Revival—it’s a United Methodist thing!

By Bishop Gary E. Mueller

Sisters and Brothers,

You’ve heard me talk quite a bit recently about our need for significant spiritual revival. I’m excited so many of you resonate with this idea. But I also know it’s important to share why I think it’s so critical right now.

Our best efforts to turn our church in a new direction through adaptive learning, re-structuring, bold risks and hard work have not brought about the results for which we have prayed. Indeed, our church continues to decline in vitality, passion and fruitfulness. We experience growing polarization that literally is driving us farther apart. And recent data—as well as our own experience—makes it clear our church is increasingly irrelevant to much of the world, particularly the young.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. While we may feel most comfortable talking about it primarily in institutional terms, it’s time to confess that it’s primarily the result of the fact that we have moved farther away from the single greatest resource we have for our mission and life together: Jesus Christ. Simply put, we are in a spiritual crisis and our only hope is spiritual revival.

Be clear about something, however: We cannot cause spiritual revival to occur. But we certainly can prepare ourselves for it as we pray, worship and watch. When revival comes, it will deepen our relationship with God, create a passionate hunger to follow Jesus and fill us with the Holy Spirit so we have new passion, boldness and purpose in our lives and our church.

This call for revival is not a nostalgic attempt to recreate a certain kind of spiritual experience from the past. It is not an excuse to step away from the complexities and difficulties of life in the early 21st century. And it certainly is not an effort to de-emphasize the importance of seeking justice, peace and healing in our broken world. It is a call to fully embrace the reality that all of our dreams, plans and hard work must be built on our relationship with our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Revival will be a challenge because of deep divisions in our church, powerful cultural forces swirling around us, and our own instinct to avoid change at all costs. It will be an uphill battle because we think we know better than God.  But, perhaps most importantly, it will be difficult because we will have to confront the reality that we have assumed for far too long that the future of our church is primarily up to us.

Our quest for revival will have to include laity and clergy throughout our global connection who are serious about opening their hearts, minds and lives to God. We will have to get serious about living as Jesus’ disciples like we never have before. And we will have to be willing to let the Holy Spirit lead us far outside comfort zones.

So what do we do?

We pray passionately. We open our hearts humbly. We wait for God patiently. And we do it starting right now. I know I’m ready. How about you?

Grace and peace,

Gary E. Mueller