I was recently invited to preach at the 30th anniversary of a Church. It was a fun and meaningful day for me, especially due to the fact a friend was part of this Churches early life. One thing really struck me, the Churches Mission statement, “Changed People Change the World”. Most often the mission statements churches use are quickly forgotten or go unnoticed, but not this one because it pretty much says it all.
I believe the Methodist Church; our Wesleyan roots, traditions, reason, and even the nebulous word experience speak to the strength of our Church, why for almost 2 centuries our Church was so effective and grew so rapidly, and possibly why today, not so much.
The Church began with two major focuses that continued to be central for much of the life of the Methodist Movement, that the gospel of Jesus Christ could transform the human soul by justification by faith, and then transform that life by a lifelong journey of sanctification, (becoming holy, or like Jesus). Than that life in a community called the Church would reach out to the world to transform it in life and mission of every sort, from bringing others into faith, to leading in social justice ministries, to educating and feeding the poor, and so on. There is a reason so many hospitals, schools, orphanages, and world wide missions were begun by Methodists, its because so many of those men and women had been changed by the good news soul saving heart transforming work of Jesus Christ.
Here’s the thought; We can’t expect people who have not been introduced and transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ to do much world changing. We also can’t grow people into a special sanctified walk with Christ without the understanding the journey includes changing the world. It is a partnership infused by the Holy Spirit that makes it all work and undergirds the momentum in a growing church. It was and is the strength of the Methodist Church (for churches, pastors, and lay leaders who get it) that will bring vitality into our denomination and its future.
An interesting connection is that the teaching for new Church plants today emphasizes connecting with the community the church is in immediately by service, partnerships, and outreach while focusing clearly on the good news that Jesus Christ can save the human soul and transform the human heart by the work of the Cross. When we add and enfold relationships that are discovered in this Jesus work we also discover the key to the early Methodist Church and the key to the future Methodist Church as well: offering the invitation, partnering in the mission, and building relationships.
It is changed people that change the world! When peoples lives are being changed, and the world is being changed, that church is going to grow, ideas that were pioneered by the Wesleyan faith long ago.