When The United Methodist Church Sold Its Soul



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The Reason We're Failing

Making disciples in no way means that we are telling people they are going to hell. It is not a program to increase our numbers. It is a process and it's hard work, nevertheless aided by the Holy Spirit, and commanded by the Lord Jesus Himself. I propose that the biggest reason that the UMC is failing is because we have NOT made disciples. We have retreated into our walls, argued theology and patted ourselves on the back for hosting an Easter egg hunt for our own kids.

Rev. Mark Winter more than 4 years ago


It is amazing to read how shallows those who are commenting are. I guess they are in the same camp with those who feel Muslims are going to hell. Be as bad as you want, yell I follow Jesus Christ and you are a shoe in.

Ellie more than 5 years ago

When UM sold its soul

When you consider that the author wrote this in response to what was in the 2000 book of disciples, it is difficult to dismiss his comments. Unfortunately currently, the hierarchy of United Methodist Church appears to be politically driven. The hierarchy appears to be a social network where the members of this group continuously applaud each other and seem to be following Private agendas. When one is accepted into the hierarchy, their behavior seems to change. Some behave as if they are "cheerleaders " for other members of their group. Sadly, this is NOT what is meant by making disciples or even increasing members!

Karen more than 5 years ago

A Lost Soul

This is beyond appalling. There is virtually no room for, "Come, let us reason together" with this lost soul. It is appalling, twisting of words, anti-biblical and outright heretical.

Not only does this "pastor" not understand the difference between evangelism (tell a lost world about the Good News of Christ) and discipleship (training up those who come to Christ), he must think that Jesus was off-base when He said,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," Mt. 28:19

The United Methodist church did not lose its soul by proclaiming "Make disciples for Christ," it lost its soul when it began allowing the theology of people like Burbank-Williams to fill its pulpits.

God help us.


Haven't read replys yet, but they should be revealing.


Dan Smithwick more than 5 years ago

UMC mission statement

If we read the mission statement correctly, making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, makes sense. Jesus states in the great commission that we are to TEACH all nations! I believe in the transformational power of God,s grace. He has certainly transformed my life. The Gospels and the letters of Paul certainly do not point to a "personal, don't tell anybody" faith. If that had been the case, Christianity would have died on the vine and not survived the first century! Instead Christianity is an active faith, powered only by the Gospel of Christ's death burial and resurrection through the Holy Spirit! That power leads to transformation of lives, and thus the transformation of the world. Of course Christians should help others! We are commanded to do so, but not without sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not an example, He came as Savior, which He could be because he is God incarnate! We must remember that our works are as filthy rags and do not make us righteous. We are to first recognize Jesus as our Savior, then these works flow out of gratitude and the leading of the Holy Spirit!

Ken Roark more than 5 years ago


It's thoughts like these that led me to leave the Methodist Church after attending for 23 years. Social justice without the gospel and discipleship is a waste of time. Why would you feed and clothe people and not allow them to receive salvation and discipleship. It's like putting a bandaid on cancer. I spent the first 16 years of my life attending a Methodist church twice a week and never heard about salvation. I didn't experience God's grace and transformation until salvation was explained to me from an evangelical. That was a profound moment of change in my life and I held a resentment for years that my church never shared with me the precious truth of the gospel. Look at your Methodist history. The church as a whole has declined since 1969 or 1970. It was at this time that a lot of the views that you hold took root in the church. I don't find that a coincidence. I hurt for the Methodist Church and for the people who are missing out on what discipleship and evangelism brings to their lives.

k more than 5 years ago


They are also missing the joy of knowing the Lord!!

Sandy more than 5 years ago

That was crazy

I have to admit that I am trying hard to not be sarcastic or downright angry. I frankly can't for the life of me see how this author would claim to be a Christian and yet bristle at the mission statement of making disciples for Jesus Christ to change the world. If you don't share your faith that you are simply not doing what Jesus told you to do. Period.
And what is this: "This is not to say that the bible is unimportant. But it was not the last or only word in the Church’s ongoing conversation with the world.". What, exactly, do you think the Bible is if not the last word in our "conversation" with the world?

No, I strongly object to our goal and purpose being to improve this world. Sure, we most assuredly should make this world better BUT THAT HAS NEVER BEEN THE GOAL OF THE CHURCH. We don't exist for that purpose. We exist for the simple reason of offering people salvation from sin throughy Jesus's death and resurrection. This world is not our home. Jesus is coming back, you know.

Now, even though I have very little use for "improving our world" Christianity (truly, there are other myuch more effective organizations for that) I do recognize that those who consider salvation from sin paramount often lack the emphasis on this world and its problems. As such, we should do the former (salvation from sin) withou neglecting the latter (improving the world).

andreas more than 5 years ago

Agree with author

I believe our work is our best witness. This focus on number has brought the UMC leadership to dramatically cut funding to campus ministry "because they do not recruit enough Methodits and new minister". I have personally witnessed a quality campus ministry save student lives. Only expectation, make the person whole and let that witness be enough.

Tom Sutherlin more than 5 years ago

UMC decline

I think the author is correct in some ways, but the decline of the church has been going on longer than since 2000. My belief is that it is God's job to judge others, not ours or the UMC Book of Discipline. Too many church leaders feel they are better than others because they follow the rules. My rules are simple, Love God, Love my neighbors, do good, and do no harm. If we live our lives the way Jesus did, we will be an example that others will want to follow. Being loud, obnoxious and purveying hate like the Westboro Baptist Church is not following Jesus' lead. Jesus would likely be horrified at the way people behave in his name. One example that I feel the UMC provides is forbidding gay marriages in UMC churches and by UMC ministers. Show them love, you may not change or "heal"them, but they will express their love and then God will provide judgment as to whether they lived their lives according to His word and desires. And the growing movement to prohibit guns is also a problem for many when it is preached from the pulpit. Jesus and the disciples carried swords, as Israel was very hazardous, with criminals and invading armies. Let people carry guns if they wish, we all have to die sometime, and most of us will not get the choice of when. Spend more time showing love, less time saying you can't do this, and you mist do that. The UMC lost me over these 2 subjects and more.

Philip Neilson more than 5 years ago

missing the point

I have to agree with a previous comment. The second half of our mission statement is "for the transformation of the world." Making disciples isn't new. Jesus himself gave us that mission, as the writer points out. But where the author is wrong is in seeing that mission as incompatible with the greatest commandments: Love God and love neighbor. Saying that one's faith in Jesus Christ is personal, not public makes no sense to me. If one has faith in Jesus Christ, it is precisely that faith, and the desire to follow what Jesus taught and modeled that guides one's very public actions in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, etc. It is also our faith in Jesus Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, that enables us to share the love, grace, and forgiveness that we have found in Christ.

Carolyn more than 5 years ago

What is "discipleship"?

This article buys into the misuse of language -- the fundamentalists have tainted and polluted words like disciple. There is very little focus on actually 'being' disciples of Jesus within the UMC. Jesus was not a recruiter for institutionalized religion. Unfortunately the author is correct that the UMC's interpretation of "making disciples for Jesus" is really coded language for stopping the rapid decline of the UMC as an institution. There are so many issues with the UMC - it is NOT at all like the early 'methodist' movement anymore. John Wesley and Jesus would not be welcome in many of the UMC congregations... and would not be appreciated by nearly all of the church hierarchy.

Robyn more than 5 years ago

A correction?

A point of clarity. It seems the premise of this article is based upon the notion that the mission statement of "to make disciples of Jesus Christ." It is in fact, "The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."

The author expresses concern that our mission statement is solely about evangelism and growing numbers, and has nothing to do with social justice or kingdom-building work. Sure seems to me that "for the transformation of the world" covers that by definition.

I'm not one to avoid criticism of the UMC - the Church I love and seek to help love into it's highest self - but I don't feel that this article does justice to our actual mission statement.

See: http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/section-1-the-churches

Rev. Roger Wolsey more than 5 years ago

No Correction needed

"for the transformation of the world" was added to the mission statement by General Conference in 2008. My essay addresses the mission statement as originally adopted in 2000 and the direction that was set by that action.

Doyle Burbank-Williams more than 5 years ago

Our Mission Statement is Inadequate

Since the last General Conference, I've had the growing feeling that our Mission Statement is inadequate. Its inadequacy seems to derive from the idea that we are going to accomplish, for Christ, what Christ, himself, said he would do: teach them to feed his lambs, to care for his sheep, and to feed his sheep. We are assistants in Christ's process of changing the lives of people through the Holy Spirit. To imply that we are the primary ones to "make Disciples of Jesus Christ" is a bit arrogant.
That's not to say that it isn't part of our ministry, it simply isn't ALL of our ministry.
It occurred to me that a more adequate mission statement for the Church would to be more complete in our task. I'd suggest "The Mission of The United Methodist Church is to make, support, and uphold Disciples of Jesus Christ."
I'm certainly open to other ideas, but I think this would be a more adequate description of our Mission.

Thomas H. Griffith more than 5 years ago

Not a Methodist, but...

I'm UCC, but found your article on Facebook, shared by a UMC pastor friend of mine. I'm with you - I don't buy the "liberal church caused the decline" narrative. It is at least as likely that the rise of evangelicalism has caused the demise. One main thrust of evangelicalism is to sideline any discussion of social justice - the very heart of the gospel message. Turning away from justice, the church has no raison d'etre, and no connection with the God we worship.

Michael Erwin more than 5 years ago


I find the UMC's mission statement misses the mark. Sadly, we have become the church we once sought to renew.

Deborah Kolacki more than 5 years ago

What alternative to disciple-making

I believe that it is in the Wesleyan DNA to foster disciple-making communities. I don't claim to know the intentions of the General Conference when the current mission statement was added, but I welcomed it, not as concession to the church growth movement, but as a recognition that we need to renew the Wesleyan "method" of personal and social holiness. This article troubles me because its dualistic rhetoric promotes the assumption that if you are for evangelism or disciple-making that you cannot be concerned about matters of social justice. This is part of the polarization overtaking America. The genius of the Methodist revival was the combination of evangelical, social and sacramental sensitivities.

George R Martzen more than 5 years ago