A couple of Sundays ago, we visited a Presbyterian church. We went to hear our friend, the pastor, preach, and he was quite good by the way. While we did feel the holiness of the sanctuary and the presence of God, it was disconcertingly different. Not just because the pastor quoted John Calvin rather than John Wesley, but because it was a different flavor of Christianity. Not bad, just different.
So what does make United Methodist churches different? It's easy to say our liturgy and the hymns, but even some of those were similar. Presbyterians also sing Charles Wesley hymns. So the difference is deeper.
The core of our Wesleyan faith holds together personal holiness and social holiness. In worship, the sermon is important, but so are the sacraments, so is the fellowship time. We tend to emphasize the experience of worship. It does help if the sermon is good, but we also want to feel God with us. This is not to say that other Christians aren't the same, but as Methodists, we still reflect our revivalist roots. Then we expect to apply our faith to our daily living. And this means acts of charity and mercy. For many, it also means social justice-- for example, working on corrupt social systems, feeding and educating those in need.
As Methodists we are connected to churches around the world in mission and ministry. Our church never stands alone as a single witness, although our local witness is necessary and important. But we act in concert and in one accord through our gifts, service, time, and witness. Just as much as we strive to let God connect with us through grace, we strive to connect in significant ways with each other in small groups. Small groups, after all, were perfected by Methodists early in our history and were mandated by John Wesley.
We carry with us the assurance that all are chosen by God and than nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Yes, our Methodist theology matters. It doesn't make us better than all the rest, but it can position us to transform the world.