Not just for Methodists...
article was found on the United
Methodists News Service.
It is printed here (with permission), because it's message is pertinent to all
denominations, not only Methodists.]
Methodists told to quit complaining
and "get a mission, a vision, a life"
by Thomas McAnally*
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Methodists were admonished here Aug. 10 to quit complaining
about the difficulties they face in today's world.
"Deal with it," challenged the Rev. Leonard Sweet, dean of United
Methodist-related Drew University School of Theology in Madison, N.J.
"There's a lot I don't like about doing ministry in the latter days of the 20th
century," he said, (but) "this is the time God has chosen you and God has chosen
me to do ministry and lead the church."
The question, he said is whether "we are going to claim this moment for God, or some
other moment we wish we had." Jesus, he added, "said, 'Your time is now.'"
While the future may seem unfair, he challenged the church to "get over it. Get a
mission, get a vision. Get a life."
More than 2,700 Methodists from around the world heard
Sweet's message at the Rio Centro Auditorium here Aug. 10 during sessions of an eight-day
World Methodist Conference that opened three days earlier.
Sweet urged Christians to replace "whining, complaining, wimping out,
cry-babying" with the doctrine of incarnation. "If our Savior joins us where we
are -- not where we ought to be -- then what excuse do we have? If Jesus descended into
hell, then why aren't we standing at the gates of hell -- the precise place where Jesus
founded his church -- and there building the church?"
"I don't like it that we live in a world where people
are sharpening their knives to disembowel people different from them," he said,
"where meanness is getting worse -- meanness towards races, religions, women, the
poor, homosexuals, children, the elderly."
Reminding himself to "get over it," Sweet drew
applause when he asked, "What is the church doing arriving so late to hate? Get a
"I think it's awful that the word 'Christian' is now so greasy from everyone
fingering it that it has become slippery and slimy until one hesitates to pick it
up," he said.
Reminding himself again to "get over it," he suggested the church find another
language. "If 'Christian' is too yucky to pick up, call people to being a disciple of
To minister in the postmodern, pluralistic world, Sweet said Christianity must bring
together opposites. "It must embrace and bridge a world that is both fiction and
fact, a world that is obese and anorexic at the same time. The church needs to live in
multiple tracks, to function in stereo. ...
"If our church keeps looking for the middle, keeps cutting to the middle, keeps
hugging the middle of the road, we will be hit by both sets of oncoming traffic, or if we
miss that we will run churches right off the postmodern cliff. Straight-down-the-middle
strategies don't work in a serpentine world."
Sweet ticked off a list of postmodern tensions that he hopes the Christian church can
address. The most critical among them, he said, is the growing gap between the rich and
poor, greater now than at any time since the 1930s. "Will the church work to bridge
these gaps, or widen them?"
"Jesus didn't call us to walk on water, change water into wine, multiply loaves and
fishes, or die on the cross," he said. "He did that."
"He does call us to trust God, love God, love one another, build bridges. Jesus can't
do that for us ... The world is literally coming apart ... Build a bridge and get over
For Methodists, Sweet said in closing, "the wisdom of
the future is found afresh in the past ... the ancient will always be in the future ...
the key to contemporaneity will always be continuity. The more authentically traditional
Methodists become, the more relevant our ministry."
"Good news is old news," he continued. "The
Methodist aspiration is not to create a church that is 'good as new,' but 'good as old'.
"Methodist leaders, he added, are "visionaries spellbound by the past ... a
conservatory of the past and a laboratory of the future. "We're old-fashioned,
newfangled, orthodox, innovators, wise
as serpents, innocent as doves."
* McAnally is director of United
Methodist News Service,
headquartered in Nashville, Tenn.
This article was used by permission of the United Methodist News Service.
Dr. Sweet is author of the following books: