The $6.5 Billion Enigma

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On the first day of a new year, all United Methodist churches begin working toward their common mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

To achieve this mission, the United Methodist Church in the United States has:

  • over 30,000 local churches
  • with nearly 7 million members
  • with thousands of clergy and lay leaders, and
  • an average of over $2 million in net assets per church

So, these thousands of churches and millions of members with billions in assets will spend the next 365 days with one purpose — to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

But, if all this were not enough to accomplish the mission, there is more, much more. These churches will receive

  • over $6.5 billion in new money given and spent during the year to be used totally for their mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Still, at the end of the year, if it is like every other year for the past 50 years, there will not be a net gain of a single person pursuing their discipleship journey with Christ through the United Methodist Church.

This does not mean that significant things are not happening. Lives are changed, and people helped around the world because of the United Methodist witness. But it remains an enigma how such massive amounts of resources are expended only to withdraw further the Wesleyan witness of making disciples of Christ through the United Methodist Church.

John Wesley had a passion for all humanity to come to know the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Many congregations claim the mission of “making disciples” but now need to align their ministry to connect new disciples with life in Christ and to help all grow in their faith. If current members are growing in discipleship, which includes witness, surely many others will come to faith in Christ through their witness.


This article is updated from Focus: The Real Challenges That Face the United Methodist Church (Abingdon, 2012), from Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

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About Author

Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Lovett H. Weems, Jr., is senior consultant at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, professor of church leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary, and author of several books on leadership.