The Church where I serve as Senior Pastor, Old Mission United Methodist Church, has a deep connection with Wesleyan theology and the Methodist movement.
Its name, Old Mission, comes neither from the congregation being "old," nor that it is a "mission church." As for being old, we are blessed to be overflowing with young families and children, thanks be to God. And though we do a lot for mission causes, we haven't been a "mission church" since we were chartered in 1942.
Our name actually comes from the historic Shawnee Methodist Indian Mission not far from our campus. Like much of Kansas City, we owe our name to the early indian mission efforts of Rev. Thomas Johnson. Johnson County, now a large suburban county, bears his name as does the Shawnee Mission School District and postal area, as well as Shawnee Mission Parkway, a main West-East thoroughfare on which our building is located.
Our connection to Wesleyan Theology consists of far more than our name. For years, two of the most prominent scholars of the Methodist movement, and Wesleyan-Arminian theology were active members here, and also professors at Saint Paul School of Theology. Dr. E. Dale Dunlap and Dr. Carl O. Bangs had significant influence on Old Mission and on hundreds, if not thousands of United Methodist ministers, including me.
So I am overjoyed to be honoring that Methodist and Wesleyan heritage with a series of sermons on the distinctive theology of our denomination. The Series starts February 16.
Our founder, John Wesley, believed in prevenient grace, justifying
grace and sanctifying grace or as I am putting puts it in this series, “Grace Which Comes Before Belief,” “Grace That Puts Things Right,” and “Grace Which Makes Us Whole.”
I also will be using Bishop Reuben Job’s book, Three Simple Rules:
A Wesleyan Way of Living, and giving away copies of this little gem of a spiritual resource for Christian life.
Though he has been retired for more than twenty years, Bishop Job's deep spiritual grounding and practical advice about how to live "in the Wesleyan Way" is timeless. If you don't own a copy, join us for this series of messages, and I'll give you one. It will bless you for years to come. It has been such a blessing to me!
In a world divided and filled with fear, Bishop Job offers three simple rules from John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. They are simple to list: "Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God." They are, of course much more difficult to live!
Bishop Job says, "Our world is deeply divided, highly cynical about its leadership, greatly disappointed in its structures and systems that seem so flawed, broken and corrupt..."
There is little room to argue with his analysis. We are as politically and spiritually polarized as any time I can recall. And the evidence greets us in every newscast.
I would be untrue to those, like Drs. Dunlap and Bangs, and the spiritual pioneers who went before me, if I did not share the Wesleyan message with our congregation.
One last word. I have not always been a Methodist Christian. I was baptized in the Episcopal Church and reared in a Presbyterian Church. I have much admiration for those two denominations. I also am pleased to count among my friends Evangelical clergy and laity, Roman Catholic clergy and laity, and a variety of friends who might call themselves post-Christian and post-denominational. No one has an exclusive right to claim the truth.
And still, I chose to become a United Methodist, and I choose to stay a United Methodist. In my sermon series, I'll share the reasons why. But the simplest answer is to say, I have been amazed by grace!