Jovito J. Sermonia, Jr: Why I Chose UMC
As I reflect upon what had been happening in our church (UMC) during the last two to three decades, I could not help but feel sad because I believe that we have been falling short of our mission. In the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, we are told that “The mission of the church is to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. And that “local churches provide the most significant area through which disciple-making occurs.” At the UMC, however, we can all acknowledge that our population had been dwindling continuously over the years. So the question is – how can we ensure disciple-making at the UMC when there are fewer and fewer of us left? Also, with the shrinking church membership, how can we ensure that the UMC’s role as a community in which the people of God could grow and flourish is maintained?
From my cursory research I gathered that, in general, people leave the church for various reasons including the following. First, people leave the church when roots are not established – without roots, people come and go as they please. Second, people leave the church when connections are not made. People tend to leave when they do not connect to the vision and direction of the church. Third, people leave the church when they are running from the truth. When the word of God is taught, it brings with it the truth and reality about God, as well as about ourselves, and some people simply resist when the truth is presented to them. Fourth, people leave the church when offense occurs between church members. An example maybe when one church member gossips about another member, who most likely will be offended and leave the church. And fifth, people leave the church when they lose their hunger for things of God.
On a less intellectual note, my casual observations over the years tell me that people left the UMC due to various reasons which include the following. One reason is that some people have migrated and now attend another church in their new location. Also, others might have become tired of the Methodist church and have joined a non-Methodist church. Another reason is what I have outlined as the “fourth reason” above. Finally, some people perhaps were trying to find their “comfort zones” and followed their friends who had left the UMC.
As it is, we can all acknowledge that we have some issues within the church that we need to address. These issues, however, need not be the justification for us to leave the church. The battle is here and the opportunity to gain and strengthen our faith is here! In fact, if we look closely at what’s happening around us and look closely at our church, we might see the light.
I personally am very optimistic that we can encourage current members to become more active and that we can recruit many new converts to our church because salvation is still in the United Methodist Church! Why and how, you might ask? First, our church shares a common heritage with all Christians. Second, our church has always maintained a neutral political stand unlike some churches/religions which I shall not name. Note that here and elsewhere, the political activism of some churches/religions has turned people off. Third, our church has maintained its clean image, again unlike some churches which have been involved in various scandals (sexual, financial, etc.). In short, the reputation of our church as a “neutral” community and one which exists solely to promote our spiritual well-being has been safely preserved all these years!
James 1:2 said, “consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Jun Sermonia is a member at Knox United Methodist Church and currently the Conference Lay Leader of Philippines Annual Conference. He supports various missions in the Philippines and overseas as well like UAE, Kuwait and Qatar. He is also involved in Medical missions particularly in the Baguio Episcopal Area. In business, he deploys Filipino workers for overseas employment.