I’m not sure what this says about the future of the United Methodist denomination, but it certainly says good things about the Church of Jesus Christ.
One of the Top 25 fastest growing large UM churches, Beach United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, FL (#4 on the list), owes its numerical growth largely to an alternative service called eleven22. The leadership of the church – senior pastor Jerry Sweat and eleven22 pastor Joby Martin – has agreed for eleven22 to branch off from Beach and become its own, non-denominational church. This has the full blessing of the Florida Conference Bishop and the local District Superintendent.
Tim Stevens of Granger (#14 on the list) offers more details on his blog. As Tim points out, it’s pretty amazing that a UM church happily births a non-denominational church.
In addition, there’s a pretty amazing leadership story here. As I pointed out in the top 25 post, the fastest growing United Methodist churches are characterized by strong, stable leadership – the average tenure of the lead pastor in the top 25 churches is over 14 years. In other words, these churches begin growing after years of coaching and mentoring. Strong leader pastors begin both the work of growing a church and growing other leaders. Over time, they lay a foundation that eventually leads to exponential growth in disciples and in fellow leaders. This process is years in the making but bears amazing fruit. Joby Martin’s time spent mentoring under Jerry Sweat, like Tim Stevens’ time spent mentoring under Mark Beeson, demonstrates the power of this leadership field training model.
The staffs of these top 25 churches, and other churches like them, are perhaps one of the best places to find quality leadership for The United Methodist Church today.