Jenny kicked this off last week. We shared on this topic at our meeting in Nashville. I’m thankful for the question because it’s a good thing to go back over in one’s mind afresh why a person is doing what they are doing where and with whom they are doing it.
So, these are some of my reasons why I stay in the United Methodist Church as a pastor.
- This is my theological home. Said another way, I connect most strongly with this vision of the Christian Life. It’s hard to say if I have chosen the UMC because I thought through everything carefully and, having weighed the options, decided to go with this denomination, or if it has formed me so diligently (I’ve been a United Methodist since infancy) that I have no other home. Did I pick it or did it pick me? I don’t know. But I know this is home for me, theologically.
- I have both “roots and wings.” In the UMC, I feel both tethered to the ancient orthodox creeds and the canon of Scripture, and freed from fundamentalisms of both right and left. This strikes me as the most potent of all missiologies and a theological and missiological “location” that is well positioned to meet the challenges of ministry in our present culture.
- A false choice is not required between head, heart, and hands. Intellectual pursuit, charismatic passion, and faithful service are all vital for a faithful response to, and robust witness for, Christ.
- Wesley was/did _______ before it was cool in the 20th/21st century. Insert any or all of these: missional, evangelical, social justice, small groups, accountable partners, prophetic ministry, a theology geek, a student of history/predecessors (learned from ancient church traditions of East and West), a student of peers (learned from leaders of other Christian traditions in England and on the continent), into holistic evangelism, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the tranformation of the world. There’s no doubt more, but this will do for now. Much of what I see done really well in churches of various or no denominational tradition is something that Wesley was doing or was thinking in his ministry. There are myriad examples within our tradition. Outside our tradition, I think of Rick Warren‘s organizational genius with Saddleback Church‘s ministry and Rob Bell‘s genius in bringing together evangelicalism and social justice in the teaching and community values of Mars Hill Bible Church (Grand Rapids), to mention two heirs of Wesley who are not Methodists.
- I have dreams for this Church. Maybe that’s a post unto itself. But I have dreams about the sort of church/es I desire to be a part of, and about the sort of church/es I sense a calling to lead. Those dreams come straight from the rich soil of Wesleyanism in its United Methodist expression.
- Jesus has put me here and keeps me here. While we’ve been in decline numerically as a denomination, God is still doing some great things with us. There are local United Methodist churches that buck the larger trend with some really faithful and fruitful ministry. It seems like Jesus is still interested in using the “people called Methodists” and still interested in my serving here, so for this reason above those mentioned above, I stay.