On Becoming a United Methodist: The Opportunities Before Us

This is the third part of a four-part series in which I reflect on my journey toward becoming one of Wesley’s people—a pastor in the United Methodist Church. You can read part one, I’m not Crazy, right here. You can check out part two, Ringside with Calvin and Wesely, right here. Check out the third post, Hurdles to Renewal. 

I recently came across a Wesley quote that I just had to sit with for a while:

I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.

As I said when I first read it: wow. As it turns out, Wesley’s dream and prayer is my dream and prayer—not only for the Methodist Church but for the Church Universal. When I think about the Methodist Church, I often have this gut feeling that there is so much potential for us to leverage. 

Sure, that potential might be latent—but if we could recover Wesley’s vision for our movement, we could become a powerful force for spiritual renewal on a global scale. In fact, in some corners, we already are. Here are some opportunities that lie before us, that if we leverage appropriately, could make Wesley’s dream a reality. 

1: There is a United Methodist Church in every county of the United States. OK, so I can’t substantiate this for the life of me, but I hear about it pretty much everywhere I go. I do know that we’re the third largest denomination in the US, with nearly eight million members. But let’s put it this way: there are a whole lot of Methodist Church buildings across the country, and if every one of those churches recovered the Gospel and chose to be others-focused… Wow. In other words, we have material resources up to our eyeballs—we just have to use them appropriately.

2: John Wesley is the original architect for service-oriented small groups. Long before Mars Hill’s Community Groups model took the nation by storm, or Adult Bible Fellowships became a Baptist standard, Wesley was organizing people into class meetings for mutual spiritual growth, accountability, and service. As I noted in my last post, the class meeting has been removed from the Book of Discipline, which was a punch straight to the sternum for our movement. But lying dormant in our DNA is a powerful tool for discipleship and service. If we recover this model and take it seriously, we can really make disciples for the transformation of the world. 

3: The United Methodist Church is globally poised for global transformation. I’m not aware of any other church that only makes decisions as a global body—which means we had a global social network before Facebook was even a twinkle in the world’s eye. Because we make decisions as a global body, we have opportunity to become an international movement of disciples making disciples.

As C.S. Lewis once said, “There are far, far better things ahead than anything we could leave behind.” I often want to plaster this across my forehead when I talk to the man-on-the-street (or should it be, man-in-the-pew) Methodist: sure, we might have to change what church means to you for us to become a vibrant movement, but is that the worst thing that could ever happen? What lies ahead is far better than what we live with now. 

What opportunities do you see the UMC needs to take advantage of? How would you suggest we do it? 

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