11 May 2009

The Stories we Tell - Just Sayin'

Over the last four or five days reading blogs on the internet, I've been struck by how negative Methodists are about themselves and about their Methodist brothers and sisters.

This negativity seems to be true not only for British Methodists but also for the United Methodist Church in the US. Reading the blogs of UMCers who I find thoughtful and whose ideas I respect, I've actually begun to wonder whether I want to be part of the UMC when I move to the States in August.

In my last job, if anyone had talked down their organisation or their colleagues in the way that Methodists talk each other down, I reckon the boss would have called them in for a talking-to about their attitude.

Martin Atkins, General Secretary of the British Methodist Church, has called us to find the positive stories and tell the positive stories. I didn't read this as a call to be unrealistically Polyanna but to actually see the good in our brothers and sisters and to 'advertise' it.

Why is this important? Basically because if we keep telling each other we're rubbish, we're going to start to believe it. This does not obviate trying to find solutions. But, in commercial-speak, we are living in an era when the demand for our 'product' is declining. Let's stop acting like we can control the demand for our product; let's stop acting like we are all individually responsible for the decline in demand. And let's find ways of increasing market-share and then spreading these ideas around. And let's see the good in those who keep trying and trying and trying and see little worldly signs of success.

Just sayin'.


Micky said...

In the midst of a complicated and busy Sunday yesterday I was suddenly very proud of the Methodist Church. The evening service became a safe and sacred place for two people who were dealing with a very difficult bereavement to wander in, light a candle and find comfort. Visit sacredwells.blogspot.com for a fuller account of what happened.

PamBG said...

It's a beautiful story and much better than my grumpy post!

I hope readers here will follow the link.

Thank you for that and blessings on you and on that congregation.

Graham said...

Oh dear- you left a comment in my blog in those last few days....was that me?

I sold my car yesterday- my wife needs the other car to travel great distances for teacher training. I'm getting another one. In a rural area- transport is hard with 2 little kids. Yesterday, 2 church members offered me their cars whenever I want them (and a mechanic in the village checked out my potential new car for free- not a church goer, although I assumed that when he kept saying 'O Christ' he was praying...I think he checked it for free as his kids come to stuff a chapel).

That is grace in action!

Have I redeemed myself? :)

PamBG said...

Graham, that's a wonderful story and thank you for it. And I don't think there was anything wrong with your post, so no need to 'redeem' yourself.

Teri said...

I agree with the sentiment. I don't exactly know the specifics of the negativity to which you were referring; however, I think our debates on most issues in the states have become too polarized--political, religeous, you name it. It's very frustrating. I've been reflecting more on how I can temper my comments, but even my thoughts, in thinking/discussing what others on opposite sides of issues might think.

Our church did a study this year during lent on John Wesley's 3 basic rules: 1) first do no harm, 2) do some good, 3)stay in love with God. Anyway, the concept of the first two especially were in maintaining a positive relationship toward others we may not like very much. Easy to do with those we find common ground, harder with those with whom we differ. It's the idea if we think badly and speak badly about an other, the other will get a negative effect. We are all children of God, etc.

This is an extra long and rambly response. Sorry. It just underscores the point for me personally.

Take care.

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

Good post Pam.

I am a bit surprised at the outright criticism between Methodist bloggers I read. Some of the comments left by other Methodists come across as very ungracious.

I am also surprised at how much some Methodist bloggers (and I don't include you) spend discussing other church groups/bloggers in a negative way.

As in "I don't like" or " I don't want to be part of" kinds of posts.

It feels a bit like a Man Utd fan going to a City supporters meeting and complaining no-one is wearing red! (Both are football fans :o))

I just don't read that from many other bloggers.

Not sure if it is a cultural thing, or in a church setting where a very clear value is that everyone has their "say", then has that "say" got a bit opinionated and has started to be aimed at a much wider target than the own church?

The worst things I have heard said about the Methodist Church have come from Methodists themselves, including stuff like "We'll be gone in 50 years" and stuff like that.

I think it must be soul destroying living under that kind of shadow.

Tom said...

I have faith that the Methodist church is not finished yet and wont be for long time. Our local church is starting to go into new areas that it hasn't been in for decades: youth work, student ministry, and small groups (never done before apparently). We're not there yet (will we ever be?) but we're moving and there is definately a positive feeling that the church is changing and slowly growing for the better.

I agree about the negitivity but I think it goes much wider across a lot of Christianity... from the sneering "look, they're liberal emergent types - giving up on real Christianity because it's too difficult for them" through to the "look, it's fundamentalists wacko's with they're simplisitc understanding of the Bible because they aren't bright enough to understand methaphors and poetry", it's just that the Methodist church has people from acroos the spectrum within it.

I see what you mean about 'the product', yet it's more necessary than ever! It must sometimes feel like you have medicine but no way of giving it to the sick. There are still so many people who need the love of Christ in their lives, tired, burdened, lonely people. And what of the things that come from our faith? Like feeding the hungry? There's a massive need for our 'product'. And best of all, it's free! Infact it is freedom itself! If we have a good 'product' that is free that should lead to confidence about what is possible, not negativity!

And as for the people who are always negative... Jesus says shut up!
Mat 7:4 How dare you say to your brother, 'Please, let me take that speck out of your eye,' when you have a log in your own eye?

David said...

Part of the problem is that great swathes of British Methodism (I can't speak for the UMC) have forgotten why the Methodist movement can into being. It was a strong reaction to a failed established church and a rapidly changing economic system.

It was Evangelical, Charismatic (just read Wesley, Asbury and the story of Mow Cop)and in the business of winning souls and changing communities.

Too much effort is wasted on trying to prove that we are no longer Evangelical, that somehow we have "moved on" or "matured".

Time to get back to proclaiming the Gospel.

Oh, and incidentally, the history of Methodism is full of those who would be negative. Don't worry. just plough on.

Doorman-Priest said...

"Over the last four or five days reading blogs on the internet, I've been struck by how negative Methodists are about themselves and about their Methodist brothers and sisters."

Actually Pam, it's a Christian thing.

Rev R Marszalek said...

Hi just dropping by to say Hi. I come from your part of the world - Hagley and my husband grew up in Stourport. I'm on a journey with the Anglican Church and have much in common with you regarding views about women in the Church and concern over Driscoll's macho theology. Found you via 42

Blessings Rachel

PamBG said...

Rachel, thank you for stopping by to say hello. Unfortunately, I'm leaving this part of the world in August to go back to the States so I can be closer to my parents who are both unwell.

I've bookmarked your blog. I remember butting heads with David and Peter Ould back in the days of uk.religion.christian.

Teri said...

Hi Pam,

This question is for you or anyone else current in church trends. What is the Emerging Church?? I'm just curious. I'm a United Methodist in Wisconsin, USA. Our church is an older congregation here. I hear lots of talk about new trends, changing with the times. I'm 34 & am willing to offer some lay-leadership or ideas here. Have been reading some. Thoughts??

PamBG said...

Teri, I think you've asked one of those 'how long is a piece of string?' questions. Nor do I consider myself and expert on Emerging Church.

My very broad definition of 'Emerging Church' is a community of people who are trying to worship and have fellowship in a way that is culturally relevant without all the baggage of institutional church.

The problem for me in understanding 'Emerging Church' is that the baggage that is considered irrelevant seems to change depending on the group that is 'emerging'. But you get things like people creating Christian communities for surfers or for skate-boarders. Part of me wonders if this is 'consumer church' rather than 'emerging church'.

Teri said...

Thanks, Pam. I get a wierd vibe from what I've read so far. Somethig like what you said. i don't know. I'll have to read more. Thanks.