When I’m Glad To Be Methodist

In the middle of a General Conference week, with all the built-in rancor of that event accelerated by social media commentary, it’s easy to be critical of the Methodist family.

My previous two posts have even been mild examples of such negativity.

Yet something happened last weekend that reminded me of the richness of our movement.

Twelve staff and volunteers from Good Shepherd went on a mini-mission trip to the mountains of southwest Virginia to work on home repair with the Appalachia Service Project.  We spent two days restoring windows, installing siding, and repairing plumbing. 

For the construction-challenged like me, such projects are a stretch.  Thankfully, we brought in some ringers who knew what they were doing and directed the work accordingly.

At the end of each project, we shared Holy Communion with the homeowners for whom we had worked.

But here’s what made me so glad to be part of the Methodist movement: at the weekend’s conclusion, one of our group members — someone quite new to GSUMC who has come from a lifetime in independent bible churches — said to me, “that’s the first mission trip like that I’ve ever taken.  All my others have been either street evangelism or Vacation Bible School.”

In the Methodist movement, mission trips that combine acts of mercy (siding on a house that has none) with words of grace (celebration of Holy Communion) are woven into the fabric of who we are.  Anyone who has spent any time with any level of involvement in a UMC has been on such a trip.  It’s grimy, difficult, good Methodist fun.

Yet other movements within the Christian family are so focused on soul winning that they can neglect life building. 

Our service projects should never be silent just as evangelistic missions shouldn’t neglect acts of mercy.

We Methodists need to always to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  (I Peter 3:15)

Yet Peter’s words there assume that people will ask.

Which they just might if you give up a weekend fixing up their house.