a bit monkish.
This week, Danville Centenary UMC is hosting Camp in the City, a ministry of Pine Cove Camps in Tyler, TX. Camp in the City brings a Christian camp to a local church, transforming the church into a summer camp for a week.
The love of Jesus has flowed through our church during Camp in the City. What has inspired me the most are the counselors, who have boundless energy, deep love for their campers, and hearts of servants. Camp in the City counselors have a relationship with Christ (vertical faith) that extends to others (horizontal witness). To be honest, they have an exuberance for God and others I haven’t seen in a while, and they genuinely want to see their campers fall in love with Jesus.
Having Camp in the City here this week has allowed me to process the various issues facing the United Methodist Church. It seems that many in the UMC are trying to see a horizontal witness develop into a vertical faith. That’s why in North America, the UMC is in many ways, failing in our mission. When what unites us is polity and church laws and not the Apostolic, Trinitarian Godhead, we’re just another 501(c)(3) non-profit trying to do good works in the world. When our goal is to appease every people group so as not to offend them and not to share "the way, the truth, and the life" message of Jesus Christ with people who have no idea who He is, we’ve become something other than the church depicted in the Book of Acts.
When the vertical gets replaced with the horizontal as the focus of the church, we cease to be the Body of Christ because Christ is no longer our head (Colossians 1:18). This principle is the same for progressives who desire to create their own morality as it is for conservatives who focus solely on denominational standards and policies.
I’m longing - praying! - for a renewal in The United Methodist Church that is focused on a vertical relationship with Jesus Christ that extends horizontally into the lives of others. If this spiritual leadership is not going to come from the Council of Bishops or other denominational personnel, then it’s time for us to stop waiting. Let's be the holy people of God the Bible tells us to be: not united with the values of the world, but united for the transformation of the values of world by the Holy Spirit.
What the world needs is not United Methodist clergy and laypersons who are simply obedient to the Book of Discipline. What the world needs is United Methodist clergy and laypersons who are so in love with God the Father, so committed to Jesus Christ, and so empowered by the Holy Spirit that they count it a privilege to be called fools for Christ and to be scolded by the world. May it begin with me.
It’s in our Wesleyan heritage: Without personal holiness there is no social holiness. Only good works.
Thank you for your vertical witness, Camp in the City. You've inspired me to remember what constitutes real ministry in the world.
** ADDITIONAL NOTE: The violence in our country - police shooting citizens, citizens shooting citizens, and citizens shooting police - is not going to be stopped by new laws or heightened protests. The answer to these and other issues in society is Jesus coming alive in people's lives. Horizontal solutions will always be limited in their effectiveness. What the world needs is an increase in vertical relationships becoming horizontal.
(c) 2016 Michael C. Voigts
I'm a follower of Christ serving as an Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary.