What are the unique pieces of a United Methodist Church: practice, theology, history, narrative, etc.?

It sometimes concerns me that Methodist churches often think that if we do what other churches do well, especially the growing non-denominational churches, that we would start growing like they are. This is the story years ago when many Methodist churches felt the answer was bringing a guitar into worship or putting up screens. Many times, these churches wondered why their church did not automatically begin to grow like those other churches did. (And I led a church that was one of the first in the CTC to put up screens and do contemporary worship, I believe in it, but we also had great traditional worship).  I also believe in learning from other churches as we seek to reach a changing culture with the good news of Jesus Christ.

But there are practices and beliefs that are unique to the Wesleyan core of Methodist Churches that are important, can help us reach new people, build strong churches, and create a growth culture.  We may not be able to do as well as what is working for a competitor church, but we can do what we do as Wesleyan core churches better than anyone else if we are intentional about it. 
  • Confirmation
  • Infant baptism
  • Baptismal practice, immersion and or sprinkling
  • Communion as a means of grace
  • Wesleyan understanding of grace
  • Wesleyan understanding of sanctification
  • Wesleyan understanding of personal holiness and social holiness
  • The very nature of “methodical” Christianity
     
I believe that if taught right, practiced correctly, and communicated clearly, these unique practices and doctrinal beliefs can be church growth tools.  These beliefs and practices also separate us from many other churches and mark a uniqueness that help people discover a Christian identity that we believe is biblical and rooted deeply in the history of the Christian church too often neglected by the pop culture church that is so evident in this season.  I am confident that many who attend our churches have very little idea of what is unique about the Wesleyan story. I am even more confident that the communities our churches are in don’t know.

This is a growth culture that is created.  It takes time. But in a chaotic and confusing world, it could provide a solid foundation for children to grow, marriages to strengthen, families to develop, the church to serve, and the church to grow reaching people we are not already reaching. 

Rev. Mike Ramsdell, Executive Director
Center for Evangelism, Mission & Church Growth