Refocus and the future: reaching young people with the Gospel

I want to be candid with you about measures we are taking at United Methodist Communications to address what I consider urgent concerns for The United Methodist Church. Since entering the ministry in my youth, I have always felt and believed proclamation of the Good News an urgent calling. Today it’s more so than ever.

The culture of materialism attempts to redefine the biblical witness of the sacredness of human personality. Today, each of us is defined as a consumer of products and services. Even in its most innocuous usage, I find it unacceptable. In my opinion, the values that arise from it create a void that only the embrace of a caring community living in the embrace of a loving God can fill.

If we do not enter into this world with messages that counter this definition of humanity, I believe we fail the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And we fail future generations. The church in the United States and Europe must reach younger, more diverse people who have been formed in this culture with the gospel message.

On the face of it, it’s a big challenge. It’s made more difficult in the midst of an economic crisis that reduces our capabilities and requires us to pare down even more. In the past year at United Methodist Communications, we have slashed some of our largest line items – travel and related expenses, and printing. Recently we’ve taken the difficult step of laying off good people.

These have been difficult steps, a sentiment that I’m sure would be shared by all manner of organizations and businesses today. But they have been the right ones. And they are enabling us to absorb a deficit and keep with our high levels of plans and programs for now.

However, the economy isn’t the driving force, it’s the precipitating factor. We are focusing on younger, more diverse audiences. The driving force is the Gospel and the demographic realities. It’s the imperative to be disciples of Jesus Christ inviting people to a new way of life, a valued way of living. Discipleship reminds us that we are valued by God and we are called to value each other.

I don’t seek commendation. In fact, we are doing precisely what we should do in a situation like this. The difference is rather than only talking about these details at private board meetings, I’m sharing them here. United Methodist Communications is steadily walking into a new kind of openness and two-way communication about what we do and how we operate because we believe it is right and appropriate in these times.

Your comments are welcome as always. Please keep in mind our policy on being constructive.

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