On March 21 our Connectional Ministries office presented our annual, conference-wide faith-sharing training event at New Hanover UMC. This year’s gathering drew more than 350 people and was led by Thom and Joani Shultz, teaching from their popular book, “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore.” Most who attended expressed appreciation for what they learned; and some shared that they were committed to putting their learnings into practice in the near future.
Our presenters offered key reasons why so many people do not want to go to church anymore:
To address these four reasons for not going to church, the Schultzes urged congregations to nurture and demonstrate four key acts of Christian love. They are: Radical Hospitality; Fearless Conversation; Genuine Humility; and Divine Anticipation. Thom and Joani revealed that people today are looking for deeper relationships with members who are humble, open and welcoming. They want and need to be listened to and heard, appreciated and respected. People want honest, loving guidance to help them grow in their faith, while finding purpose and meaning in their lives.
Nurturing and demonstrating these four acts of love may provide the experiences people are looking for when they enter our churches. The Schultzes’ book describes the four acts of love in detail. Congregations should consider, and would surely benefit from, reading, discussing and experimenting with many of the book’s ideas and principles in small groups.
Our main theme for this year’s Annual Conference is “Faithful Stewards.” Faith-sharing resources and learning experiences like our March event can inspire and inform us of how to become faithful stewards who share the gospel not only in words but through genuine acts of love. Such resources and experiences may help us take inventory of how God has equipped us as congregations to do ministry.
In our inventory we should also identify and learn about communities and situations where our congregations can make a difference in people’s lives with our spiritual and material gifts and resources. Many of our congregations are engaged in food cupboard ministry, clothing ministry, prison ministry, GED classes, AA and other personal recovery groups, after- school and preschool programs, sports and recreation ministries, and so on. They have noted the needs of neighbors around them.
Inventories, along with needs assessments, can help us to be good stewards of the gifts and resources we have been given. And they provide rich opportunities for congregations to discern if and where God is calling them to recognize and respond to needs not yet addressed.
Every congregation should be known in its community for being a faithful steward of its resources, making a difference through unique, life-changing ministries. It is important for us as Christian disciples to show our neighbors that we genuinely care and want to share God’s love with them.
As we approach Annual Conference, let us pray for a wonderful celebration and demonstration of our faithful stewardship unto God. Let us discover, nurture and use our spiritual gifts and resources for sharing this faith honestly, openly and lovingly through our words and deeds. With God’s help, let it be so.
By The Rev. Christopher Jacob Kurien
Director of Connectional Ministries