‘Lazarus Church’ author says future still bright for mainline denominations

The Rev. Jerry Mayo thinks there’s too much discussion about how mainline churches are losing members.

There’s typically lots of doom and gloom when people talk about these denominations — the Presbyterians, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ, Episcopalians and United Methodists. But these churches aren’t dead yet, said Mayo, pastor of Murfreesboro’s First United Methodist Church.

”There’s a fear of decline,” he said. ”It distracts us from the positive power of life.”

He recently wrote The Lazarus Church: Resurrecting Passionate Ministry in Mainline Congregations.

The title comes from the biblical story about a friend of Jesus’ who died and was buried. Jesus came to the tomb and brought him to life again.

”When Jesus is the focus of the church, it’s raised to new life,” he said. ”The focus shifts from the power of death to the power of life.”

Mayo’s book has received positive reviews from several church leaders across the country, including Bishop Bertram Herlong of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee.

As pastor, Mayo led the Murfreesboro church into a new, $13 million building in time for Easter last year.

He also is one of the candidates for six openings as bishop in the southeastern United States for the United Methodist Church. The election will be this summer.

”The election is in the hands of the Lord and the delegates,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mayo hopes his book will help people realize that mainline churches still have much to offer. ”God is calling the old mainline churches to be Lazarus churches,” he said. ”I love the old mainline churches, and I felt a need to affirm the history and life power of the old Methodist churches.”

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