One of the highlights of my time as a PhD student at Southern Methodist University was getting to be part of a new church start. It was actually a relaunch of a church in East Dallas, launched by Highland Park UMC.
Being a part of the first months of Munger Place’s resurrection was such a blessing. I will never forget my son’s baptism at Munger. They even let me preach once!
Andrew Forrest is one of the pastors who gives me hope for the future. He is one of the most gifted preachers I have heard. His passion for the craft of preaching makes me want to be a more effective communicator. Check out this blog post as one example. I love his discussion of the simplicity on the far side of complexity! This is essential for theological education and leadership in the church. (You should definitely subscribe to Andrew’s blog while you are there.)
I wanted to lift up Munger Place here because I think it may be the most spectacular story in the United Methodist Church in the U.S. over the past decade.
What God has done at Munger Place is astounding! Here is a brief and partial glimpse that does not do justice to the individual lives that have been changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
On October 30, 2019, Andrew shared some data at the 9 year anniversary of Munger’s rebirth.
– Their average attendance was 1,139! A 12% increase from the previous year.
– Munger Kids (birth through 5th grade) was up 20% from the previous year at 278. This 278 is not included in the 1,139 average attendance above.
– Annual giving was up 14%, which means that people are increasing their giving overall, a sign of growth in discipleship.
These stats are all amazing. But here is the one that I suspect is unique in contemporary United Methodism in terms of both percentage and total:
Munger has 1,466 total members. Of those members, 54% had no previous affiliation! In other words, MORE THAN HALF of the members of this church became members through baptism or profession of faith. Munger is not the new trendy cool church to worship at that is drawing cultural Christians away from other parts of the body of Christ. It is bringing new people to faith in Jesus through its deep commitment to proclaiming the gospel and reaching new people with the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Munger’s website includes the welcome Andrew uses at the beginning of every sermon: “Whatever your week’s been like, or your life’s been like, whatever you look like—whether you believe what we believe, or even if you vehemently disagree—in the name of Jesus Christ you are welcome in our church this and every Sunday.”
Praise God! May their tribe increase.
Kevin M. Watson is Assistant Professor of Wesleyan & Methodist Studies at Candler School of Theology, Emory University.