Thursday, April 19, 2007

Will the real Methodists please stand up!

We say we're Methodists, yet we seem to shun Wesley's ways. We say we're United, yet we're fragmented, self-oriented both as congregations and as various groups within the denomination. We seek higher numbers of members, relegating spiritual growth to a lesser role.

So the question is ... are Methodism's problems a result of losing sight of the spiritual in pursuit of funding, programs, social contact, Sunday School based on best-seller books, and being sort of a religious country club? Are we so lost in trying to force our own interpretations of the Bible on each other that we fail to bring the lost home to Christ?

Have our Sunday Schools lost sight of the type of Bible study that Wesley's "Bible-Moths" would approve of? Scripture was the most important part of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, not just an equal quarter of the whole.

Andrew Thompson, author of the Gen-X Rising blog, says, "Let's decide: Are we Methodists or not?" He takes a good poke at churches that seem so ashamed to be United Methodists that they leave that part out of their publicized church name. Either be Methodists or don't, but don't be half-hearted Methodists, he seems to say.

Andrew suggests that it is a good and fruitful thing to follow Wesley:
  • Shun religious pretension
  • Practice rigorous discipleship
  • Actively pursue the way of salvation
  • Tirelessly carry the gospel to the lost and the poor

So ... how are you and your church doing? Are you truly Methodists?

The United Methodist Reporter site has picked up several other Gen-X Rising articles in 2007:

As a side note, Gen-X Rising is now linked in the "Methodist, Other blogs" section of this blog.

1 comment:

John said...

The most recent generation of Christians have rejected denominationalism because most denominations have decided that they are brands, not different theological perspectives.

When I was a kid, I moved a lot. And we usually moved between Presbyterian (PCUSA) and United Methodist churches. As an adult, I asked my parents why they did this, when Wesleyan orthodoxy and Calvinist orthodoxy have significant differences. They responded that the two denominations were just alike. What they meant was that they were just alike a social institutions: middle class, somber traditional music, white, and suburban.

I like devil's food cookies. Nabisco makes good'uns. But I can spend 60% on a generic box. I have no loyalty to the Nabisco label, so I get the generic. There's no real difference in the product. In the same way, a lot of mainline Protestantism has decided to eliminate all differences and put out the same product universally. And that is why no one has any 'brand' loyalty to denominations -- because the denominations have nothing to say as denominations.

I think that we could really start a revival movement if we started talking about Methodism not as a brand, but as a theological worldview. As conceived of my Wesley, it is a challenging and demanding call to repentance, conversion, and sanctification.

It is churches that have high expectations of believers that are growing, and those that expect nothing (like us) that are shrinking. So let's be Methodists. Let's be distinct. And let's teach and preach and do what it means to be Methodist.