Revival for United Methodism
By Madeline Carrasco Henners
There is more! There is more that God intends for his church and for the people called United Methodists. John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism, were desperate for more of God, more faithfulness and righteousness demonstrated through a life of obedience, and more people to know the transformative power of God. They had front row seats to an extraordinary move of God.
Some believe that chasing revival is as pointless as chasing the wind. After all, we are told, God does what God wants, and who knows where revival will land. I see this differently.
First, God is actively and generously pouring out his Spirit across the globe and upon the United States. We simply need to look at what God’s doing beyond our own denomination. Second, we must ask ourselves how much do we want it? How much of God do we desire? Do we only want a form of godliness but no power? Are we willing to cry out fervently for God to fill us, transform us, and empower us to turn the world right-side up?
God has not changed; his power has not diminished. God’s transformative love is still as powerful as it was for Paul, Peter, Wesley, and so many others. If our God has not changed, the deviating cause is our lack of expectation and anticipation of what God can and will do to save the lost and empower the church.
The reality is that the God of Moses and Elijah, Mary and Elizabeth, has not changed in his desire to break into this world through love and power. According to Jesus, God’s work is going to increase; we are going to do greater things than Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 14:12). We need to put down the white flags of surrender as if God is presently doing less through his people than before. If Jesus tells us his work will increase, and it is not manifesting in the church, the short circuit is on our end, not God’s.
In Ephesians 3:19, Paul prays that we would “know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” To be filled with the fullness of God, we have to go beyond an intellectual knowledge of the Lord and find intimacy in the presence of God. We need to hunger for more of God and seek him with all our hearts. This is where true transformation begins. Did Jesus die on the cross so we could feel and be just a little bit better on occasion? Was it for small victory or life-changing victory? Have you settled for less than God’s fullness in your life and ministry?
This question would push John Wesley from trying to walk the narrow path under his own sincere desire to be obedient, to encountering the living God in a new way that would change the course of his life.
As we look forward to our future as United Methodists, it is worth recalling Wesley’s greatest fear. “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America,” he wrote. “But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”
This fear is rooted in what Paul spoke of in 2 Timothy 3:5 where he wrote about those who have an outward form of godliness but reject the power that could truly transform them. Wesley did not leave us in despair but reminded us that the only things that can keep us focused are “doctrine, spirit, and discipline.” The devil works hard to convince the church that revival is a thing of the past and that we need not expect God’s empowerment.
The Apostle Paul instructed us to put on the “full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Why? Because our “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
We find ourselves in a battle on many levels these days, and sometimes I fear that the battle within the church is used to distract us from the revival that is breaking out all across our country and the world. Do we need to work to uphold Scripture and our church polity? Absolutely! Wesley lists doctrine as a major component in the Methodist Movement remaining viable. At the same time, we must earnestly seek to be a people of the Spirit, fervent prayer, and holiness.
As a global denomination, we should observe the many ways God is moving and expanding his Kingdom. Within our own context, all we have to do is look at the astounding work of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural numerical growth that has been taking place in Africa within the last 25 years. As we seek answers to our own North American membership woes, disciples are multiplying in Africa.
Growth, expectancy, and passion are the hallmarks of a supernatural movement of God. These are the very elements we need in our contemporary United Methodist Church.
Charles Wesley wrote a beautiful hymn entitled, “Come Holy Ghost Our Hearts Inspire.” In verse 4 he writes, “God, through the Spirit we shall know if thou within us shine, and sound, with all thy saints below, the depths of love divine.” God has called us to usher in the Kingdom, to shine with the light of Christ, to set free the captives ensnared by Satan, and to bring glory and awe to Jesus’ name.
God is working within United Methodists around the world in radical ways, and the Lord has more for the church in the United States if we would humble ourselves and sincerely seek to know him. There is more. Cry out! Expect God to come. Revival awaits us!
Madeline Carrasco Henners is the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Luling, Texas.
Receiving the Scripture
By William R. Cannon
God’s revelation of himself and the deeds he performed are narrated in the Bible, which is the single source of our Christian faith. The so-called Wesleyan quadrilateral is not Wesleyan at all. It ought to be named the Albert Outler quadrilateral, naming as it does the source of our religion as the Bible, reason, tradition, and experience. The latter three are really interpretive tools to help us understand the contents of the Bible. They supply no revelatory material themselves. John Wesley, in the preface to his sermons, said that God gave us a book which provides us with his plan for our salvation. The Bible tells us all we need to know, indeed, can possibly know about how to be saved and win a place in heaven. He, therefore, called himself a man of one book.
The Bible then is God’s gift to us, not a book humans have composed for themselves and given to themselves for their own edification. It is his chart for their happiness and satisfaction here, and their blessedness in heaven. Therefore, to change one jot or one tittle of it, to try to make it conform to some human interest, concern, or cause is to risk damnation. We are to receive it as it is written, with open hearts and eager minds, and through it to be instructed in the ways of God. To attempt to rewrite it or in any way modify it from a racist, feminist, liberationist, liberal, conservative, or any other perspective not its own is the most dangerous of all heresies and an abomination of desolation too awful to conceive.
It is time we heed Saint Augustine’s warning against the juggling and misuse of Scripture to suit our own predisposition. “If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you dislike, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourselves.”
Bishop William R. Cannon (1916-1997) served as a UM Bishop of the Raleigh, Richmond (Virginia) and Atlanta Areas.
Living like Jesus is Alive
By Carolyn Moore
Sometimes I live more out of a sense of obligation than awe — more aware that I’ve signed onto a system than that I am a servant of a holy God who has actually sapped the power out of death and sin. I need to be reminded that systems are not living, breathing things, but Jesus is. If I’m going to recommit to that truth today, how can I live like Jesus is alive?
- Let the dead things die. Toss the old habits that are not working for you any more. Toss the old, dead rituals. Jesus is doing a new thing! Toss the things you keep wanting to come back that are never going to come back, both in your spiritual life and in the rest of your life. Let the things that have no life for you die.
- Learn to feast. Psalm 23 is a song of death and resurrection. It paints this picture of walking through a valley of shadows, on the verge of death, with a focus on the feast at the far side. On the next rise, just past the valley, there is a table set by God himself. “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.” This psalm is about how to walk through trouble with a feast mentality, rather than a spirit of scarcity.
Set your face toward that table, believing in the goodness of the One who set it for you, while you’re still in the valley. Believe the story is true even when life is hard.
- Get a resurrection mindset. That is a mindset that is fearless in the face of change. It is a mindset that believes that God has a big, honkin’ plan for your life, something much bigger than you’re thinking, and something you won’t discover as long as you’re tweaking the small stuff?
Jesus is worthy. The cross is glorious. The good news is worth believing. The Kingdom to come is an absolute assurance and the resurrection is proof. Learn to live as if this is so.
Carolyn Moore is the pastor of Mosaic United Methodist Church in Augusta, Georgia. A version of this article first appeared at Seedbed.com.