2017 October

October 2017

Dear Friends,

At the Methodist Conference in June, we reviewed the statistics for mission over the last three years. These are based on the congregational counts that are undertaken in October each year. Our church stewards will be gearing up to count everyone again this month.

The findings show that nationally, the membership of the Methodist Church has declined to 188,000 – the first time for almost 200 years that it has dropped below 200,000.

In response to this, the Conference has called for:

  • Methodist members to enthusiasm in prayer and acts of personal evangelism;

  • Methodist churches to direct their work and wealth to the priority of making new disciples;

  • Methodist Circuits to resource the forming of new Methodist societies wherever possible, to offer witness and worship in new places, or in places where Christian presence has long since diminished;

  • Methodist Districts to include disciple-making as a priority for forthcoming synods.

In addition, the Methodist Conference directed that every Circuit and every church should hold a day of prayer and fasting for the mission of the Methodist Church, and that it should be done near the beginning of our Connexional year. We have chosen the 24 hours between sunset on Wednesday 4th October to sunset on Thursday 5th October for this, and you will find separate information about this. I commend this to you.

One of the great strengths of the traditions of the Methodist Church is our understanding of the priesthood of all believers. In other words, the work of the church does not stand solely on the work of the Mission and Ministry Team but rather it engages every member of the church.

Therefore, when we read about calls to prayer, personal evangelism and making disciples, this is a call to all of us, wherever we are and in whatever situation we find ourselves. I am quite ready to admit that this takes most of us, even ministers(!), out of our comfort zone and challenges us to be willing to try to do something new.

Quite often, Christianity is perceived as a personal faith and a private faith, which is true in some respects for we are called to believe personally in our Lord Jesus Christ. However, that perception can leave us feeling very isolated and weak when our self confidence in prayer or evangelism is low. The good news is that we are actually called to be Christians together, supporting one another and helping one another.

By running courses, such as Alpha, and by meeting together for prayer, Bible study and fellowship, we help to build up one another. In getting involved in these events, we are being disciples, learning and putting into practice what we have learned.

People in education such as Alison, my wife, start September with the memory of children who have completed a year at school, and are faced with children who are just starting that year. The seeming chasm between what was achieved in June or July by the last class and what the new class are able to achieve almost makes the feat quite daunting, until they remember that the previous class started just the same way.

The challenges that we face are no different to the challenges that Christians have faced over the generations. The uncertainty and fear that we may feel are not unique to us, and were equally experienced by previous generations. These things remind us of the importance of standing together with one another, individual with individual and church with church, and of turning again to God in prayer, knowing that he has built his church again and again with people no different to us.

Our hope and prayer is that we may be earnest in our desire to see God moving in our midst, that we may be willing to follow and join in with what God is doing, and that we will find God supporting us in doing things that we had never imagined ourselves doing.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3: 20,21.

With best wishes,

David