As I reflect upon what the United Methodist Church faces in the future, I believe that our best days are yet to come. When I am able to look beyond the issues that not only divide us but also define us, I can see a future filled with hope. Erwin McManus, pastor of the Mosaic Community in Los Angeles, California, has helped me to see what we must do to step into our future. In his book, The Barbarian Way, I discovered a wonderful metaphor for the church. McManus writes:

“A few years ago I took my kids to a wildlife animal park near Sand Diego…a guide pointed out the unique features of the different species that we encountered. I suppose I always knew it in part, but I had not come to realize how most groups of animals have unique names or designations when they dwell together.

“With insects most of us know that bees are called swarms, and ants are called colonies. Among ocean life, I was aware that whales are pods, and fish are schools. Cattle are herds; birds are flocks…a tribe of lions is a pride. If you grew up in the country, you might know that crows are murderers. Maybe the most unnerving one is an ambush of tigers.

“I was surprised to learn that a group of buzzards waiting around together to feast on leftover carnage is called a committee…this explains so much of what’s going on in churches—a lot of committees waiting around to live off human carnage.

“Groups of flamingos are called flamboyants, which for some reason reminds me of TV evangelists. And groups of less glamorous owls are known as parliaments.”

He writes, “My favorite of all is the group designation for rhinos. You see, rhinos can run at thirty miles an hour, which is pretty fast when you consider how much weight they’re pulling…Just one problem with this phenomenon. Rhinos can see only thirty feet in front of them. Can you imagine something that large moving in concert as a group, plowing ahead at thirty miles an hour with no idea what’s at thirty-one feet? You would think that they would be far too timid to pick up full steam, that their inability to see far enough ahead would paralyze them to immobility. But with that horn pointing the way, rhinos run forward full steam ahead without apprehension, which leads us to their name.

“Rhinos moving together at full speed are known as a crash. Even when they’re just hanging around enjoying the watershed, they’re called a crash because of their potential. You’ve got to love that. I think that’s what we’re supposed to be…the church becomes a crash. We become an unstoppable force. We don’t have to pretend we know the future…Whatever’s at thirty-one feet needs to care that we’re coming and better get out of the way.

McManus writes, “We need to move together as God’s people…and become the human version of the rhino crash. The future is uncertain, but we need to move toward it with confidence. There’s a future to be created, a humanity to be liberated. We need to stop wasting our time and stop being afraid of what we cannot see and do not know. We need to move forward full force because of what we do know.”

Friends and colleagues of The United Methodist Church, we may not see what the future holds, but we do not have to be blind to what is right in front of us. There is a world, comprised of neighborhoods, communities, villages, and villas filled with people, old and young, wealthy and impoverished, educated and illiterate. There is a world filled with loneliness, hopelessness, and fear. Ther is a world that desperately hungers for hope and peace. The living God we know in and through Jesus Christ, has resourced us and equipped us to address those needs with love and compassion. Let’s crash the future with faith and confidence and with risk-taking mission and service with the love of God in the name of Jesus Christ, as the people called United Methodists.

All buzzards, unite!

Question: Do you think it is possible for the people called United Methodist to move toward the future with confidence? Are we able to sit aside our fear of what we do not know and move forward trusting who we know?

Story taken from The Barbarian Way, by Erwin Raphael McManus: The Barbarian Revolt (Crash The Future), pages 136-139.