Don't gloat over 'sheep stealing', reach out to your flock
The 2012 census is out, and comments from many quarters have been aired, some of which question the exclusion of pertinent information, and some with a certain "we are better than them" type of boasting.
This latter reaction pertains to certain denominations which gloat over their ascendancy in terms of church membership, while those of the more traditional communions are left to rationalise their losses, while promising to copy the more evangelical/Pentecostal forms of worship to recapture their lapsed members.
I wonder if the Christian churches should be playing the "numbers game," rather than ask the question: "How is my church better able to live fully in Christ and spread the Gospel in a more holistic way for the liberation of all?" This question is not meant to obfuscate the facts presented, but rather to expand what the Gospel and church are all about.
Worship is certainly one aspect of serving the Lord, but the "proof of the pudding" of such service is in the application of faith to life in such a way that we are not caught up in the mere "feel good" quagmire of religion. For instance, the traditional or historical churches have slipped badly from 1962 until 2012 - no denying that. At the same time, it must be conceded that these same traditional churches are the ones who have contributed, and still contribute the most in the integral development of our people through education and works of mercy (cf Matthew 25: 31-46; 28: 19). I need not expound on such works conceived and born in the bosom of historical churches as gifts to the society for the common good and better living conditions: Food for the Poor; Credit Union; CAFFE; hospitals, clinics; and one-third of the educational institutions in Jamaica.
This is no time to gloat nor for "sheep stealing", but rather to reach out to those who are looking for some meaning in life as they struggle to avoid drowning in the sea of despair. That reaching out includes two prongs: to review our worship in order to proclaim "in season, out of season" the God-given faith, "ever ancient, ever new", in a way that the modern secular-minded person can encounter a liberating Christ working in this age; to promote faith in action that concretely expresses genuine love that makes the human person fully alive. Isn't that what Christ wants of us? "I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly (more full)" - John 10:10. He was not into the "numbers game"!
Donald J Reece
President, Jamaica Council of Churches
Chairman, Ecumenical Education Committee
14 South Avenue