Monday, February 26, 2007

Rediscovering our Methodist Roots

The pastors at our church (First-Centenary) will be asking the congregation to read the book Eight Life-Enriching Practices of United Methodist. As I read through the book I was once again reminded of the wonderful history of the Methodist movement. In this book, Henry Knight III presents eight practices that were at the heart of John Wesley’s theology and life. He reminds his readers that these are the practices that define what it means to be a Methodist, but more fundamentally, what it means to be a Christian. Just so you know, these practices do not make a person a Christian; rather, they define what a Christian is.

Knight breaks the spiritual disciplines into four categories: Personal Devotion, Worshiping Together, Letting Go, and Reaching Out. Prayer was the foundation for the movement. The Bible was the most important means for teaching us about God and salvation. Worship was so important for Methodists that Charles Wesley wrote thousands of hymns in order to draw people into a deeper faith. John Wesley encouraged the Methodist to take communion as often as possible. Wesley wanted the Methodists to “conference together” by being in small groups called “bands” and “class meetings.” Living a life of simplicity was very important because we are to honor God with our money. He suggested that we “earn all we can,” “save all we can,” and “give all we can.” Wesley believed we were to love and serve our neighbor in all we do.

In reflected on these disciplines that were so important to Methodists, I realized that Wesley used these “means of graces” to move people into a deeper commitment to God. The Wesley bothers were also able to meet people where they were in life in order to move them to a better place. For instance, Charles Wesley often wrote songs using familiar tunes so that people would be more likely to worship. John Wesley realized that people need accountability, so he organized folks into smaller groups.

As a United Methodist, I hope that we will be able to draw on the strengths of the early Methodists in order to lead people to Jesus. Sometimes I think the UM church seems to be falling behind in doing some of the things that Wesley did. When I think of Praise and Worship music, I would like to see the UM church to do more song writing. I love Chris Tomlin and I think he is doing a wonderful job, but we need more people doing what he is doing. We sometimes seem to be stuck in the traditional Sunday school mode, but I think we need to offer more small group options that actually hold people accountable, help them grow in their faith, and teach them how to serve God in the world. I am not suggesting that we do away with Sunday school, but we can at least compliment them with small groups. Methodist should lead the way when it comes to giving money and time to the church. I also wish we would learn to read and love the Bible like Wesley did and then say, “Give me that book.” I almost weep when I hear people say that Methodist don’t believe in the Bible because we do, with all our being, love it.

It is time that we United Methodist lead the way to Jesus by loving God and our neighbor. It is time that we become proud of our heritage. It is time that we boldly serve and proclaim our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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