Contentment appears to be a value that most church members and congregations value above everything else. The Apostle Paul calls us to learn to be content with whatever comes our way in life. We are to be content when we have everything we want in life, and when we fail to have even the basic necessities of life.
I saw many of the United Methodist Christians in the Congo who have taken Paul’s words to heart. They knew their relationship with Jesus Christ was more important than money, housing, food, education, or health. Knowing and serving Jesus was what really mattered. Everything else was of secondary value.
However, here in the United States it appears we have taken contentment as the primary value in the life of the Church. We tolerate injustice, gossip, spiritual mediocrity, congregations slowly dying, conditions of our communities and a lack of respect for other people. We are so content that we are the walking dead. We stand for nothing; we stand up for nothing; we become like the Church at Laodicea that is neither hot nor cold. We refuse to even invite people to attend worship with us for fear of making them uncomfortable or members of the church uncomfortable.
I see creating discontentment as one of my primary roles and responsibilities as a bishop of the Church. Individuals need to become discontent with their relationship with Jesus Christ and strive to become more like him in word and deed. Pastors need to become discontent with the way they are leading congregations. Congregations need to become discontent when they walk among people who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and believe they are doing everything expected of them to see God’s Kingdom come on this earth as it is in heaven. We need a great awakening of dissatisfaction with ourselves and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
A few months ago I wrote about the necessity of treating every person with respect, especially those with whom we do not agree. These persons are still our brothers and sisters. We need to respect their ideas, thoughts, and opinions. I certainly may not agree with them, but Jesus calls me to love my enemies and treat everyone as I would desire and wish to be treated. I was not prepared for the response. I was accused of being political. I needed to focus on spiritual issues and avoid placing the Church in the middle of political debates. I confess that I utilized public instances and public figures to illustrate my point, but some of the responses justified such crude disrespectful behavior and words. Some responses appeared to reflect approval of inappropriate behavior if it was in the political arena. There needs to be a great awakening of dissatisfaction with behavior that does not reflect Jesus Christ.
We need a great awakening of dissatisfaction with the spreading of half-truths. Our next General Conference is less than two years away. It disturbs me to see the spreading of inaccuracies by varying groups to promote the adoption of legislation they believe needs to be approved. I strongly believe in our legislative process and a representative form of governance, but I strongly oppose individuals making inaccurate statements in an effort to advance their position.
We need a great awakening in most congregations to reach new people, younger people and more diverse people. We are too content with not making new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We prefer to remain as we are, rather than risk losing our lives in order to save the life of our neighbors.
I remember a prayer given while I was in seminary that went something like this: Lord, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. It is a prayer I believe I need to pray each day. A prayer I need to live each day. Sometimes I am afflicted and I do need to be comforted. There are other times when I need to be afflicted that I will become like Jesus.