Spitballing the Future of the Church Part 2: Are There More Disillusioned Young Clergy?


Yesterday, I had a Facebook message chat with a friend of mine.  I will not tell you how close, but he is on the cusp of being ordained an elder in the United Methodist Church.  We had always discussed what was bothering us about different aspects of the the church and the life of the church.  But yesterday, he was a little more serious than I had ever seen – questioning whether or not to scrap all the work he had put in to start something fresh.

This conversation got me thinking about the denominational process of ordination and how many young clergy are just as discouraged.  What’s more, it gets me to thinking about how our denominational seminaries are teaching our young clergy to look at such important issues as church renewal.

In my church renewal class this semester, the subject matter has challenged my thinking and brought me to some pretty startling conclusions.  The most challenging though I have had is whether or not denominational churches are still viable.  Do not mistake me; I love the UMC.  I would not be a Christian were it not for the UMC.  But, to quote a famous poet, “Times, they are a-changin’.”  Denominational churches continue to shrink in the US and shutter the doors of congregations every year.  Oh, it will be a slow death, but the arch of history does not look kindly on the UMC – or the Baptists, Presbyterians, etc.

I guess I just wonder how many more young clergy are thinking about things in the same terms.  If they are, does that mean the end is nearer than we think?

I am more than willing to entertain criticism on this point, as I’m not 100% sure or 100% convinced by it.


2 comments on “Spitballing the Future of the Church Part 2: Are There More Disillusioned Young Clergy?

  1. Christian Salafia
    November 28, 2012 at 12:14 PM #

    Yes and no. You and I both know that the church goes through death and renewal, and on a fairly regular schedule, too.

    Is the current conception of church dying? It’s hard to argue it isn’t. Yet this may not be a bad thing as the church transforms for the 21st century. It has been about 500 years since the last “garage sale” (as Phyllis Tickle puts it). I would bet dollars to doughnuts that these types of conversations were happening in the days of the Reformers. Maybe in German and ye olde English, but the tenor and tone would be the same.

    If we just abandon the denominational church (which I believe to be a bad idea), then really what are we left with? A bunch of megachurch models with either Joel Osteens or John Haggees at the pulpit. That makes me shudder just thinking about it.

    The church needs to hold on to its traditions. They’re part of the story, and they set the church on a solid foundation.

    Coming from the split world of Emergent and UMC, this is something I think about fairly frequently.

    • Chris Tiedeman
      November 28, 2012 at 11:15 PM #

      To be left with the mega church model is horrible thought to ponder, indeed. Also, I think scrapping the denominational model is a bad idea. However, I don’t think the vacuum left by a denomination-less reality would necessarily be filled with the Rick Warren’s – though one could argue that all those we’ve mentioned are already populating the church.

      I think Nadia Bolz-Weber sets a good example. She’s a Jesus Movement-type of leader, yet utterly Lutheran. ‘On The Verge’ by Alan Hirsch talks about being less “the Church” and more the Jesus Movement. Community with the goal of discipleship – like the early church.

      In many ways, the Church has taken the role of an idol – whose whims it is we serve. I think finding the right balance between tradition and revolution is the way to go. I think the Church – too often – gets in the way.

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