by Joey Heath
We have failed to be an obedient church. That phrase from the prayer of confession is one I have been thinking about quite a bit recently. Whoever wrote the prayer of confession knew what they were doing because we have failed to be an obedient church. If you look at the history of the church here in the United States we have been failing...well pretty much our entire history. We allowed one of the worst forms of slavery every seen in history to happen in our country and parts of the church supported it. We claimed that women were not deserving the of the right to vote, the right to be placed at equal status with men and not subjugated to them, doing the same jobs making the same pay, and to be treated as equals in their own homes and we based it on scripture. We took land and displaced native populations and claimed it was God who gave us Manifest Destiny. We claimed that the races should be not be mixed and that God had ordained the separation the races based on the Bible. Most recently we have broken and turned away LGBTQ people claiming that they are less than and not deserving because they live “perverted lifestyles” saying that we “love the sinner, but hate the sin”.
Many Evangelical leaders want to say that we are in a moral decline here in the United States and that we are doomed. I would suggest that based on our history we have always been in moral decline. Now I would agree with Evangelical leaders on one point, there is an increasing number of people not going to church. Look at our sanctuaries on Sunday mornings, how many are half empty? I say it is because we have failed to be an obedient church. We spend far too much time sitting in our pews just getting our tickets punched. How much time do we spend telling others about this amazing God we worship and love? How much do we share that Jesus came not just for those sitting in church but for everyone? In fact it was Jesus in Luke 19:10 who said “For the Son of Man has come to seek out and save the lost”. What does this mean? Well If we are truly trying to live our lives like Jesus then we should be finding those who have forgotten or never truly felt the love of God and showing it to them. We should be seeking out those that are hurting, particularly those who have been hurt by the church. We should be doing everything we can to be instruments of God's love to world.
So why does the church have a bad image to the world? Because we have failed to be an obedient church. We have failed to reach out to the lost and offer the light of Christ. We have failed to see the hurting and offer the comforting hand of Jesus. How will you reach out to the lost and the hurting? How can we as the church act like the church that God wants us to be? How can we be obedient?
Joey Heath is a 26 year old life long United Methodist. He is currently a graduate student at Wesley Theological Seminary completing his Masters in Divinity. Once an ordained pastor, Joey hopes he will be able to bring real change to the UMC on the issues of sexuality and gender identity at the broader church level, but also with individuals, so that one day the church will truly be a place that is inclusive of all people.