One report before them today is the wonderfully named Statistics for Mission
If you haven't yet read the report can I suggest you don't do it just before going to bed! Not if you want to sleep that night. I felt deeply affected after reading it & was left pondering the implications for many days. Asking God, 'so what do we do?' the answer seemed to come to me, surprisingly, from a letter in the Methodist Recorder, from Dr Richard Vautrey (pasted in full below). His hope is that the report will both sound a wake up call but will also enable us to speak honestly & openly about our inevitable death. Dr Vautrey then goes on to relate how patients who know they are going to die often take on a very different outlook on life, making the most of each & every precious day. Some compile a bucket list & find themselves doing things they never thought themselves capable of doing (often using the inheritance in order to achieve this). He concludes by saying,
'The Statistics for Mission should therefore be a signal that it is time to party. Who knows, rather than visiting us on our death bed, perhaps people in our communities might be interested in coming to find out why we are enjoying ourselves so much.'
Goodness, how amazing would it be if the people called Methodists started to party, spend the inheritance & take risks with their last few years instead of worrying about the pain of what is to come.
Let's spend the new roof fund, let's plant new projects, let's share our faith, let's demonstrate love in every area of our communities, let's tell people about this Jesus who is supposedly so precious to us, let's do all of this BEFORE it's too late to do any of this.
Let's compile that bucket list & start living before we die.
Of course our decline is unlikely to follow such a simplistic linear fashion. In fact it could come quicker as the current annual 3.7% rate of decline is likely to increase because of the age profile of our membership. Our Church has benefited from the fact that Methodists in Britain are a pretty healthy lot and many of us live long in to old age. However that also means we could be facing more of a cliff edge rather than a steady decline.
My hope then was to both sound a wake-up call but also to enable us to speak honestly and openly about our inevitable death. I concluded that a “Church that preaches that new life follows death should itself trust in God and not be afraid of what is to come”. I believe that to be true as much today as it was then.
Patients who know they are going to die often have a very different outlook on life. They make the most of every precious day. Yes they prepare, and put their affairs in order, but many also compile bucket lists of exciting and challenging things to do whilst they have the strength and energy to do them. They do things they never thought themselves capable of.
So let’s not dwell on our pain but instead celebrate each God given day we have left. Let’s not worry too much about long detailed plans and being too “methodical”, let’s instead experiment, take risks and have fun whilst we do so. Let’s share our joy for life with those around us and let’s spend the inheritance saved up by the saints who have gone before us, not with a sense of gloom as we mourn our own loss, but with joy and gratitude for the generosity of an ever-present God.
The Statistics for Mission should therefore be a signal that it is time to party. Who knows, rather than visiting us on our death bed, perhaps people in our communities might be interested in coming to find out why we are enjoying ourselves so much.
Dr Richard Vautrey