Foreword

Acknowledgements

Julie

Visible Problem Indicators

Stewardship

Agents of Change - Issues

Institutional Dynamics

The Institutional and the Local Church

Operative Theology

Prognosis for the Future

Revival - What is Needed?

Closing Remarks

Chapter One
Julie+

Assume that you and I are in the same church. You are a married couple with a fifteen-year old daughter named Julie. Now, for the sake of this story, I am a youth counselor* in our church; Julie is one of "my" kids.

One day, we have a meeting at my request - the both of you, Julie's mother and father, and I, Julie's youth counselor. Gently, very gently, I share with you the fact that Julie has a problems with drugs: not just marijuana but also the "hard drugs" such as cocaine and heroin.

Now, your reaction would be understandable. You would be shocked and react with, "Julie? Our Julie? The girl that we raised from a baby? This beautiful girl whom we love so much? The girl who is so talented and has given us so much joy? This is the girl we will be sending to college in a few years! No, it can't be true!" This would be the normal reaction of any parents who love their girl. But what would be important, of crucial importance, is what you would do then.

If you persisted in this train of thought and refused to recognize the reality of her situation, then she would, in all probability, get worse. Her drug habit would cause her to crave ever increasing amounts; she would have to do things to get more and more money, such as stealing, or prostitution, or selling the drugs herself. In the process of stealing, prostituting herself, or selling the drugs, she would bring harm to herself and others. If she did not get help, the course of the addiction is that she would one day die from a drug overdose, violence, or possibly a debilitating disease such as AIDS.

Or, if you could overcome the initial shock, anger, and disappointment, and examine the situation objectively, you would realize that I loved Julie and even thought of her as my own daughter. You would remember that you had seen some of those same signs yourselves, but not wanted to admit them to yourselves because they might seem to tarnish your for her. But if you want to truly help Julie, you must look dispassionately at the reality of the situation, admit its truthfulness, and then resolve to do whatever you could to try to get her out of the habit. Only in that way would you have any hope of seeing her restored to health and back on the track to a healthy, productive life.

You might resort to "tough love" by refusing to give her spending money; not allowing her to go on unsupervised recreational outings; and monitoring closely all areas of her life. As a result, she would react emotionally, saying that you "hate her" and "don't love her," and are being "mean-spirited."

This is analogous to the situation in which we find ourselves in our denomination. Julie, the beautiful teenager that you love so much is our United Methodist Church. It has done so much good in the past and does so today; but it has some problems - serious, fundamental ones that pose a danger to the health, indeed, the future of our church. I am a messenger - the bearer of bad news. Some of you have known for many years the nature of our problems; others have not realized they were quite as serious as they are. Still other have been unaware that anything has been wrong.

+This is purely a fictional girl with no relation to any real person.
*In truth, I have served as both a youth coordinator and counselor for over 200 teenagers in the space of fourteen years in two different churches.


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