The United Methodist Church is urging the world to "rethink Church" through a new campaign that seeks to offer the church not as a building but as a movement of people empowered to transform the world.
Addressing the question "What has God called The United Methodist Church to be in the 21st Century?" the nearly 8 million-member U.S. church (12 million members worldwide) is launching more than $20 million in ads over the next four years to convey the message that church is a verb, not a noun.
"The campaign goal is sweeping and ambitious – to invite the church and those unchurched who seek spiritual fulfillment, to become more outwardly focused and engaged in the world," according to United Methodist Communications.
Ads pose such questions as "What if church could bring sides together?" and "What if church could shape world events?" and illustrate how United Methodists are making a difference in the world.
The Rethink Church campaign, launching on May 5, primarily targets 19- to 34-year-olds who may not be familiar with the church, are concerned about the world they live in, and want to make their lives more meaningful, the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications, explained.
Furthermore, it's a call for those outside the church to envision a church that is not a static institution.
For the people in the church, the campaign aims to help them reassess what it means to be people of faith, Hollon added, and to help congregants to see their church in a broader way – beyond worship on Sundays.
"What if church wasn't just a building, but thousands of doors? Each of them opening up to a different concept or experience of church – and a journey that could change our world. Would you come?" the campaign website states.
The multimillion-dollar campaign was approved by the 2008 General Conference – the church's governing body. It is part of the church's "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors" welcoming and advertising campaign which began in 2001 to raise awareness and draw new members amid declining membership.
The denomination stresses that "Rethink Church" is not a call to find new theology but rather a "call to refocus our ecclesiology" and "to see church in a way that is more aligned to Scripture, and to be more faithful to the tradition of John Wesley who believed the world was his parish."
More than 40 United Methodist bishops from around the world will launch the Rethink Church campaign on May 5 in Washington, D.C. The following day, more than 100 United Methodists will perform random acts of kindness on the streets of New York.