The current reality and the future of Methodism (and all of Christianity) will be global in nature.

The past years in the United States has made us weary of globalism. We have seen how supply chain issues during the pandemic have pointed out the fragility of our global infrastructure. We have seen jobs shipped over seas and the detrimental effect it has had on industries like steel as thousands of workers are displaced.

Yet, our legitimate worries about globalism should not make us weary of the global nature and mission of the church.

Here is brief survey of the Holy Scriptures with my emphasis added in bold.

  • In Genesis 22:18 (CEB) God tells Abraham, “All the nations of the earth will be blessed because of your descendants, because you obeyed me.”
  • In John 3:16 (NIV) Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
  • In Acts 1:8 (ESV) Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
  • In Revelation 7:9-10 (NKJV) we see what future worship looks like, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'”

Recently a group of scholars gathered together to discuss the future of my stream of Christianity, Methodism. The key note speaker, David F. Watson, concluded his address by focusing on the global nature of the future Methodism.

One way in which change has already come to the church is in its global nature. As we think about this peculiar Methodist future, we must bear in mind that Methodism is now a global phenomenon, not just a Western one. This is a positive development, but it complexifies things quite a bit. The character of Methodism is already being shaped by people all over the world. It will be crucial that we enter into ongoing conversations about how core Methodist ideas such as holiness, sacramentalism, and accountability translate into different cultures across the globe. I have had the privilege of teaching Methodists in places such as Kenya, Cuba, Vietnam, Mexico, and Indonesia. Others of you have experience with Methodists in many other parts of the world. There is great need for both theological education and academic theological discourse in places outside of the Global West, and we need to be involved… 

As Philip Jenkins told us years ago in The Next Christendom, the church’s center of gravity has moved east and south. We in the West are the outliers. We are no longer the head, but the tail.  We are a rich tail, but a tail nonetheless. After centuries of Western dominance, the bulk of the Christian world is now in Africa and Asia, and Pentecostalism is making massive inroads in Latin America. 

We in the West are going to have to recognize that the Next Methodism will not be primarily a Western or white phenomenon. And as scholars of the next Methodism, we are going to have to learn to speak and write and listen across cultures. We would do well intentionally to collaborate with people from the majority world. It cannot simply be the colonial model of us teaching them. They will also teach us. We are going to have to make our work accessible to people who make less than $100 a month.

I can not say this emphatically enough. To shy away from the global nature of the church is to the detriment of God’s Kingdom and your own understanding of it. I know there are sincere concerns about globalism. To tie those concerns to the global nature of the church is misguided and incorrect. They are simply two different things.

To shy away from the world mission of God out of worries of globalism is the equivalent of giving up running 5k races out of concern of critical race theory being taught in schools. The two sound the same but are completely different.

Will your church continue to be a part of the global mission of the church? I pray it does and will continue.

A recent article by the Associated Press had the headline United Methodist bishops acknowledge breakup is imminent. It’s true that hundreds of churches in the United Methodist Church (UMC) will be leaving over the next year. The question is what will they be leaving to?

I wanted to have a page I could keep straight in my mind all the options out there. Here is a list of my predicted most likely landed spots.

#1 The Global Methodist Church

The majority of churches that leave the UMC and join another denomination will join the Global Methodist Church (GMC). The Global Methodist Church was started on May 1st. It is similar in theology to the United Methodist Church. The largest difference will be in the accountability of clergy and bishops. There are other significant differences however.

You can view this video where I interview Jay Hanson. Jay in on the Transitional Leadership Team of the Global Methodist Church

#2 Become an Independent Church

Many churches will become an independent church with a Wesleyan Theology. They may join another group later on. There could be more churches that become independent that actually join an official denomination. Large churches like The Porch Community Church in Valdosta, GA and Christ Church in Fairview Heights, IL have decided to independent.

Christ Church has a great video on what it means to be an independent church.

#3 The Free Methodist Church

One of the largest UMCs in Alabama, Frazier Memorial announced they were leaving the UMC and joining the Free Methodist Church.

Here is what Encyclopedia Britannica has to say about the Free Methodist:

Free Methodist Church of North America, also known as Free Methodist Church USA, Holiness church in the Arminian-Wesleyan tradition that emphasizes the doctrine of sanctification, a post-conversion process of spiritual and moral growth through prayer, Bible study, interaction with fellow believers, and simplicity of worship and lifestyle. The church was organized in 1860 by the Rev. B.T. Roberts and several associates after they were expelled from the Methodist Episcopal Church, which they had criticized for not maintaining the original standards of Methodism. 

#4 Wesleyan Church

From their website:

The Wesleyan Church is the result of an 18th-century revival, two 19th-century movements, and a 20th-century merger . . . strong roots which sustain a 21st-century vision for spiritual transformation across North America and around the world.

In 1843, when the silence of America’s churches on the issue of slavery was deafening, a new denomination arose – an abolitionist denomination. Led by Orange Scott, the Wesleyan Methodists called for an immediate end to slavery. Wesleyans even planted anti-slavery churches in the South before the Civil War and were active in the Underground Railroad as well.”

12 Stone Church is a large Wesleyan Church in Lawrenceville, GA

#5 Anglican Church of North America

The Anglican Church of North America was formed out of the Episcopal Church in the USA in 2009. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was an Anglican Priest in England.

Popular authors like Winfield Bevins have added value to many Wesleyan pastors across denominational lines. I am sure some will look at what it means to align with Anglican Church in North America.

Honorable Mentions

There are a few dozen other denominations someone could pick from. I imagine it may come down to having prior relationships to individuals in these denominations that may make them attractive. These may not be likely but I would not be shocked to hear of a church aligning with these denominations.

  1. The Church of the Nazarene
  2. African Methodist Episcopal
  3. International Fellowship of Bible Churches
  4. The Church of God (Anderson, IN)

So if your church is changing, what will your new church’s name be? I actually wrote about that. You can read it here.

Screen Shot 2022-02-28 at 10.35.40 AMI love the start of lent. “Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection…Christians focus on relationship with God, growing as disciples and extending ourselves, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of ourselves for others.”

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday emphasizes two themes: our sinfulness before God and our human mortality.

Now my go to story of lent is a personal tale of humor but also trauma that happened where my family, some cousins, and I nearly died… yet the past few years we do not need to hear stories to be reminded of our own mortality. We have seen this played out with the covid 19 virus.

This past week brought war to Europe in a way we have not seen since World War II. The U.S. Secretary of Defense has ordered the deployment of 3,800 Fort Stewart soldiers to Europe. This is in response to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Phylis Smith, a teacher on the base, was talking about listening to kindergarteners processing how their fathers got on a plane but they were not allowed to go with their dads.

Once again we are reminded of our mortality and how fragile the world can be.

So what do we do with an awareness of our mortality? In Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World the author examines how fitness culture is becoming a new religion. They use a company called Soul Cycle as an example. They say: 

“It’s selling a double ideal of purification: one simultaneously characterized by material improvement … and by spiritual transcendence. You’re not just peddling on a bike to lose weight. You’re peddling to become a better person”

Yet as Jesus followers, we do cheer on being good stewards of our bodies… we also acknowledge how real purification, salvation, is not found in what we can achieve.

In Jesus prayer book, Psalm 51 says

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,  and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,  and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned,  and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

5 Indeed, I was born guilty,  a sinner when my mother conceived me.

6 You desire truth in the inward being;  therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;  wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

10  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Tonight, as we prepare for the season of Lent, I am inviting you to remember your own mortality. Remember that from dust we came and to dust we will return. 

But we do not just reflect on our brokenness to think of ourselves as bad… we do so to better understand and receive the joy that is offered in Christ.

In the same way that the psalmist confesses their sin they also ask God to change them. To create a clean heart. That’s what God does. That’s what God wants to do over lent and for the rest of your life… and that is what God is doing in your life right now.

Over the next 40 days I have a challenge for you. I am going to give you a pocket cross as you leave tonight. I invite you to put this in your pocket until Easter. And I want this to serve as a reminder of God being with you each and every moment (If you are reading this and would like a pocket cross please let me know).

And then I also invite you to a moment of having ashes imposed on your forehead and then for a moment of prayer and reflection. 

Ashes are a biblical sign of repentance and can be traced all the way back to Genesis. Using ashes for lent can be traced back to the 10th century.

You will hear me say either “repent and believe the gospel” or “from dust you came and to dust you will return”. Regardless of what phrase you hear, I invite you to pray at the altar or return to your seat for prayer. I encourage you to pray for global peace, examine your life and where God may want to change your heart, or pray however the Lord leads you.