Awakening

Pentecost is a time of awakening.  When our once “strangely warmed” hearts diminish to a dimly lit bulb, we long for the Holy Spirit to rush in with a strong wind and blow life into our faith again.

I Pray for a New Pentecost

Pentecost is also a time of awakening for our church.  I pray for a new Pentecost for the Church.   In United Methodist Insight, Kim Cape the General Secretary for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, said about the restructure of the United Methodist denomination, “More than we need a new organizational chart, we need a new Pentecost”.  I believe that is true of the church in North America — not only United Methodists, but all main line denominations.  The church longs for a revival, a new awakening, a new movement of the Holy Spirit that will set us on fire again.

Christian Futurists Disagree

There are two camps of Christian scholars and futurists in the United States.  Some predict that the U.S. will be like Europe, over the next two decades becoming increasingly less Christian, less religious, less faithful and more secular.  They believe we are entering an irreversible state of spiritual decline and the end of the Christian era in the United States.  Others disagree and predict that similar to North American history, we are on the verge of the next great Christian spiritual awakening.

Three Great Awakenings in North American History

Historians of American religion generally recognize three significant awakenings in the United States.  The First Great Awakening 1730-1760 impacted the American colonies.  We had fiery preachers like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield.  The revival movement spread from the Wesley brothers in England and people rejected complacent religious practices for the fiery, involved faith of the American colonies.

The second Great Awakening 1800-1830 was all about the expansion of the American frontier.  Revivals, camp meetings, and vital faith spread west with the frontier.  Circuit riders preached from town to town and started new churches.  New forms of Christianity were formed, while social activism, personal piety and religious experiences were valued.

The Third Great Awakening 1890-1920 brought the social gospel movement, the Holiness movement, Phoebe Palmer, the Pentecostals, preachers like Dwight Moody, and musicians like Ira Sankey.  Christians became active in the temperance movement, social reforms and founded the Salvation Army.

Is Another Great Awakening on the Horizon?

Is North America entering a new spiritual season for Christianity or are we declining into secularization, and continued spiritual decay?  Can we hope there is another great awakening on the horizon for America?

Diana Butler Bass in her book, Christianity after Religion “The end of the Church and the Birth of a new spiritual awakening” says that awakenings begin when old systems break down.  The end of the old opens the way for the new.  Is a door opening for new forms of Christianity to be born?

I pray for an Awakening that will give the Christian church in America new life in a new emerging form and style.  In the words of Chris Tomlin’s Awakening, “In our hearts, Lord, in this nation, Awakening. Holy Spirit, we desire, Awakening”.

Mending Our Nets

At the opening worship service of General Conference 2012, Bishop Larry Goodpaster preached on the scripture about the disciples mending their nets by the seashore.  We would be busy this week, he said, mending our nets, being about our business.  He cautioned us not to be too busy so that we do not recognize Christ in our midst.  We were busy mending our nets at first, doing the business of General Conference.  Then it seemed like we were arguing over how to mend the nets and then we were pushing and pulling and fighting over the nets themselves.  We began ripping and tearing the fabric of our denomination.  The tool that Christ has given us to fish for people.

When the Judicial Council decision was read on Friday May 4, 2012 the UMC Plan was declared “unsalvageable”.  The delegates read the books, Lovett Weems’s Focus, Gil Rendle’s Journey in the Wilderness, Bob Farr’s Renovate or Die.  We felt the excitement that this GC was the one where we were going to make changes, do something new, change direction.  Why work so hard if GC doesn’t have the ability to redefine the future of the church?

After years of work on the CTA, months of work on Plan B and MFSA, hours and days spent crafting them into a collaborative plan that was the best of all three.  It was unsalvageable.  Perhaps what is more concerning is not the loss of Plan UMC, but the loss of something else.  Perhaps our confidence in our polity is unsalvageable.  Perhaps the hope of our young people is unsalvageable.  Perhaps our faith in the goodness of others to work for the whole and not just defend their part is unsalvageable.

Like many clergy, I returned to my church this Sunday morning.   Beautiful, elderly women came out of the sanctuary to hug me and tell me they were proud that I was a delegate to the General Conference.  “I am sure all your hard work made Methodism better.”  I smiled and thanked them, but secretly wondered.  I hoped they did not read the UMNS articles and I am certain they don’t get news from twitter.

As discouraged as I am after my first Genera l Conference, I look with fresh eyes at my mission field and pick up the only net I have. Torn as it may be in the denomination of my ordination, I lovingly grasp it and GO into the mission field as Christ has called me to do.  I visit the hospital, talk with my confirmands, and prepare my sermon.  I am excited about our church’s missional microcommunities, our new church start, our ministry with the poor, our plans to reach refugee and immigrant populations, our children’s choir and our community garden.  God is right here showing me the path to take today.  God is at work in the grass roots of our denomination.  More than ever, in the local church.  There is hope for Methodism and a new call to mend our nets in Portland in 2016.

Rev. Jan Davis

First Rowlett UMC, Rowlett Texas