By Rev. Dr. HiRho Park
After the miraculous conquest of Jericho, the Israelites were filled with confidence as they approached the city of Ai, a smaller and seemingly less formidable opponent. However, they suffered a devastating defeat, causing great distress and confusion among the people.
Joshua, their leader, fell before the Lord in prayer, questioning why they were defeated. In response, God revealed disobedience among the Israelites and some accountability issues. So, as a leader, Joshua addressed those issues. Following a regrouping and cleansing process, the Israelites repositioned themselves and sought God’s guidance for their next move. Joshua received specific instructions from the Lord on how to defeat Ai, and the Israelites followed them diligently. Through their renewed obedience and trust in God, they were able to overcome Ai in a subsequent battle, experiencing victory and regaining their confidence (Joshua 7-8).
This biblical story illustrates the importance of regularly examining ourselves and addressing any brokenness in our church community that may hinder our relationship with God and our effectiveness in fulfilling our missional purposes. It emphasizes the need for personal and communal reflection, as well as the willingness to take corrective action to realign ourselves with God’s will.
The Bethesda United Methodist Church appears to be doing well after the pandemic, with an average of 119 people attending in person and 66 attending online in March. In April, attendance increased to 150 in person and 117 online. This increase is noteworthy because the Pew Research Center’s March 2024 study reported that one in five American adults now attend religious services in person less frequently than before the pandemic.
However, I have observed that we may be unfamiliar with the previous procedures of the church due to a three-year hiatus from regular gatherings and business operations. I believe now is the time to regroup ourselves as people of the United Methodist Church. We are the “people of the Book,” which means we affirm our commitment to the teachings, guidelines, and governance of The United Methodist Church as outlined in the Book of Discipline. It signifies our adherence to the denomination’s principles and practices while recognizing the ultimate authority of the Bible in matters of faith.
The account of the Israelites’ defeat at Ai serves as a reminder that our spiritual journey requires continual self-examination, repentance, and reliance on God’s guidance. It teaches us the importance of regrouping, humbling ourselves before the Lord, and seeking God’s forgiveness and direction. Through this process, we can experience restoration, renewed strength, and the ability to move forward in God’s plan with confidence.
The leaders of the Church Council will be re-examining our structures and practices as United Methodists on June 10 during the Church Council Retreat. Amidst the division of the denomination into three churches, it is an opportune moment to reclaim our Wesleyan heritage, renew our commitment, and celebrate our discipleship within the United Methodist Church so that God will reveal our next move as a faith community.