envisioning the Global Church

Krystl Johnson
Krystl Johnson

A speech delivered by Krystl Johnson to the Wesleyan Covenant Association Northeaster Regional Meeting, at Washington Crossing UMC May 11, 2019

It is an honor to stand before all of you as a young adult and to share this platform with Rev.(Joe) DiPaolo, (WCA) President (Keith) Boyette, Rev. Caulfield, and Rev. McDermott for such a time as this. I will be presenting an individual and millennial perspective on the Global Church. You can see that I remixed the title. It is now called Re-envisioning the Global church. And as a special treat, I am going to be speaking to you in PC that’s as Politically Correct as possible and then translating it to FB that’s in blunt and direct Facebook comments.

So, that we are on the same page, my understanding of the global church means we make disciples around the world. As an interconnected, international community of believers in Jesus Christ, we share this common purpose across so many nations, upholding the Word of God and magnifying the name of our Lord Jesus. We, too,—in America—are the Global church and our best-played role is that we help the world.

‘Who we are’ changes quickly. The nearest Next Methodism is me— millennials with Generation Z close behind. So, when we talk about the future and what is at stake, WE are talking about me—millennials. Our life’s purpose as the Global Church is at stake.

We are about to be rocked and rattled by all of the plans and provocation to resist the passing of the Traditional Plan. I do not doubt that this is by God’s design. I believe that by God’s doing, WE, as a global church, will be changed. As always, God is making a way for millennials, the next Methodism. Therefore, it is my hope that you allow the Holy Spirit to help you see and understand my perspective on our need to update our status as the Global Church; to re-envision and recommit in a new way to what it will take for us individually and corporately to sustain and remain the Global Church.

I’d like to take a Facebook photo and let the rest of the Global Church know that we are here, before moving into my first point. I am going to walk you all through taking an ‘usie’ photo. (Ms. Johnson here instructs the audience on how to take a group photo with themselves included in the frame.) I’m going to give you a moment to take your usie photo with the people to the left and right of you.

Look at your photo. I can guarantee it is a beautiful portrait of Methodism. But I want you to imagine what—or who, rather—could be beyond the frame. I hope y’all are ready for your first Facebook translation: We need to revise how we frame Methodism.

Subsequently, this fight around Homosexuality has made our focus quite narrow, seemingly a gathering of those who are already with us. To sustain and remain the Global Church, we have to recognize that it is more of ‘them’ than it is of us. It’s always going to be more of ‘them’ than it is of us.

  • When I think about the rising of the U.S. UMC Resistance, it seems to be more of them than it is of us.
  • At the 2019 General Conference, when I looked up to the upper level of the America’s Center Dome, it seemed it was more of them than it was of us.
  • When I think back to the sessions of Holy Conferencing at the 2016 Jurisdictional Conference, it seemed it was more of them than it was of us.

Thank God they are not the ‘them’ that I am talking about. I’m talking about the unsaved, kind of saved, and the not yet saved. It’s more of them in this world than it is of all of us who call ourselves Methodists. All of ‘Them’ is not bad at all. ‘Them’ bring us epic opportunities to live out our life’s purpose. ‘Them’ allows us to build up the global church by making disciples of Jesus Christ just about anywhere. And you know what, some of ‘Them’ don’t expect us to loosen our grip on the absolute truth of Sscripture in order to get them to join our church.

Some of us have bought into the image of Methodism, meaning that we are to be everything the world needs; everything for everybody. ‘To be everything’ is God’s job. This skewed image is calling us to reassert and reframe what it means to be Methodists, even if only some of us are willing to do it. If being a Global Church means we do everything the worlds does and expects us to do, we will cease to be God’s church.

The Global Church is God’s ministry and His movement. He is committed to building up His church. It is His responsibility to do it; it was a part of His Life’s purpose on earth. So, we have to do our part—live out our life’s purpose by baptizing people from all nations, teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus, proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name to all people, and witnessing for Jesus to the ends of the earth.

I envision a Global Church that keeps salvation in the forefront. Who knows what demon we will have to fight next after Homosexuality? It won’t matter if we remain certain that Jesus is the God that saves, changes, transforms, and delivers. Facebook translation: We can love people just the way they are.

Millennials embody the indescribable compassion of Christ. So, when I imagine what’s next for Methodists, I see a generation bold enough to say to anyone in any place, of any language or shade that the Holy Spirit wants to transform them and fashion their desires towards God’s righteousness and His holiness. I see a generation bold enough to say to them: ‘Yes. You were born this way. But Jesus is calling you to be born again.’

I believe the most important way for us in the U.S. to sustain and remain the Global Church will be to revisit our missional priorities. Our top priority should be to create active young stewards of the Global Church. And we can do this by fostering a keen understanding of the interdependence of our local and global existence. That was the PC version. My FB translation expresses what I am really trying to say: The Global Church needs the African American church just as much as it needs the African church.

You can say Amen to that because I am not fussing. I am just making a blunt observation that we are within driving distance from Philadelphia, Camden, Trenton, Bed-Stuy, Baltimore and other communities filled with people of color. In order for us to be confident in our future as Methodists, when I look out, I should see diversity in representation of every race and every region. All of us banded and built up together.

Yet, somewhere there’s a disconnect in what we say we are as a Global Church and what we see. The fact that this room is not lively and vibrant with color shows that our missional priorities don’t represent an interdependence of our local and global existence. There just doesn’t seem to be a clear and working understanding that everything global starts locally.

If this is so, we will not create active young stewards of the Global Church. You know, I often get asked: “How do we get the Black Church involved in something like this? What are they thinking?” My response is: “Well, what were the Africans thinking? How did you get involved with them? And more importantly, what did you learn from them and their local focus?” As the future of Methodism, I need to know this. Fellowship, connectedness and unity are all learned things. Everything we bypass as a church, like intentional interconnectedness within our diverse Christian community—gets passed down. This is what is at stake:

  • The next generation of Methodism will continue to drive through local mission fields and overstep local minority missionaries on its way to international airports to engage in global ministries.
  • The next generation of Methodism will continue to function as the Black Church, the White Church, the Latino Church, etc. If we continue to define and divide territory by our race and color, we will miss out on local opportunities that boost global causes simply because we don’t go there. 
  • My greatest fear is that the next generation of Methodism will lose touch with grassroots styling of local outreach and connectedness. Despite the outreach available within our local context and due to our primary focus on global connectedness, the Methodist ministry in America will seemingly be exported and offshore.

Our inactivity, responses of apathy, and the lack of engagement on the local front decreases our viability as a Global Church. In revisiting our missional priorities, I encourage you to take a visit to Philadelphia, Camden, Trenton, Bed-Stuy, and Baltimore to see where God is at work and where else the future of Methodism could come from.

Can you imagine what could be next for Methodism if we moved into those neighborhoods? Is our Global Church ready to get planted there? Have we considered where we can partner there? Who are we sending there to save, shape, and send out the next set of Global Church stewards?

My last point is to re-envision how the Global Church engages with a world that is now at our fingertips. Generation Z, better known as the iGeneration, the generation that grew up with the internet—they expect the world to move at the speed of Google. They solicit acceptance through ‘likes’, reposts and retweets. Their goal is to acquire the status of Superfan and Top Commenter on social media sites. If we ignore the opportunity to update ourselves to the times of this generation, we will continue with business as usual, and business as usual will eventually outdate itself.

Potlucks, PowerPoints, Coffee, Flat Screens and Contemporary bands. We’ve added all these beautiful things to our church. Yet, still, we can’t get the upcoming generations to lift their heads or take their earphones out. The church is still one of the last places they want to be. It seems the only place most people want to be is on their phones. It’s because they are seeking acceptance; they want status and they want it now. Somehow this translates into a need the Global Church can meet.

I envision a Global Church that can help young people live out their faith in real time. A church that is not concerned with what it can do to attract the next generation but that is focused on how Jesus is drawing them in. The world has warped their minds, distorted their view of the image of God, and defiled their true identities. They are hurting.

Accepting the world’s way is not the cure. How can we instead place salvation from their sins at their fingertips? They need us to testify to Christ’s ransom and they need it now. They need us to bring them into the full recognition of their life’s value. And they need us to do it quicker than Google.

FB translation: Just because they ‘d rather spend time on snapchat and Instagram rather than talk to us right now, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be talking to them and giving them opportunities to serve and to change the world. It is our job to build them up in the Christian faith. It is our job to correct them—even if they don’t want to hear it. If we fail to do this, we will produce a generation of Methodists that carries out its faith with a skewed understanding of repentance, commitment, and self-denial.

Thank you for allowing for my perspective on the global church. Wholeheartedly my vision can be summed up in a blunt, yet simple statement. So, I’d liked to close with that Facebook translation: I envision a Global Church that is intentionally interconnected and interdependent, a fellowship of bold, spirit-filled believers that understand what Christ accomplished through His life, death, and resurrection. Therefore, it delights in making disciples of Jesus Christ and burdens itself with the duty of upholding the truths of Scripture, even if it has to do it alone.