It’s About Changed Lives, not Membership: SCD Day 1

Singing “O Praise Him” in English & Spanish – powerful!


  • Predominantly an older crowd (average age in the 50s)
  • The vendors selling things feels very conference-like, fake & inauthentic
  • How many people simply conference hop & not do anything about what they learn?

Transform Your Heart: Bishop Robert Schnase

  • Over the past 40 years, the UMC has lost members & worshippers while expenses & debt have gone up
  • Why would a person willing join this kind of organization? One of three reasons: love hospice care, can’t find work anywhere else, or feel called to be part of the renewal of the church
  • Renewal of the church will happen pastor by pastor, church by church, not by general conference
  • In seminary, I was not taught how to change people’s lives; I was taught to change people’s memberships.  (Gil Rendle, Journey in the Wilderness)
  • We patiently wait for people to show up for our 11 a.m. worship service to sing 18th century organ songs
  • Methodism began with “go-to-them” instincts

Starting Small Groups: Brad Kalajainen, Cornerstone UMC, Caledonia, MI

  • Growth is normal; what’s happening in churches across the country is not normal
  • Small groups purpose: connect people to Christ, to each other & the community
  • You were born with a community gene in you
  • A healthy church has 1/3 non-believers, 1/3 believers, & 1/3 seasoned saints attending
  • In our culture today, only 40% of people will come to church; 60% never will (and that number is growing)
  • Blessed subtractions – growth can happen, the Holy Spirit can work better, when problem people leave
  • What is your discipleship system? How does a nonbeliever move to become a committed follower of Jesus?


The two sessions played well off each other: we are in decline and need a way to help change people’s lives. Small groups is one very effective method to do that. In my seminary experience, I was taught not to worry about membership but to help people have a real encounter with Jesus, with God, with the Holy Spirit, and have their lives forever changed. I do believe I joined up in the UMC to help be a part of the renewal, not a member of the status quo who thinks everything is fine and the system is great. Further, I have very little patience for people who acknowledge problems & do nothing to try and solve them, to remove roadblocks to allow people to get to Jesus.

Good first day. It is absolutely about changed lives, not a membership card.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. (Romans 12:1)


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