To all Methodists of 2021, we write to you from the future to provide a path towards better outcomes than our own.
Time is of the essence.
The Last Seminary was established this year, 2121, a century ahead of you on this timeline. Its daring mission is to re-make the future by forwarding the best of ministry innovation into the past.
For us, this is the end. We no longer have the people, resources, or demand to sustain ourselves as a denomination. What “we” have become are perpetually argumentative, middle-class, educated, mostly Anglo, property owners.
It is difficult to consider ourselves any longer a “church.”
So, we are sending you this manifesto, to motivate, guide, and equip you in the years ahead. To start are three key shifts that we think you will need to make as a denomination.
From training to services
We believe that trying to educate or coach people (clergy, laity, or otherwise) into “revitalization” is ultimately ineffective.
No matter how good the content or the leader, the effort will likely take too long before any substantive or sustainable results are seen. Moreover, as denominational decline was never a matter of competence, growth is neither a matter of excellence.
Instead, we believe that you should diversify denominational resourcing into services. This means, the Connection is there to do things for you, such as, making websites, providing social media graphics and videos, repairs for the building, programs that do not take any staff from your church, etc.
The point is to speed up the process of transformation so as to raise the average level of resonance with the contemporary language of culture. When such services set up the technical infrastructure necessary for local churches to be relevant to the times, the training then becomes necessary.
From occasional to omni-present
When the Church was limited to in-person gatherings, it made sense to have a schedule of things that took place in a rhythm. For example, worship services might mainly take place on Sunday mornings.
However, as you have entered the digital age, you must see discipleship as not taking place based on events (as in, synchronous occasions). Instead, discipleship must be based on moments with ministry itself being capable of following along with people.
From congregation to platform
Discipleship has largely been seen as something that takes place through a “church home,” a local church or congregation. But, the era of time-consuming devotion to yet another institution has largely come to an end.
What the Church must capture is the spirit that the “passion economy” or the “creator economy” represents. Such an attitude includes an acceptance of entrepreneurialism over incumbents and a presumption that change itself is possible.
That means, the Church must answer their question of, “which of our goals can we achieve through you?” Instead of a big machine that people are asked to be a part of, you must lead the Church into first giving them a platform.
Hope for our past – your future
With it, we hope that you can establish The Last Seminary now, on your timeline, including the following:
- a basis for fellowship among leaders for digital, diversity, and dreams
- a set of seminars that explain ministry models that are meaningfully impactful, and
- a library of answers to frequently asked questions that focuses church leaders on what actually matters
One thing that we are not able to give you is what you need the most: the courage to take meaningful risks for outsized spiritual impact.
But, we have faith in the God of all creation and time. God’s prevenient grace has likely been raising such leaders, already, nurturing in them the will to win in adverse conditions.
We believe that you can change the trajectory of your future, bringing about a reality alternative to ours.
So, then, take thou authority and do all this in remembrance of the One who saves, in and through all of time.
The Last Seminary
from the year 2121