Away from church I have spent a number of years handling complaints for a fifth of a large housing organisation and have just taken on the complaints portfolio for the whole organisation. It is an interesting role and sometimes very challenging while at other quite amusing - some colleagues have difficulty with the definition of a complaint and automatically on seeing the word 'Complaint' on any form of written correspondence think it has to be a complaint. This of course is not the case, but all comments can be useful to an organisation both the positive and the not so positive, although it has to be said that more often than not we kick ourselves about the complaints and forget to pat ourselves on the back when we get it right.
I sometimes sense that we in Methodism are quick to pick up on the negative but not so on the positive. There is much talk in all sorts of places about the declining numbers in the church and yes there are all sorts of reasons. I believe that much of our problem is too do with an increasing godlessness in society as a whole in Britain, a lessening of standards and dare I say the 60's when some strange ideas started to creep into society with the inception of the hippie culture with its free love etc.
I have to say that when I look at our current congregations which to a great degree are mainly in the over 60 age group it does not need a genius to work out that these are an expendable resource even allowing for a higher age of mortality in general terms.
I think it is true to some degree, and I may be being controversial here, that not all of our preachers are 'doing it' for congregations they are leading in worship. My fiercest critic, for which I am very grateful is my wife - she tells me off if I wave my hands about or put them in my pocket or go over the hour and I have always said to her if I get boring TELL ME!
I used to use a sermon more than once but now generally I will use the lectionary readings for the week and prepare something new for each service - I really do think that sermons can become tired if preached over and over and that 'tiredness' can be picked up by the people we are preaching to. The gospel is old yet ever new and yet sometimes it seems old and ever old.
I get excited when I hear of Fresh Expressions and really do feel that the Hope 2008 project is something that has the potential for lifting us out of the doldrums that we appear to be in - I know there will be some who say they are not physically able to be involved but they can be the power behind the project as they pray for the various events and activities.
Some years ago a local pentecostal church had a weeks mission and I was at one of their prayer meeting when a lady of 90 said she was very sorry she could not get to the church for 7-30a.m. to join the prayer meeting but she was getting up at 6-30a.m. and praying for the prayer meeting and then switching to praying at 7-30a.m. for the mission. The pastor said this was a great encouragement and was something that everyone could do at some point during the day.
So come on folks lets get positive, and at the very least take the example of the 90 years old as a guide for us.