Why I Love Being A Methodist
I was born and raised in the United Methodist Church. As a teenager, I headed off to Calvin College in Grand Rapids for my undergraduate. At the time, I was not even aware that John Calvin was a person. If you wanted to talk about a religious founding father named John – I would have assumed the only name out there was John Wesley. I lived in a very Methodist bubble – unaware of what those other groups believed. Vaguely I knew the names – Baptists, presbyterians, Lutherans – but it all meant very little to me. A happy little bubble that was popped when I arrived on campus and someone asked, “Are you C.R.C.?” (Christian Reformed Church) And I said, “no, I’m just a freshmen” *cue facepalm* One of the things I did during my time at Calvin was ask the deconstructing question that everyone should ask at some point in their faith journey – Do I believe what I believe because it’s the best way I can pursue the truth with my life? Because I actually BELIEVE it? Or do I believe because it’s what my parents told me to believe? At Calvin, surrounded by Reformed voices, I was able to discover what I believed and more importantly – how to defend those beliefs. Church family, like any other family, if it is made up of real people, will have drama. It will have struggles – pieces that are embarrassing, pieces that make you proud. The Methodist Church is no different. We fight over the same thing many churches fight over – worship styles, LGBTQ inclusion, scriptural authority, and more. There are plenty of bumps and problems in our tradition. But the more I looked into the history, the more resonance I discovered. I kicked the floorboards and found that I was standing on a firm foundation. The more I read, the more I studied – the more I was proud to be a Methodist. I also learned a lot of new words to describe the ways Methodists and all those other groups were different. Words like complementarian and egalitarian, or phrases like free will or predestination. Details of our differences. I learned a lot about all those other labels and what they meant – and I realized that I truly WAS a Methodist, through and through. And so I became a Methodist trained by Reformed folks. (I also married one of those Reformed folks, so I guess we’ll see if our kids are predestined to turn out Methodist or reformed, 😉). For those who may not know, Methodism was born out of a desire by a clergyman to find authenticity in his church family. He sought to put his faith into practice, and to push the gospel truth into practical application in his life. John Wesley was an Anglican priest, who was raised, worked and died in the Anglican tradition. He never wanted to start a new church. He started some small groups with the goal of pushing people to live out their faith. He created these little groups called “Holy Clubs” and they had a method for growing closer to God. They called it the “Means of Grace” – things you can do to grow closer to God. The list would sound very familiar to any Christian’s ears. Stuff like: read your bible, pray, take communion, get baptized, feed the hungry, visit the prisons, take care of the sick. These groups would gather during the week and go do that stuff. People would make fun of him. “You’re so methodical, you should call yourself “Methodist”’ and so He shrugged and said, “sure.” Holy Clubs became Methodist Societies. After a little disagreement with England around 1776, a chunk of the groups in the Americas wanted to form a separate group, and the Methodist Episcopal Church was born. (I’m painting with broad strokes, hoping the historians won’t throw things at me). Sometimes people accuse Methodists of believing that you have to earn your way into heaven with works – but that’s not it at all! Our faith is rooted in the grace of Jesus Christ given freely to forgive the sins of the world. We are saved by grace through faith. But a necessary component of that faith is that it should touch the practical applications of our life. If we’re going to call Jesus “Lord, Lord” – then we must obey him too! This is the heart behind the creation of the Methodist movement. This comes from the guy who believed in his faith so strongly that he stood on the docks in Bristol (think slave trade) and preached the gospel at the boats in his efforts to convert slavers. His faith had such incredible, practical application. So, here I stand – in the middle of this mess of a denominational tradition – all too aware of its warts and bumps, but loving the foundation. The gospel of Jesus Christ, lived out authentically in practical application in our very real lives – and that’s why I love being a Methodist.