I was challenged by our Methodist Conference Superintendent to write down my answer to a simple question. “Why am I a United Methodist?” Having just preached a sermon last week about having an answer to a different question of why… “Why do you believe in Jesus?” I have come to understand that our answers to these questions could either bring people into a closer relationship with my Lord and Savior… or have the opposite effect. So here is my answer to why am I a United Methodist?
My answer may not be a typical response. It has to do with a lot of things that I have experienced in my faith journey. Before I even knew who John Wesley was, and before I knew anything about all the other denominations, my sister, brother and I took part in the services of the closest church where we lived. Growing up my family moved a lot due to my father’s work, so we never were in one place long enough to settle down with one church family. In my younger years, I attended Baptist, Nazarene, Pentecostal, Catholic, and non-denominational churches. But what I experienced along the way was that it was the United Methodist Church that didn’t require that I dress up to attend their services. They were just happy to see me there and accepted me as I was. It was the United Methodist Church that didn’t care if I read out of a bible that had different letters on it than KJV. It was the United Methodist Church that allowed me to take Holy Communion with all the members of the congregation, even though I wasn’t a member of that church. It was the United Methodist Church that included me into serving with our youth group that brought me into a relationship with Jesus. It was the United Methodist Church that helped me to see that I didn’t have to speak in tongues to know that the Holy Spirit was working through me. It was in the United Methodist Church where I saw a body of Christ helping those struggling with natural disasters through UMCOR, and installing wells in countries where people were dying because of the lack of clean water, or welcoming people into their congregations who were struggling with addictions, depression, and family matters without judging them for their situations.
Since that time I have learned more about John Wesley and been inspired by his words and teachings. His desire to reach out to those incarcerated. His desire to bring the good news to those on the outside of the margins. His goal to build the Kingdom of
God by including the lost, the lonely, and the least of these by planting churches where the people were living instead of expecting them to travel to belong.
I am a United Methodist not because of its book of discipline, although I love that we are structured in that way… I’m a United Methodist because it’s in this denomination that I see Jesus working through His people. It’s in this denomination that I have found acceptance despite my past transgressions. It’s in this denomination that I have been able to show the love of Jesus Christ to ALL people regardless of where they’ve been or what they’ve done without judgment, and offer them hope and a future.
It saddens me that the ways of the world in which we live in today have brought a division to what I consider to be the greatest body of Christians working for Jesus. You may not believe as I believe or serve as I feel called to serve, but if we look to the scriptures, the disciples that followed Jesus had their own issues as well but they still managed to work through them and stay together and because of this they changed the world.