It is unsurprising that there is much failure in the Christian church. After all, we are attempting to worship and to serve a crucified savior.
It is also unsurprising that we have many dispirited pastors and churches - after all, leadership in an organization that has as its mission the conversion of the world, the rescue of sinners, the worship and service of a true God, is hard, countercultural work subject to much resistance. Christianity is a minority movement that has, from its inception, had friction with the surrounding culture.
What is surprising, considering the mission of the church, is that we have churches...and pastors who are positive, fulfilled, excited, and fruitful. A few of our pastors and churches failed to participate at the full, fair level of expectations in our shared giving. We all know all of the reasons and excuses they give for their failures.
However, nearly two-thirds of our churches and pastors paid 100% of their apportionments and showed their full, fair commitment to our mission.
Nearly half of our churches have not made a new Christian in two years. These churches are dying and are failing to fulfill the mandate of Christ.
However, about a third of our churches made four thousand new Christians last year.
As those who deploy our clergy, the Cabinet and I need to continue to identify, to learn from, and to effectively utilize those pastors who have shown ... a remarkable ability to lead God's people. We also need to note those congregations who want to grow and who can grow and spend most of our energies with them.
In a declining institution there are always some people who have influence in the institution simply because they are negative. "See? I told you this wouldn't work," they say.
Therefore our prayer as church leaders ought to be, "Lord, give us eyes to see all those faithful ones who are being obedient to you, who are daring to trust your promises, and who are offering their gifts to you in your service and whom you are blessing with fruitfulness and growth. Amen."
William H. Willimon
[Taken with permission from Bishop Will Willimon's weekly newsletter, Nov. 15, 2010. North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.]