Summary: A message from the lay leader on the changing of pastors.
I. A look at this change in pastors
A. Subtitle – Why do United Methodists seem to torture themselves every few years by changing pastors?
II. History lesson
A. Methodism goes back to a renewal movement in the Church of England in the 1700’s
1. Footnote: Church of England is also known as the Anglican or Episcopal Church today
B. Regular class/society meetings to promote the vital piety/sanctification/holiness of the members
C. Came to US through John and Charles Wesley
D. Anglican priests and missionaries to Georgia – decidedly unspectacular work
E. In US, class meetings were led by lay preachers
1. Class members were urged to participate in the sacraments in their local Anglican church
2. The lay preachers were not ordained, so were not to administer the sacraments
3. As Methodist clergy were ordained, they administered the sacraments to members over a wide geographic area. Travelling preachers
4. Became the source for monthly or less frequent communion in Methodist churches – corresponding to visits from the clergy.
5. We will honor that prohibition today. I am a lay speaker, in a sense a direct descendant of those lay preachers.
6. I see roots to this in the Old Testament. Then, and even today, the head of the household is called to be a priest to his family. But this is not the same as the work of the Levites, who ministered in the temple.
a) There were certain tasks that not everyone could do. They were to be done by Levites.
b) From the Levites, specifically from the descendants of Aaron (Moses’ brother), were those called to be priests for all of the people.
c) These were the ones who presented the offerings in the tabernacle and later the temple. Anyone else who approached the tabernacle was to be put to death.
F. From those first class meetings, and from the teachings of John Wesley, come several emphases that together make Methodists unique
1. There’s the concept of Balance – keeping two opposing forces in check, without letting one overwhelm the other
a) Faith vs. Works
(1) Galatians 3 – 5 speaks of grace. Listen to Gal. 3:1-5 as Paul questions the practice of works without faith
(2) The letter of James is a counterpoint, written to those who were counting on faith alone. James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
b) Personal Assurance vs. Social witness
(1) Personal salvation without witness to and involvement in the transformation of society reduces God to a domesticated deity whose principal concern is personal happiness.
(2) God does not bless us merely for our own use. He is not our own private “pocket God.” Pokemon
(3) Social witness and transformation without personal assurance becomes mere “do-good-ism.”
(4) Can be the fast track to disillusionment. We can begin to worship the works rather than the One for whom we do the work.
(5) Those who know and accept their identity as sons and daughters of the living God become the leaven and the salt. They know that all does not depend upon them but that through the faithfulness of God’s people, God’s power transforms the world.
(6) Personal salvation is known and shared in a community of faith.
c) Knowledge vs. Vital Piety
(1) Piety – devotion, service, adoration, faithfulness, adherence, observance
(2) Piety without knowledge becomes superficial emotionalism and easy prey to heresy.
(3) Knowledge without piety removes God and elevates the human mind to supremacy.
(4) Wesley seminary in Washington DC. Library and chapel face each other so that when you leave one, you are faced with the other.
d) Nurture vs. Mission
(1) Isaiah’s call – read earlier. God ministered to Isaiah at his point of need. He was already a religious man. But the reason for his nurture was to send him out in mission.
(2) An emphasis on nurture without a commitment to global mission reduces the church to a spiritual spa that caters to the personal interest of its members.
(3) An emphasis on mission without being a nurturing community reduces the church to a social service agency that ignores the deep spiritual needs of persons and the transcendent dimensions of God’s activity.
(4) I see this balance in our process of adoption.
(a) Cheryl and I have a need to be nurtured by being parents. Yet infertility frustrated that need. We needed to be nurtured in that area. So God is blessing us by bringing a child born to another into our family. But we are not blessed simply to build ourselves up. We are blessed so that we may bless this child whose birth mother and father were unable to care for him. We are blessed to be a blessing to others.