I have been a Methodist since before I was born. My great-grandparents started a Methodist church in their home in the late 19th century in Texas. About fifty years later, my grandparents donated land so that a Methodist church could be planted for a community of oilfield workers. When I was a boy, my parents helped to start a new United Methodist church in our community. I was raised in United Methodist churches, have served on staff in some of them, and continue to call this tradition my home.
However, I have not always loved my home as much as I do now. There was a time when I was tired of my home and thought it didn’t have much of the life I wanted. Disillusionment was quickly weakening my youthful desire to give my life to Christian ministry when, by God’s grace, I stumbled into what sometimes gets called the “spiritual formation movement.” I was listening to teachers from a wide variety of backgrounds (names of Baptists, Quakers, and Roman Catholics quickly come to mind) who were pointing me toward an understanding of a way of life that could be shaped around God’s grace. Although I couldn’t yet recognize why, I felt very at home in the ways they were teaching about God’s grace, spiritual practices that could open us to it, and how it is helpful to get together in groups with others who are seeking to live this way.
When I was in graduate school studying Methodist history and theology, I discovered why the spiritual formation movement felt so much like home, as I could see it as a direct echo of the early Methodist movement of the 18th century. I discovered––to my own surprise––that my home tradition offered reliable, substantive, and practical guidance (i.e. a method) on how we can arrange our lives around God’s grace in a way that increases our ability to love God and others.
One of the tasks I now enjoy most is to describe the method of the early methodists to folks who may already have deep roots in the Wesleyan tradition–whether in a group that still uses the Methodist name or elsewhere. While Grace That Grows explores this method in fuller detail for all Christians, this brief guide is a summary of what I have discovered as the meaning in my own Methodism.
This is part of the series, “Put Some Meaning in Your Methodism.”
Coming Next: Methodism and Us