I have found Restoring Methodism to be an important read. The authors (James B. Scott, and Molly Davis Scott) present 10 Decisions that they believe United Methodists in America should make in order to restore the UMC. I found the discussion in Decision # 9 to be particularly thought provoking.
Here are some excerpts from the chapter:
In the 1940 the average age of a Methodist was approximately thirty; in 2000 it was approximately sixty (25).
The Scotts highlight that W.E. Sangster as long ago as 1938 highlighted four essential characteristics of Methodism which he proclaimed were already lost in 1938: fellowship, assurance, holiness, and personal evangelism (27).
They also include this powerful quote from Dr. Albert Outler: One of the rarest things one runs across nowadays is a Christian layman who can give an articulate, comprehensive, self-tested account of the Christian faith that is in him (30).
The Scott’s argue that the importance of Wesley for American United Methodism is because: To experience Mr. Wesley and the saints of early Methodism is to be directed to travel with light speed back into the New Testament and the early Church and into the tradition of the historical Church, where we will find the passion and the power of the Trinity. That is where our future is waiting for us (33).
The contemporary UMC would do well to focus on what the essentials are that God wants us to pour our energy into. The four essentials that W.E. Sangster argued for provide a good starting point. Methodism would be strengthened by improving in any of those four areas. In our current context, fellowship has become a fairly watered-down word, so I would argue for changing that word to accountability.
Which of those four characteristics do you think would be most important to the renewal of the church? Or what other area do you think needs to be strengthened?