I have a confession to make. At times – probably too much of the time – I feel trapped in the worst of “church world.” I guess it just goes with the territory of being a bishop, but it often seems as if all I hear is bickering about matters of human sexuality, complaints about leadership and pessimism about the church’s future.
I have realized how much I unconsciously absorb this negative energy. The result is that I begin to think this negativity is reality. Well, it’s not. While all these things are real and have an impact on life, there is something that is ultimately far “realer.” It is the love of God, the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the world so that one day God’s will shall be just as real on earth as it is in heaven.
This powerful realization of what is “realer” frees me to dream about life in new ways. One of the most exciting ways I do this is to engage in a holy thought experiment called, “What if?”
What if every United Methodist congregation in Arkansas participated in 200,000 Reasons and embraced the children they serve as if they were their own?
What if every Arkansan United Methodist read at least one chapter of scripture every morning?
What if those who are most at odds over matters of human sexuality intentionally developed a relationship for prayer and holy conversation with someone on the “opposite side”?
What if we all fasted from making political comments on Facebook and other social media for the next three months?
What if every United Methodist congregation in Arkansas had at least one profession of faith this year?
What if every United Methodist pastor spent one-half hour in prayer every day?
What if we actually sought spiritual revival in a serious and sustained way?
What if people looked at United Methodists and said, “They’ve got something. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I sure want whatever it is”?
What if five lay persons in every congregation once a month shared the difference Jesus makes in their lives with someone they know?
This is a not particularly ambitious list. Indeed, it is rather modest. But it is something we can do individually and together. And if we do it – not legalistically, but because we want to – we will be changed. And if we are changed, our churches will be changed. And if our churches are changed, lives, communities and the world will be transformed by Jesus’ love.
There is, however, one more ‘What if?” I want to add to my list. And it just may be the most significant of all. What if we were to move from a holy thought experiment to a holy living experiment?