A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, May 06, 2011

What Happened to the Methodist Impulse for Mission?

From Steve Manskar:
I attended the Exponential Conference that was held at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Florida April 26-29. I went for two reasons: I wanted to hang out with missional-minded people and I wanted to meet Alan Hirsch and Kim Hammond from ForgeAmerica. I accomplished both goals.

Exponential is the largest annual gathering of church planters in North America. Over 4000 people attended this year’s conference. The theme of the event was "On the Verge", which also happens to be the title of a new book by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson. Hirsch is the founder and director of ForgeAmerica. He is also the author of several books, including The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church. Ferguson is lead pastor of Community Christian Church in Chicago. Many of the leading voices in the missional/incarnational church movement were speakers and workshop leaders at Exponential.

The one big take away from this event for me was the fact that none of the speakers identify themselves as United Methodists or Methodists. All of them identified John Wesley and the early Methodist movement as source and inspiration for their practice of missional/incarnational leadership and ecclesiology. In other words they are employing many of the same practices of early Methodism in growing, vital missional churches/communities. Practices that were jettisoned by American Methodism over 100 years ago are helping independent evangelical and Sothern Baptist church planters start and grow vital churches.
Most of the people I met would identify themselves in the Calvinist/Reformed tradition. Very few would say they are Arminian or Wesleyan. While they likely disagree with Wesley theologically, they fully embrace his practices.

United Methodists, on the other hand, sort of embrace the theology and neglect or outright reject Wesleyan practices. Why is that? That’s a question I heard from a few of the people I met at Exponential.

When I introduced myself to Alan Hirsch I told him I am the director of Wesleyan Leadership for the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church. His face lit up and he said, "I love the Methodists! Of all the denominations you have the best missional impulse. But you've forgotten it." To which I replied, "Yes. That's why I'm here talking to you." Unfortunately time did not permit us to continue the conversation. But I suspect Hirsch would encourage me to help my denomination re-discover both the theology and the practices that produced the Wesleyan missional impulse.

You can read Steve's entire post here.

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