I have an idea for the future of the United Methodist Church. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that my idea is exactly what our denomination needs right now.
I think we need a sabbatical. All of us. A denomination-wide sabbatical.
One year should be enough time. We need a one year sabbatical to do nothing but worship and pray, reconnect with God, refocus our energy and renew our souls.
In that year, we do nothing else. No Bible studies. No mission trips. No church plants. No leadership training. No marriage license signing. No board meetings. No capital campaigns. No new member classes. No political advocacy. No evangelism programs. No fellowship events. No appointment changes. Nothing.
Rather, every resource, every dollar, every pastor, every staff member, every denominational board and agency, every United Methodist in every congregation around the world focused for an entire year on two things: worship and prayer. And literally stop doing anything else.
Let’s see, General Conference is in May of 2016. So, maybe they could designate 2018 as a year of sabbatical for the United Methodist denomination, which would give everybody plenty of time to prepare. (As with any significant time off, you need to plan ahead to make sure the processes and procedures are in place to get you through the time in a healthy way.)
Imagine the power of all 12 million of us on sabbatical at once. Imagine how radically counter-cultural that would be.
We would say no to the frenetic pace of the world. We would say no to imposing market-driven value on people. We would say no to the debilitating metric of unimpeded growth. We would say no to our over-scheduled, hyper-active calendars. We would say no to the relentless demand for instant results. We would say no to slick programs and perfect curricula and trendy books and hip lingo.
We would say yes to the living presence of God.
There are a few “plans” floating around out there about the future of the United Methodist denomination. Many of these “plans” are variations on a theme titled, “What the United Methodist Church Should Do About Homosexuality.” The run up to every General Conference features a quadrennial flurry of latest, greatest ideas. And this time around is no different.
However, my plan is unique among them. See, all the other plans have something in common: they all advocate doing things. To my knowledge, mine is the only plan that advocates actually stopping doing things. On purpose.
Sigh. I know, I know. It’s not going to happen, is it? But wouldn’t it be nice? Just to take a break, catch our breath, and remember why we do what we do?
Maybe stop nitpicking each other for a year? Maybe stop bickering? Maybe stop trying to one-up each other? Just pray and worship. That’s it.
And then, when the year is done, we get back to it. But we come with a new perspective, refreshed and focused. A little less grumpy. A little more gracious. And a little more ready to be the church that God wants us to be.