Enjoying the Journey
Last year (2010) I was invited by a friend to attend a minister’s meeting in another town. It was an interesting assortment of folks. This group was made up of pastors in our local area. I was the only participant from the Wesleyan tradition. All the others were senior pastors of their churches and I the sole youth pastor. Did I mention that they were all Baptists? The name on the front of a church has never really mattered to me, but it is amazing how these distinctions can create boundaries between people.
I felt (and still do feel) a strong affinity to those guys because I grew up the eldest son of a Baptist minister. He was also a military chaplain which imprinted in my mind an informal concept of church structure that has always remained. I may talk about this in later posts, but for me the hierarchical nature of the military appealed to me as I was growing up. This led to me feeling very comfortable and “at home” within the Methodist church when God opened that door in the fall of 2006. While the structure of the appeals to me, its principles and theological history has also been instructive over the last few years. (Which is why I bring it up and why I see myself as a Methodist.) John Wesley was an amazing individual. I will definitely be writing about him and what he had and has to teach the Church of today.
I think, that to a large extent, we all are the products of our experiences. We should not be governed by them because some of them may not have been healthy, but they do inform what we believe. The hard part of this is that there are events, circumstances and experiences that color our perspective and our perception that may need to be amended. By this I am thinking of both positive and negative experiences. What we should do is to take the time to consider and evaluate the impact these experiences have on our choices and beliefs. Being raised Baptist there are certain “Baptist” traits that I carry with me, i.e., preaching a certain way, primacy of the Bible for faith development, generally more conservative, etc. But, with each new experience new opportunities for growth happen. This is the case for me as I have moved out of the Baptist tradition into the Methodist/Wesleyan tradition.
This change has brought some interesting and needed changes to what I believe. I have realized that I was not as accepting as I once thought. I jokingly told a friend that, “I used to be judgmental.” That is just a silly thing to say, but I was trying to describe how my capacity to receive people as they are before I decided how to feel about them has changed. Another area is in the practical application of Gospel convictions. While I am not saying that Methodists get it right and others don’t, I have found a “structural and organic” approach to living out what one believes in the Methodist church. This is part of the DNA of the church, even if not lived out perfectly everywhere and at all times. One critique that I have is that there is a lot of emotion, but not enough affection in this work, but that is another subject for another day.
The Worst Methodist Ever!
This brings me back to the conversation that I had with my group of brothers. We were talking about something and one of them looks me straight in the face and says, “You are the worst Methodist ever!” Now, how do I take that? I said, “Thank you.” Every opportunity that you have to break through someone else’s perception of you is a good opportunity. I am thoroughly Wesleyan. I, however, do not take that as a whole-sale endorsement of everything that may be considered “Wesleyan” and yet may not fit what I have come to understand in the Bible. There are overarching principles and assumptions that the Wesleyan tradition has made and makes that, for me, accurately represent what I find in the Bible and in my faith journey.
Does that make them right, perfect or prescriptive for others? No. It does however provide me with a framework to work within so that as I engage the world, others and God I am not just randomly putting together belief’s and doctrines to suit me. These principles and assumptions do point in a particular direction. They do lead somewhere. It is one way of arranging the facts of the Scriptures. While for some there is a definite order for all the facts, that assumes too much (as far as I’m concerned) about my ability to discern and know what was going through God’s mind when He did what He did (I think that’s a third subject for another day).
If this makes me “the worst Methodist ever,” I am really not sure. As I strive to live my life in light of God’s word and in his presence I have come to the conclusion and conviction that God’s word must be the standard for anything and everything that I do in my life. The main reason we as Christian’s talk about the canon of scripture is because the word “canon” speaks of a measurement or standard that had to be met in order for a book of the bible to “make it.” Why should we hold each other to any less a standard.
I am a follower of Christ first. I have chosen to make my home within the Methodist/Wesleyan tradition because I believe that it helps me to organize my thoughts and beliefs in a consistent way. I have not thought everything through, but I am working on it.
So in good Methodist tradition: Join the Journey!
Where did the idea of The Reformed Wesleyan come from?