The United Methodist Way
Faith Working Through Love
from the Global Board on Discipleship
Audio Information on what Methodists believe:
These audio clips talk about what Methodist believe.
Methodism began as a movement of spiritual renewal within an Anglican church mark by a declining spiritual involvement and commitment. The early Methodists adopted a new way of living in covenant with Christ and with one another by incorporating spiritual discipline in their lives and into their engagement with the world. Methodism emerged as a distinct tradition and in North America grew into a family of separate denominations. These new denominations gradually abandoned the original way of living, which had made Methodist unique. They lost their initial spiritual, evangelical and missionary zeal becoming typical main stream Protestant churches. Ironically, the United Methodist church today finds itself where the Anglican church stood when Methodism was founded mark by declining spiritual involvement and commitment. We need a need movement of renewal to reclaim the way of life of the early Methodist movement.
One of the best descriptions of the Methodist way is John Wesley’s “Thoughts Upon Methodism” published in 1786 near the end of his long and faithful ministry. In this short essay Wesley warned that the Methodist movement would become a dead sect having the form of religion but lacking its power unless they held fast to the crucial insights and practices of the original movement.
For the early Methodists the goal of their way of life was to become faithful and mature disciplines of Jesus Christ. This meant far more than just affirming Christ as their Lord or having an assurance of his pardoning love. They longed for what they saw promised in scripture, the transformation of their sinful nature into Christ like love for God, their neighbor and for the whole creation.
In other words, while early Methodists celebrated the freedom from sin that comes from new birth, they also desired the ability to walk in God’s life giving ways and to participate in God’s saving mission. As John Wesley frequently reminded us, holiness of heart leads to holiness of life, because as we are transformed we desire to engage the world around us in compassionate and transforming ways. And as we engage ourselves in the world we find our own hearts transformed even deeper in Christ likeness.
Wesley recognized that transformation of the heart was possible only through the work of the Holy Spirit. John Wesley said we must recognize that this can never be “wrought in us” but by the power of the Holy Ghost and that we receive this and every other blessing merely for the sake of Christ.
Wesley consistently stressed that our human efforts are possible and effective only because they are driven and empowered by the Holly Spirit. We are all saved by faith and not by what Wesley called “works righteousness.” It is the Spirit that makes disciples of Jesus Christ, although Wesley encouraged early Methodists to own their roll in responding to Christ’s call to discipleship in cultivating their growth as disciples in supporting one another on the journey and in serving as ambassadors of Christ by inviting others into the journey.
Wesley believed that God’s love is experienced as grace. Grace is prevenient that means it is at work in the world even before we are aware that God exists or that God loves us. It awakens us to our condition as sinners and brings us to repentance. Grace is justifying. When we repent of our sins we are able to accept God’s acceptance of us. Our sins are forgiven and we are given a new relationship with God in the person of Jesus Christ. Justification is God’s work for us. It is beginning of a new life, it is a pure gift very much like when we were born. Grace is sanctifying. After we accept God’s forgiveness, God begin to work in us to heal the damage of sin. Sanctification is God working to form us in to the reflection of the character of Jesus Christ. It I living in such a way in cooperation with God’s love that we become fully the persons God created us to be. We become so filled with the love of God that love becomes our natural response to people in the world. God makes us whole and holy.