Recently, I was reading a blog post from a renowned voice in today’s Methodism. He was giving a detailed analysis of several layers of doctrinal sources from which a new expression of Methodism would do well to consider as part of its doctrinal foundation going forward as a new entity. I admit that his gifts for detail quickly overwhelmed my ability to grasp it all. But I could not help but be encouraged to see a trend back to something I think we’ve lost years ago. And that is simply going back to the basics.
So much of the energy in our current denominational setting is consumed in what is going wrong in the world and our supposed call as the church to fix it. We are outwardly focused on the injustices of the world. We have almost exclusively devoted ourselves to movements and causes. We have become the foremost champions of equality and justice. We have heard the call to ‘go and make’ but we have taken that to mean ‘go and make the world right, or fair, or just.’ It never was our original call. In fact, the call still has never changed. That call remains to go and make ‘disciples of Jesus Christ’.
So outwardly focused we have become that there isn’t much time to do the foundational formation of producing fully equipped Christians, Christians who go into the world with a real understanding of who God is, and what He wants, of who they are as defined by the One they now follow. We send them out instead to find their identity in the movements they join and the causes they aspire to champion and not in having already attained and retained their identity they have in Christ.
That is what is so encouraging in seeing this opportunity to do a grand ‘reset’ in launching a new expression of Methodism. These proven image-of-Christ shaping tools of our rich history should be recovered and re-employed again. Tools such as the church’s historical declarations such as the Apostles & Nicene creeds, the Articles of Faith, even the simplest of tools such as Wesley’s means of grace, a return to these under-appreciated, under-utilized and even abandoned doctrines will get us back into the business we were originally called to as the church; to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ.
And, instead of going into the world to change it while trying to find your identity in it, we should go into the world already knowing who we are, and Whose we are, as we seek to change the world, not thru movements or causes, but thru the changed hearts of each new disciple of the Christ we also follow. We should not squander this unique opportunity to get back into the identity-making business again. Hopefully, this new expression of Methodism will focus its energies on changing the individual heart as the only real hope of changing the world.