Monday, August 14, 2017

Unitarian Universalism needs missionary zeal encompassing learning what it would teach

Unitarian Univeralism is a dying denomination along with many of the other mainline Christian Churches. They are dying because these institutions are no longer relevant to our contemporary, digital, global community. The old practices, beliefs, and traditions no longer are attractive enough to engage, retain, and nurture membership. UU churches have become social clubs that tend to be cliquey and unable to resolve conflict well. Most importantly, UU as a denomination, and its churches, have no missionary zeal to spread its primary beliefs and principles. As W. Edwards Deming, the Total Quality Management guru from the 80s said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

Where is Unitarian Universalism going? What is its key message for the salvation of the world? How is that message spread?

In A Course In Miracles, it is taught that the usual role of teaching and learning is reversed. It is written, “The course, on the other hand, emphasizes that to teach is to learn, so that teacher and learner are the same.”

It is further written, “The question is not whether you will teach, for in that there is no choice. The purpose of the course might be said to provide you with a means of choosing what you want to teach on the basis of what you want to learn.”

“Teaching is but a call to witness to attest to what you believe. It is a method of conversion. This is not done by words alone. Any situation must be a chance to teach others what you are and what they are to you.”

Observation would lead to an awareness that this is rarely done in UU churches and other mainline Christian churches. If one were asked what difference a church makes in its community in terms of positive influence, often the responder would be hard pressed to articulate a coherent response.

If Unitarian Univeralism is to survive as a social institution in our society, it must develop an awareness of what it wants to learn and how to teach it so that that learning can occur. If Unitarian Universalism is to survive, let alone grow, it must develop a missionary zeal focused on spreading the good news of its core principles and beliefs. As it is empowered by the learning that comes from its teaching it may be a source of influence for the salvation of the world.

Take away - You learn what you teach. What do you want to learn? What do Unitarian Universalists need to learn?


  1. UUs flounder because there is an ambiguous focus and no sense of mission. The larger UU churches tend to beacons of moral teachings in their communities. Smaller UU churches are too self absorbed with little connection to the larger denomination. The governance of the UU church with its lack of accountability and guidance for its local churches is its greatest weakness.

  2. Dear John:

    I agree with much of your analysis. What are the factors that contribute to the success of the larger UU churches and the failure of the smaller ones and what do these factors have to do with the nurturance or lack there of, of the spiritual life of their members?

  3. The churches that have a sense of mission external to themselves that is spiritually nurturing and inspiring to their members are the ones that attract and retain members. You can tell sitting though a church service whether there is any juice flowing in the congregation. If there is a vibrancy and a sense of esprit de corps you will find a life giving church. Of course the deeper question is what is it that gets the juice flowing and creates this esprit de corps? Many factors but it starts with the leadership which provides inspiring sermons and good music.

  4. Jesse it has been my observation that most ministers are afraid of their congregations so they play it safe and operate within the bounds of political correctness. This tendency to not rock the boat leaves Unitarian Universalist churches insipid. Would that they were more passionate and brave.


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