Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Friday, March 27, 2009

It’s Not What You Know; It’s Who You Know

The core proclamation of the Wesleyan tradition is “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8a). One of John Wesley’s most important sermons, “The Scripture Way of Salvation,” is an extended meditation on the meaning of this text and its implications for Christian discipleship.

A basic question this text raises is “What is faith?” Judging by what I hear from United Methodist pulpits and see in Sunday School and small group curriculum it seems that faith is equated with belief in God and the affirmations about God found in the historic creeds. The goal of much Christian education and worship is to give people good information about God, Jesus, the Bible, church history, tradition and theology. It assumes that a regular diet of information will result in believing. If simple affirmation of the information is faith then the people will be “saved.” If faith is simple belief in Christian affirmations then this approach to Christian education and worship is all we need to make faithful disciples of Jesus Christ; salvation, then, all about what you know.

When we reduce faith to affirmation of or assent to a set of beliefs and doctrines, it then becomes a private possession. It demands very little in the way of response. It becomes one more thing to posses and control.

Such “faith” is also the result of individual effort on the part of the believer. It is the result of work done by the believer for the believer’s own benefit, on the believer’s terms. Grace has very little to do with such “faith” because it is not a gift that has been received, it is an object that has been obtained through work and study. This means that salvation by faith becomes salvation through works. Believers then believe they have earned their salvation and place in God’s household. Grace has little to do with it.

Is that all there is to faith? Certainly learning and study are good and important to faith development. But they are secondary. Scripture and tradition clearly teach that salvation is not about what you know; it’s about who you know. This means that faith is, first and foremost, a relationship with the living God who became one of us in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Because it is a relationship with Jesus, faith is also a gift. It is grace. It is God’s work in, with, and for us to love God and to love those whom God loves. God is not an idea or a concept to be studied, discussed and dissected. God is a living person. God is personal. Therefore, faith is a relationship with the living God.

All this is to say that we need to take a close look at our philosophy of Christian education. We need to give more weight to teaching the practices required for participating in the divine-human relationship that is faith: prayer, worship, the Lord’s Supper, Scripture (reading, hearing, & studying), fasting, and Christian conference (mutual accountability and support for discipleship). Rather than focus on developing beliefs and opinions, focus on the whole person.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Denomination in the Dock" by Andrew Thompson

Must read in the MethoBlogosphere: Gen-X Rising

Very well said Andrew!

Monday, March 16, 2009

"How Deep the Well" by Dan Dick

My friend and colleague, Dan Dick, has one of the best blogs in the "Methoblogosphere." Last week he posted a well researched and important article about how many UM clergy are pulled in so many directions that they become convinced they don't have time to practice the means of grace, such as daily prayer, Bible reading, and worship. You can read the post here: How Deep the Well

I've become a regular reader of Dan's blog. Check it our for yourself here: United Methodeviations

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The United Methodist Way

Here is a new free resource developed by GBOD to help congregations learn about the Wesleyan way of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It is a 20 minute flash presentation that is an adaptation of a document written by Dr. Randy Maddox and the Council of Bishops. The document may be downloaded here: The United Methodist Way.

Click here to view and listen to the flash presentation: The United Methodist Way

You can download the the flash presentation for use in your church here: The United Methodist Way Download page

I'm interested in your comments and reactions to this piece.