These past few months have been a great time of discernment for me. I recently received candidacy certification in the United Methodist Church, applied for seminaries and have been writing on a lot of theological topics lately. When forced to answer why I want to be a United Methodist pastor, why I feel called to ministry and why I believe this way about a specific doctrine, I’ve been really questioning my beliefs. Does this scripture passage really say this? Do I really believe this? Do I actually feel called to this role in ministry?
While it’s often easier to talk about what we don’t believe in, it’s always best to describe what we do believe. Here is my list of the five reasons I claim Wesleyan theology as my own.
5. God is Love
For the first part of my life before I became an atheist, my only encounter with the Church and with Christianity was through the fire and brimstone teachings of many Christians. I understood God to be a spiteful, rage-filled judge ready to burn any dissenters in Hell at the drop of a hat. After God opened my eyes, I now see Him as wholly perfect and loving.
I’m very broken. I make mistakes constantly. I’m selfish, proud, and dig holes for myself. In my pride, I will throw myself into the mud and mire and prefer God’s stuff to God Himself. Despite feeling the shame and guilt of turning away from God, He sees me in the dirt and mud, loves me anyway, and lowers himself to dig me out. For no reason. For no agenda. Just because of love, He does this for me.
4. Grace Takes Center Stage
God’s grace was, is and will always be moving in our lives. It is God’s prevenient grace that draws us near to Him before we even know Him. It is God’s justifying grace that allows us to stand righteous before God wiping our slates clean, and it is God’s sanctifying grace that leads us back to the way God originally designed us.
3. Holiness and Sanctification
God isn’t satisfied with leaving us in the pain-filled brokenness we started in. He loves us enough to challenge our world views, make us uncomfortable with the status quo and lead us to a picture of holiness. It is God’s desire that He repair the damage caused by sin and sanctify us entirely so that we are no longer slaves to sin.
2. Connectional by Nature
John Wesley‘s view of the church was a connectional one. As a Wesleyan, I know that I won’t lead a church out in the middle of nowhere with no help in sight. The United Methodist Church (founded with Wesleyan roots) has networks of churches in districts, conferences, jurisdictions, and the world. Accountability is built into the church as pastors hold one another accountable, district superintendents hold pastors accountable and Bishops hold superintendents accountable. Should a pastor ever need any help or guidance, he/she has brothers and sisters ready to help.
1. Intelligence and Faith Go Hand in Hand
This isn’t to say that Wesleyanism emphasizes intelligence as the only means to know God and have communion with God. It is to say that God wants us to use the minds that He created. We don’t hide away or create little bubbles for ourselves where no new thoughts can break through. We don’t fear intellect. We embrace it!