For us, the Free Methodist Church family in Canada, to expect anything different from 2017 we would really have to posture ourselves differently, act differently, pray differently, spend differently… otherwise, we should expect pretty much the same outcomes. Our Sunday attendance and membership statistics have been decreasing. In fact, most churches in Canada are experiencing this same sad reality. Though this decrease in size is not unique to The Free Methodist Church in Canada, it is unique to Free Methodism internationally. Internationally we are growing, and the international community has issued a challenge to every conference. The challenge is called “A Decade of Harvest.” This is a call to focus attention on leading people to Jesus. Amen!
Let me start with this image: the church in Canada is too much like a cruise ship! Passengers are customers who demand excellent ‘service’; music can’t be too loud, and it needs to be my favourite type of music; food must be delicious; seating, comfortable in the auditorium; atmosphere, welcoming; clean, smooth waters; lots of good programs for our kids and youth; and if the trip is not to my liking I will choose another ship next time!
We are not a cruise ship, and I’m sorry we became this. We should be more like a coast guard ship: everyone onboard a coast guard ship is important! Each ‘passenger’ has a unique job that contributes to the whole. This ship is about saving people, and it is not likely to sail smooth waters very often (Luke 15 Jesus says that His disciples will even go searching in the wilderness – rough waters – for one who is lost). A coast guard ship is not about good service, programs, food, music or atmosphere. This ship is about saving one more person. “Forgive us Jesus for making your church into a cruise ship and us into customers, or passengers. Make us ‘crew’ ready to sail into rougher waters in order to save one more person…”
At Regional Gatherings you will hear a call for all hands on deck.
The FMCIC Coast Guard ship (sorry about bordering on being too cutesy by carrying on with this metaphor!) is setting a course focussed on saving lives – it is, after all, our calling. But, and this is very important, our starting place is PRAYER. Expect to hear a lot more about PRAYER in 2018 and to be challenged to pray differently than we have…
I’m genuinely excited about this coming year and the many initiatives that you will hear about (church planting, regional coaches, national missions’ team, children’s team, talks with other denominations, partnerships, training, planned giving) but for now I am raising only one flag, promoting only one initiative, inviting you only into one challenge: in 2018 let’s PRAY a “new song” – differently than most of us have because we desire different outcomes right? PRAYER is deeper as we dive into it, so let’s commit to “enter the throne of grace” which is no little matter. Revival prayer is a commitment to “intercession.” Intercessory prayer is being with God on behalf of another. We too often treat intercessory prayer as us delivering a message to God about someone: “God bless Bob and Sri Lanka. Amen”, and because we do this faithfully and daily, we call it intercessory prayer. The opportunity is much richer than this. It involves “entering His presence,” being in the throne of grace, listening, asking, seeing, waiting… Let’s pray…
BTW has your church appointed a Prayer Point Person yet? Have you sent our National Prayer Director or myself their contact info?