Who's Minding the Store? - Ezekiel 34:1-9

by Rev. Joe Hoover

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A president and CEO of a major corporation, a marvelous Christian and a great churchman, went right to the point. He said, "Any large company that had a track record like the United Methodist Church, whose charts show steady decline, would have been called on the carpet a long time ago. The board of directors would have demanded emergency meetings, and the corporate executives would have been held accountable. Consultants would have been brought in. Heads would roll. It would not be business as usual."

Those of us in places of leadership in the UMC must assume a great deal of responsibility for the decline. Bishops, members of general boards, pastors, district superintendents, and lay leaders have focused upon many issues -- but not on the health and well-being of the local church.

During one annual conference, when the statistician finished reading the negative report to the conference, the bishop got up from his chair and stepped to the floor of the conference. He led the entire body in a service of contrition. With dignity and power, he guided a confession of sins for failing to lead men and women, girls and boys, into a saving relationship with God and into a fellowship experience in the church of Jesus Christ.

Lee Iacocca, upon assuming the position of president of Chrysler Corporation, wanted information. That information was not available. He realized that no one knew what was going on at Chrysler and that's why it was bankrupt. He fired thirty-two vice-presidents. We of the United Methodist Church also need to know. Can't navigate a ship without continually reading the numbers and charting the course. Numbers are not just that -- they represent people with names.

Dr. William Hinson of Houston took a trip with 64 teenagers to Europe. He wanted to make sure he got them there and back, safe and sound. As he stood at the airport gate in London, ready to return, he listened as the final boarding was called for their flight. Almost ready to breathe a sigh of relief, he decided to count the kids one more time. He counted 63. Again - 63. One was missing! The first passengers were boarding, but he turned and ran back into the airport. He started running, calling and glancing frantically about. Suddenly he saw her -- a sixteen year old girl buying a candy bar and a movie magazine, oblivious to time or place. He grabbed her hand and they ran together toward the gate. The attendant was closing the door as they squeezed in. All was well. The girl had been saved "at the count!"

A man had two sons. One left home for the worst of reasons. The man watched until the prodigal returned. A woman had ten coins. One was missing. She knew by counting. She swept house 'til she found it. A shepherd had 100 sheep. One strayed. The shepherd knew because he counted. He left the 99 to search for the one that was lost.

The leaders of the United Methodist Church must be accountable.

(Rev. Joe Hoover pastors the United Methodist Churches in Ringgold and Castor, Louisiana. )

The Confessing Movement in the United Methodist Church represents 2,390 United Methodist pastors, 1,210 member churches, and 528,000 individual members to date.

You may also wish to visit the following web sites:The unofficial Confessing Movement, Concerned Methodists, and The United Methodist web site and news service.

First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume VII, Part 6, June 1999.

Copyright 1999 Joe Hoover. All Rights Reserved.

The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

Permission is granted to reprint this article as long as the copyright is included, this statement is included, and the article is not sold to the recipients.

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This page was last updated October 22, 1999.