For they preach, but do not practice (Matthew 23:3).
He waited all of two sentences (and the second sentence was a one worder: “Amen.”) before he launched into the Galatians accusing them of,
[Q]uickly deserting him who called you…turning to a different gospel (Galatians 1:6).
And that was over equating the law to faith. I can only imagine what Paul would say about the United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Illinois that celebrated “Drag Sunday” and certified a drag queen as a candidate for legitimate ministry.
After reading the first chapter of Romans I don’t think we would have to guess at what Paul would say about the United Methodist Church consecrating a married lesbian as a bishop (violating not only the Bible’s requirements for spiritual leadership [see 1 Timothy 3:1-7 & Titus 1:5-9] but also the denomination’s own requirements [see The Book of Discipline ¶ 304.3]). Five years after her consecration she is still an episcopal leader in her denomination despite the spiritual and ecclesial prohibitions.
Almost everyone knows the United Methodist Church has been bleeding members for decades and the bleeding has become full-on hemorrhaging in the last few years. The latest United Methodist church to walk away from the denomination is the largest UM church in the North Georgia Conference (Mt. Bethel UMC). The whole thing reads almost like a sad soap opera but the most shocking thing about it is that the episcopal leader of the conference is sharing private phone conversations with the pastor with any and everyone as well as details from a letter the members wrote to the bishop. Talk about violations of confidentiality and vindictiveness! All under the heading of “Pastoral Letter.”
I was saved and baptized in a United Methodist church in 1984. Two years later I was preaching as a lay employee at a small rural church. I went to a Wesleyan seminary (not affiliated with the UMC) receiving both Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry degrees. I was ordained an elder in 1995. I’ve watched the deterioration of the denomination from the inside. It’s not the laity. It’s the leadership. It has failed both the Lord’s flock as well as the lost souls in the mission field. Miserably.
What the leadership of the UMC has succeeded at is modeling itself after the Sanhedrin of Jesus’ day. They say the right things about salvation, love, faith, and stewardship. But as the above paragraphs point out, they promote policies, doctrines, and practices that destroy lives and the church’s witness as a whole.
Read Matthew 23. Based on what I’ve seen and heard over the past 34 years I’ve been in pastoral ministry in the UMC you can plug in “bishops and district superintendents” for “scribes and Pharisees” to perfection.
- They do all their deeds to be seen by others (v.5)
- [T]hey love the place of honor at feasts (v.6)
- [Y]ou tithe…and have neglected the weightier matters (v.23)
- [Y]ou…outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (v28)
The Methodist church has a history rooted and grounded in faith, personal sacrifice, and service. Its founder (John Wesley) unabashedly confessed that he was “a Bible-bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small” (from his Journal “June 5, 1766). Methodist circuit riders fearlessly and tirelessly brought God’s Word to people in the wilds and frontier of America. For a long time, Methodists didn’t just talk the talk. They walked the walk.
But now, the leaders of the denomination have traded their birthright for a mess of pottage (see Genesis 25:29-34). Only instead of stew, it was for cultural acceptance. They were starving for it. They wanted to be liked by people more than pleasing to God.
Oh, you can still hear a UM bishop preach a great sermon. They still talk about Jesus, salvation, and the Great Commission. But they do that while bringing statues of Dagon into the temple. Hezekiah was one of Judah’s greatest kings. It didn’t take long for his son (Manasseh) to undo every good thing his father had done (see 2 Kings 21). One generation of leadership in the United Methodist Church has undermined centuries of good done by Wesley and the Circuit Riders.
I’m reminded of the ministry of one Ravi Zacharias. Decades of sound Christian apologetics ministry went out the window when his sexual sin(s) were brought to light. His words as a Christian apologist were sound and true (and they still are). But his actions have nearly eradicated a once-solid legacy of proclaiming and defending the faith. References to Ravi Zacharias have been scrubbed from the articles and websites of preachers, apologists, and academicians to prevent association with his name (despite still believing in the things that he said).
The Jewish Sanhedrin was a body of believers comprised of priests and religious lawyers who were well informed about the ways of God. Yet Jesus warned about being like them. Ravi Zacharias was an esteemed and beloved Christian apologist who vigorously defended the faith. Yet his behavior in life has cast a long shadow over his kingdom work. And the United Methodist Church has a long and wonderful history of saving souls while serving Jesus Christ. Now it is all about to be forgotten just so a drag queen can feel good about himself, a practicing homosexual can be in charge over pastors, and a bishop can publicly shame a pastor and a church for daring to push back against her will.
For they preach, but do not practice (Matthew 23:3).