Last week, I wrote a post about what makes a Methodist, based on John Wesley’s address to the Methodist societies of his day entitled “The Character of a Methodist”. Essentially I wrote in my own words, the same fifteen points Wesley made about what Methodists are and what they are not.
Two things happened while writing this.
First, I noticed how far so many of our Methodist brethren and sistren (including myself, my colleagues and the churches I have served) have fallen from the ideals of John Wesley and his contemporaries. Really, I imagine much of this information would be new and perhaps surprising to many United Methodists today.
Here I would like to explain that at my core, I am – or maybe hope to be – a Methodist, not a United Methodist. Methodism has a long and rich history and has influenced many other denominations and traditions besides the United Methodist Church. This includes The African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Wesleyan, Free Methodist, Assemblies of God Churches, the entire Pentecostal movement, and many others. The degree to which any of these denominations and traditions are still truly Methodist is arguable. Some would say the this especially applies to the United Methodist Church (which mind you, has only been around since the Methodist Episcopal Church and the United Brethren Church merged in 1968). Nevertheless, United Methodism seems to be the primary inheritor of the Methodist tradition, and has been and will remain to be my spiritual home.
The second thing I noticed while writing the previously mentioned article is that I kept mistyping Methodist as “Methodsit”.
Can you guess where I’m going with this? If in any way our current United Methodist trends meander away from our Methodist tradition, could it be because we have forgotten what makes us Methodist; our Method of approaching and sharing the gospel, our Method of growing as more holy disciples of Jesus Christ, our Method of service in Christ’s name? Instead of engaging in these methods, have we, like so many other mainline denominations settled into comfortable places and comfortable pews? Instead of following Christ through our particular Methodist methods, have we instead just sat down, and become “Method-sits”?
So with this in mind – I’m revisiting John Wesley’s fifteen points that define Methodist Character. I will compare what I read about Methodists, with what I see Method-sits doing today, and I will alter the words to suit the Method-sit non-movement.
I will post a side by side comparison between John Wesley’s “Character of a Methodist” and this my “Character of a MethodSIT” later.
1. We think that our social and political opinions are paramount. We get so riled about about them that we make them more important than worshiping and following Jesus.
2. We like to use religious terms that alienate non church goers and newcomers. For instance, we tell people that resources are available in the “narthex” (instead of “in the back over there”), or that folks can come to “Furgang Hall” (instead of “downstairs”) for fellowship (which we could just call “coffee and snack”).
3. We let our religion stop at saying “amen” to a certain set of beliefs, and really try not to worry about living them out.
4. Methodsits are all about church, but not much about Jesus. They know how to function well in a religious atmosphere, but they may not know God. They are happy with the status quo that is their life and desire no deeper intimacy with God. All this talk about loving God sounds weird too, we just don’t get it.
5. Methodsits are grumpy and generally not fun to be around. Worship can be a snooze-fest and committee meetings can be pretty darn mean-spirited. If you visit a Methodsit church, you get the feeling that they don’t want you there, but that they too do not want to be there.
6. Methodsits are always complaining about something or another. There is always something wrong, or something to whine about. These complaints generally find their way to the pastor in some passive aggressive fashion, and are rarely offered to God in prayer before that point.
7. Methodsits don’t like to pray. It’s uncomfortable. What can we say to God? Doesn’t He know what we’re going to say already? Sounds like a waste of His time. In fact, it’s probably better that I don’t pray so God can concentrate on orphans and widows and junk. Wait…what? You want me to pray out loud. No no no, that’s the pastor’s job.
8. Of course Methodsits believe that God calls them to love everyone. They also believe that “everyone” means only the people they like and who are like them. It helps if they have money and smell nice too.
9. Methodsits try to live holy lives. We just don’t try hard. But we’re good at acting like we are holy, especially when it means we can act judgmentally towards others.
10. Methodsits seeks to live so that God’s will may be done. It’s purely coincidence that God’s will pretty much always looks like what we want.
11. Methodsits don’t believe their faith has anything to do with their deeds. Faith is only about thinking certain things about God. Actually doing what God says is too hard! And didn’t Jesus die on the cross so we wouldn’t have to?
12. Methodists devote as much of themselves as they possibly can to glorify God, within certain limits that so that their time, money and comfort are not truly sacrificed.
13. Everything a Methodsit does, absolutely everything, from the biggest to the smallest, is done to …meh, I dunno.
14. Methodsits like shiny new things and allow their hearts to follow their wandering eyes.
15. Lastly, Methodsits do as much good as they feel like they need to in order to justify themselves so that they don’t have to feel guilty about claiming Jesus but not following him.
Okay, so this list is harsh. But I think it proves a point. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be Methodsits, whether you are MethodIST or not. In fact, many of these points (as well as those made in my previous post about true Methodist character) likely ring true for many Christians who do not identify with Methodism at all.
The truth for all of us – and all our churches, is that we tend to be a mixture if both MethodSIT and MethodIST; good and bad; saint and sinner.
My point is that if we claim an identity, whether Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal or simply CHRISTIAN, we need to be mindful to live according to this new identity that we find in Christ. We need to live this new life we have been given, and not let complacency, worldliness or laziness get in the way of following our Lord.