Why I’m a Methodist

I’m a big social media guy.  I’m pretty plugged in to Facebook and Twitter, in particular, and sometimes with that, I’ll have a post that really resonates with people.  This particular post is the one that probably resonated the most.

One of my things that I tell folks is don’t use Facebook to complain. But, I want to share with you a pet peeve of mine. It irritates me when folks introduce me to someone else and they say – he’s a “Methodist.” It always make me feel like that implies that “a less than Christian” or not really Christian. I try my best to never segregate or separate of the Body of Christ, and I’m pretty sure that the one thing that Asbury folks know is that we love Jesus above all else. I honestly don’t care about anyone’s denomination. If your heart has been warmed as my heart has, then give me your hand. Sure, I’m a Wesleyan, a member of the United Methodist Church, but my loyalty above all things is to Jesus Christ. Rant over. LOL

umc-cross-and-flameThis really connected with people, and not just Methodists. There seems to be a desire sometimes to separate and divide the body of Christ, when it’s not at all necessary.  And, in situations like this, I really get annoyed about being looked at as “less than” Christian or not fully Christian.

I remember when I returned to the Methodist church after a couple of years in other traditions, a couple of friends pulled me aside and said that they were really worried about me. They just couldn’t understand why I would choose to enter such a tradition as Methodist!  Why would I choose to be a part of a denomination that, in their mind, wasn’t fully Christian!

But, that’s sort of how it’s always been.  The very word Methodist was a slur against John Wesley and his followers. They lived such a “methodical” and holy lifestyle; people would mock them by calling them “Methodists.”  So, Wesley took the name and embraced it, naming his movement after this slur.

Why is that the case?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps it’s the fact that Methodists “don’t immerse” (actually at Asbury we immersed almost 40 people last year and I have about 7 immersions this coming Sunday).  Or perhaps it’s because we are often seen as pretty open minded and willing to have a conversation.  There could be a million reasons why.

But, here is the thing. I’ve been a part of many different churches of different denominations.  I enjoyed most of my time in each one. I made the choice to be a part of this one.  As someone who really does love and adhere to Holy Scripture, it really does bother me when I’m seen as a “less than” Christian.

There is much be admired about each denomination of which I’ve been a part. I love the emphasis that our Baptist friends place upon scripture. I think that Presbyterian systematic theology is beautiful. I love the freedom of worship found among many of our Charismatic friends. And the centuries-old liturgies of our Catholic and Anglican friends always move me.

But, I am a Wesleyan. I am member of the United Methodist denomination. While we are far from perfect (as is every single denomination) there are many, many reasons why I chose to be a part of this tradition.

And why we are not “less than” Christians.  We are:

Biblical

One of the misconceptions about Methodists and fellow Wesleyans is that we don’t “believe” the Bible. I actually had a friend ask me if we Methodists used the same Bible as they did.  I said, jokingly, that no, we had our own special Methodist Bible.

I love the Bible, and it is my (as well as my church’s) rule of life.  Where do I get that from?  From John Wesley.  This is what he said about the Bible in his preface to his sermons:

“He came from heaven; He hath written it down in a book. O give me that Book! At any price, give me the Book of God. I have it; here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri!”

The Latin phrase means “a man of one book.”  A man of the Bible. The Methodists were often called “bible-bigots” for our deep love and use of the scripture.

It says this in the United Methodist Book of Discipline about our view of scripture:

“The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”

May I have a different interpretation of some passages than others do?  Yes.  But, don’t we all?  Don’t we each have different interpretations at times?  But, please don’t think that I “don’t believe in the Bible.”  It is God’s inspired and written word, which reveals to us God’s holiness, His grace, His heart, our sin, His salvation, and His return and victory.

Yes. I believe in the Bible. And that’s one reason why I’m a Methodist.

Evangelical

The Wesleyan movement started out as a revival.  John Wesley said to his preachers:

“You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go not only to those that need you, but to those that need you most.  It is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care of this or that society; but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance.”

There is nothing sweeter than seeing someone make that first-time decision to place their trust in Christ and His mercy and grace. As a Wesleyan, there is not a single thing, moment, conversation, event, anything that I will not use as a means to show God’s grace and love.

Now, my evangelistic style may be different.  I do focus a lot on grace and love. But, listen to what Paul says in Romans 2:4:

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

We are driven to repentance by the kindness of Christ.  My gracefulness and emphasis on mercy is all about seeing more and more people come to know the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

My job is to help save souls. And that’s one reason why I’m a Methodist.

Practical

John Wesley didn’t write books of theology.  He wrote sermons.  He was a practical man, teaching and preaching a practical faith. We are a practical people.

I prize the mission of the church above all things.  I want to meet people where they are.  I am not focused on the ritual, or the mode, or the tradition.  I’m focused on Jesus above all else.  That’s who Wesley was and that’s at the heart of our DNA.  Practical people trying to impact others with the Gospel.  More in love with Jesus than with anything else.

For instance, when you join our church from another Christian denomination, you know what?  We accept your baptism.  You know why?  Because we know we aren’t the only church.  There are lots of churches doing lots of good work all around.  They are on our team.  We work together.  We are on the same side. That’s who we are and what we believe. And I love that.

We are practical. And that’s one reason why I’m a Methodist.

Graceful

One of John Wesley’s foundational doctrines was original sin.  We have all sinned.  Me.  You.  Each of us.  This is what it says in Romans 3:23:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

And since we have all sinned, we are all in need of grace. Why am I Methodist?  That key word.  Grace.  God give us grace after grace after grace.  Our entire walk with God is based upon that.  We have to know that He loves us based off what He has done, not upon what we have done.  It’s grace.

And our walk with each other must be the same.  If I am sinful and in need of grace, then so are you. And if I want God to give me grace, then I must, must, must give you grace.  We are all just beggars looking for bread.  We all need grace.  We all must give grace to each other, as God has given us grace.

John Wesley said this in a letter he wrote:

“The longer I live, the larger allowances I make for human infirmities. I exact more from myself, and less from others. Go thou and do likewise!”

He understood that he was sinful and in need of grace. If he, a man of God, needed grace, we must all need grace.  It’s only grace that changes lives.  It’s only grace that changes the world.

It is grace that leads us to salvation.  And it is grace that saves us.

We are a graceful people. And that’s one reason why I’m a Methodist.

Holiness

But, just as we understand that we are all sinful and in need of grace, we are all also called to understand that we are called to be more and more faithful each day. We are called to be, well, holy.  As it says in 1 Peter 1:14-16:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

We are called to be holy.  Salvation is not simply a one time conversion experience (justification) but an ongoing, lifetime experience where we grow closer and closer to God and are renewed by the power of the shed blood of Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  By His grace we are made more faithful each day (sanctification).

Now holiness is not perfection, we will always remain imperfect.  But it is this: we are called to be different.  We are not called to remain the same. God’s grace must, must, must work on us, change us, renew us restore us. We are called to be more faithful today than we were yesterday.  We are called to be holy. We are called to be faithful. We are called to be different.

The Christian experience is not just a one time conversion experience, but it is a lifetime of God’s grace at work in our life, helping us to be more and more faithful. We are saved through grace. And God’s grace continues to work on us, until we draw our final breath.

I believe passionately in growing daily in God’s grace.  I believe in holiness.  And that’s one reason why I’m a Methodist.

So, I hope this helps you understand that, yes, we are as Christian as you, We love the Bible and love Jesus and want to see the entire world come to know Him as Lord.  I love the Body of Christ that is bigger than any one church or denomination.

But, I love my denomination.  Warts and all.

And that’s why I’m a Methodist.

The Puzzle – Mercy Podcast

The sermon podcast for Sunday, July 31, 2011 is up on Asbury Church’s website.  This is the fifth sermon in our series about Spiritual Gifts – “The Puzzle.” This series talks about spiritual gifts and this one deals with the gift of Mercy. The texts for this sermon are Luke 10: 29-37 and Micah 6:8.  You can listen to it by clicking here, or you can listen to it here on this blog by clicking below. And, as always, you can subscribe to my sermon podcasts through iTunes.