Cultivate New Growing, Vibrant, Missional Congregations
Why are there so many United Methodist congregations between the Allegheny Mountains and the Rocky Mountains?
The Methodist movement was extraordinarily successful between 1790 and 1890 for three reasons. First, European immigration was changing the demographic make-up of the middle states. As settlers came to these areas, they wanted to create a civilization that would improve their quality of life. They not only built farms, ranches and businesses, but they created schools, colleges and churches.
Second, the Wesleyan movement in all of its forms (including Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal South, Methodist Protestant, AME, AMEZ, CME, UB and EA) were very clear about their purpose—they were giving their time, talent and money to saving souls and spreading scriptural holiness across the nation.
Third, they knew that souls are saved in congregations, and so they planted new churches wherever God opened doors and there were enough people to gather. Some of these churches were language-based in order to reach immigrants. My Grandfather Schuldt’s first bible was a German New Testament and he grew up worshiping in German under his father’s preaching in Minnesota and Iowa. The same was true for German and Spanish-speaking people in Texas.
Fourth, our itinerant system of deploying preachers gave us flexibility and nimbleness. We outperformed the other Christian movements because we had trained leaders ready to evangelize new communities of people. We did not outperform the Baptists, because their leadership development system was equally flexible and nimble—it minimized the training but maximized local control.
The Texas Annual Conference today is focusing on cultivating growing, vibrant missional congregations. Some of those need to be new churches to reach new people. Some of those new people have different cultures and languages than we have seen before. Yet, Christ died for them and our mission is to proclaim the gospel in ways they will hear and help them to become fully committed disciples of Jesus Christ, thereby transforming the world.
One-fourth of Houston’s residents were born outside the United States. In many of our county-seat communities outside of Houston a large percentage of persons speak Spanish. Many of our communities are seeing new people from other parts of the United States. The question we need to ask is, “Are we as missionally focused and nimble as our foremothers and forefathers were 150 years ago?”