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The Squirrel in the Middle of the Road

Have you noticed how squirrels often stop in the middle of the road as they are approached by a car? The squirrel’s survival instinct is to freeze when being approached by a predator and to run at a ninety-degree angle when the predator is close. Unfortunately, in this case, the combination of the squirrel’s perception that an automobile is a predator and the squirrel’s position in the middle of the road is often fatal.

It also seems that we are in the middle of the road as a church. In a real sense, this is where we find ourselves as members of the United Methodist Church. The UMC is evolving into a denomination that is not the same denomination that most of us joined. Many members of our congregation have been aware of the theological changes occurring in the UMC.

Despite the awareness, we have not really explored the changes together as a congregation. There have been requests over the last few years by the lay leadership to educate the congregation about the issues and there has been little response to the requests. As a result, is important that we now move from awareness to understanding. The FTPBS group’s goal is to assist in providing the information needed by the congregation to thoroughly understand the issues in preparation for our vote in the Fall.

Prior to 2022 it was my privilege to serve for 10+ years on the Finance Committee, chair the Ministry Leadership Committee, chair the Stewardship Committee and serve on the Church Council. This history is provided solely to lend credibility to my observation about our church: We are presently not living up to our potential considering the resources that God has provided to us.

Listed are a few that come to mind:

  • We have a strong historical presence in downtown Greenville.
  • We have a core of long-time church members.
  • We have an affluent and generous congregation.
  • We are blessed with strong leadership.
  • We are able to attract young families with children to join our church.

Despite our strengths, we are experiencing a decline in membership, attendance, and in congregational participation. Many of us remember the vibrancy of Buncombe Street Church that is now missing. We see that vibrancy in other downtown churches such as Grace Church, First Presbyterian Church, St. Paul’s Anglican Church and Downtown Presbyterian Church, to name a few. These churches are experiencing growth in their congregations and three of the four are in the midst of large construction projects to expand their facilities.

Why are we in a holding pattern while the aforementioned churches are prospering? I believe that the answer is simple. The churches that are prospering have clearly defined where they stand theologically. Those churches do not belong to a denomination that is undergoing a metamorphosis.

In contrast, we are, in a real sense, sitting in the middle of the road waiting to make our ninety-degree pivot to avoid an oncoming car. It is imperative that we determine our direction as a congregation and that we get out of the middle of the road before a car approaches. True prosperity in God’s church is not attainable until we are united in our theological beliefs and agree upon the direction of our church. The FTPBS is committed to work to assist our church to that end. We look forward to taking this journey with you.

Blessings and God’s love to you all,

Michael Helms

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