Saturday, April 30, 2016

A UMC Church, and God Qualifying the Called

I moved to Oregon recently, and I am checking out the local churches.  In contrast to my last move, which was to Washington, I am not particularly eager this time around to plant my roots at one church.  Right now, I want to explore.

Last Sunday, I visited a United Methodist Church.  This particular UMC is much smaller than the UMC that I attended in Washington for about a year.  Most of the people at this UMC in Oregon are elderly, whereas the one that I attended in Washington had more young people: children, teens, and young couples.  (Still, most of the attendees at the Washington one were elderly.)

I cannot fairly judge the zeal or level of activity at this Oregon UMC, since I only attended one service.  I will say, from my limited perspective, that the UMC that I attended in Washington seemed to me to have more electricity in the atmosphere---more zeal, enthusiasm, and activity, among both young and old, so much so that it was difficult for me to keep up!  The UMC that I attended in Washington was not exactly growing numerically, but it was active, almost a force of nature.

Whether I will attend this UMC church in Oregon in the future, I do not know.  The person handing out the bulletin said that the church needs more young people.  I'm not sure how to take that!

Anyway, the pastor last Sunday said something in her sermon that I want to explore briefly in this post.  She said that the world judges people as qualified for a task on the basis of their training, their ability, and what society thinks about them.  God, by contrast, uses people with weaknesses who are willing to serve.

Many people in Christianity have heard this sort of spiel.  "God does not call the qualified but qualifies the called," the saying goes.  The example of Gideon in the Book of Judges is cited as an illustration.  God used weak, lowly Gideon and his army of three hundred men so that God could get the glory.

Do I believe this spiel?  Over the years, I have gone from "Yes, and I hope God uses weak little me," to "No, the attractive, talented people are the ones who make more of an impact for God," to "Yes, in areas."

God can and does use ordinary people, including people with flaws and weaknesses.  In many cases, people's flaws can make them more effective in ministry, since people identify with them more.  But those who are trained, attractive, and talented still get a lot of positive attention.  Plus, we should not dismiss the value of training.    A head of a services program one time told a group of us that we should not just be good volunteers, but smart volunteers.  That is a good point.

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