Everything here represents my own opinion and not the opinion of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection or the United Methodist Church.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fall Leaves and Church Stages

As I was driving to the shop this morning to drop my car off for some necessary work, I was struck by the vibrance of some of the trees - their leaves were positively bursting with color. I began to think about the seasons and how each has distinctive characteristics. For trees, spring can be a time of new growth, summer a time of steady growth and stable existence, in fall leaves are lost and preparations for winter begin, and the time during winter can be a time of dormancy waiting for the new growth.

As a result of the fall colors, I began to think about trees as a way to think about the church universal and the United Methodist Church. There are certainly different seasons in the life of individual communities of faith and in denominations or organizations as a whole. There are times of new growth, steady growth, stable existence, losing leaves, preparations for and finally dormancy. However, I think that there is at least one distinct difference in this comparison.

Whereas trees go through the cycle of the seasons as a single organism and with a similar cycle in all surrounding trees, the church may be experiencing different stages (new growth, stable existence, etc.) concurrently. I also think that this is scalable. In these examples, I use thriving as a characteristic, but I believe that it would hold true for any of the stages mentioned above. For example:

  • Particular denominations and groups may be thriving in the church universal.
  • Particular communities / congregations may be thriving within denominations and groups.
  • Particular ministries may be thriving within communities / congregations.
  • Particular individuals may be thriving within particular ministries.
Questions for all is: How can new growth that is emerging be nurtured? How can those parts of the body of Christ that are thriving spread healthy and faithful practice to others? How can those parts that are dormant be revitalized?