My friend Dave over at 42 has recently written a couple of posts about how he thinks that The Methodist Church is on the up, contrary to all the messages of doom and gloom that we often hear.
Yesterday on an ecumenical Good Friday walk of witness an Anglican woman said to me in passing "Of course, the Methodist Church is rapidly dying out." I looked at her and replied, "Actually, I don't think that's quite true. I think that we talk ourselves down a lot." I said that, whilst I realise they are both somewhat unusual congregations, my sending congregation had a membership of 200 and the church where I did my placement had a membership of about 270.
I'd like to advocate that The Methodist Church desperately needs a centrally-expressed vision of where we are going. For good or for ill, at the moment, the message that is coming through from the centre is that we are dying.
Now, I've just come out of over 20 years in business and I want to say that I'm in whole-hearted agreement with the fact that the Methodist Church needs to cut costs. If you're a business and you're growing, you add staff and branches. When your business slows or loses business, you have to cut out branches and central staff. It's the same with us as a church and it's only sensible that we look at our costs and cut them back if we can't afford them. And undoubtedly, that's where we have been for several years. It's only responsible to do this now.
The problem is that the message that seems to be going out to all and sundry is that "we're dying". And I don't think that's true. Using a business analogy again, you're not going to buy a PC from "PC Universe" if you think that "PC Universe" is going to be out of business in the next year.
Whether or not it's the message that Church House wants us to be repeating, at the moment, many of us seem to be repeating the mantra "We're dying". And everyone else is getting that message loud and clear.
We have 300,000 members in the UK. We need a positive vision to work toward and a positive manta to repeat and we ALL need to be "on message". The message that we keep repeating is the message that we will finally live out.