West Side UMC
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
WHERE THE SPIRIT IS ALIVE

Being a Methodist

BEING A METHODIST:    FROM UMC WEBSITE
Our Christian Roots
United Methodists share a common heritage with all Christians. According to our foundational statement of beliefs in The Book of Discipline, we share the following basic affirmations in common with all Christian communities:
Trinity
We describe God in three persons. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are commonly used to refer to the threefold nature of God. Sometimes we use other terms, such as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
God
  • We believe in one God, who created the world and all that is in it.
  • We believe that God is sovereign; that is, God is the ruler of the universe.
  • We believe that God is loving. We can experience God’s love and grace.
Jesus
  • We believe that Jesus was human. He lived as a man and died when he was crucified.
  • We believe that Jesus is divine. He is the Son of God.
  • We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that the risen Christ lives today. (Christ and messiah mean the same thing—God’s anointed.)
  • We believe that Jesus is our Savior. In Christ we receive abundant life and forgiveness of sins.
The Holy Spirit
  • We believe that the Holy Spirit is God with us.
  • We believe that the Holy Spirit comforts us when we are in need and convicts us when we stray from God.
  • We believe that the Holy Spirit awakens us to God’s will and empowers us to live obediently.
Human Beings
  • We believe that God created human beings in God’s image.
  • We believe that humans can choose to accept or reject a relationship with God.
  • We believe that all humans need to be in relationship with God in order to be fully human.
The Church
  • We believe that the church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today.
  • We believe that the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • We believe that the church is “the communion of saints,” a community made up of all past, present, and future disciples of Christ.
  • We believe that the church is called to worship God and to support those who participate in its life as they grow in faith.
The Bible
  • We believe that the Bible is God’s Word.
  • We believe that the Bible is the primary authority for our faith and practice.
  • We believe that Christians need to know and study the Old Testament and the New Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures).
The Reign of God
  • We believe that the kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and future hope.
  • We believe that wherever God's will is done, the kingdom or reign of God is present. It was present in Jesus' ministry, and it is also present in our world whenever persons and communities experience reconciliation, restoration, and healing.
  • We believe that although the fulfillment of God's kingdom--the complete restoration of creation--is still to come.
  • We believe that the church is called to be both witness to the vision of what God's kingdom will be like and a participant in helping to bring it to completion.
  • We believe that the reign of God is both personal and social. Personally, we display the kingdom of God as our hearts and minds are transformed and we become more Christ-like. Socially, God's vision for the kingdom includes the restoration and transformation of all of creation.
 
Sacraments
With many other Protestants, we recognize the two sacraments in which Christ himself participated: Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Baptism
  • Through baptism we are joined with the church and with Christians everywhere.
  • Baptism is a symbol of new life and a sign of God's love and forgiveness of our sins.
  • Persons of any age can be baptized.
  • We baptize by sprinkling, immersion or pouring.
  • A person receives the sacrament of baptism only once in his or her life.
The Lord's Supper (Communion, Eucharist)
  • The Lord's Supper is a holy meal of bread and wine that symbolizes the body and blood of Christ.
  • The Lord's Supper recalls the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and celebrates the unity of all the members of God's family.
  • By sharing this meal, we give thanks for Christ's sacrifice and are nourished and empowered to go into the world in mission and ministry.
  • We practice "open Communion," welcoming all who love Christ, repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another.
The Lord's Supper (Communion, Eucharist)
  • By sharing this meal, we give thanks for Christ's sacrifice and are nourished and empowered to go into the world in mission and ministry.
 They placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action
 
Grace
Grace is central to our understanding of Christian faith and life.
Grace can be defined as the love and mercy given to us by God because God wants us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it.
 
Prevenient Grace
Wesley understood grace as God’s active presence in our lives. This presence is not dependent on human actions or human response. It is a gift—a gift that is always available, but that can be refused.
God takes the initiative in relating to humanity. We do not have to beg and plead for God’s love and grace. God actively seeks us!
 
Justifying Grace
God’s grace alone brings us into relationship with God. There are no hoops through which we have to jump in order to please God and to be loved by God. God has acted in Jesus Christ. We need only to respond in faith
 
Conversion
This process of salvation involves a change in us that we call conversion. Conversion is a turning around, leaving one orientation for another. It may be sudden and dramatic, or gradual and cumulative. But in any case, it’s a new beginning. Following Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, “You must be born anew” (John 3:7 RSV), we speak of this conversion as rebirth, new life in Christ, or regeneration.
Following Paul and Luther, John Wesley called this process justification. Justification is what happens when Christians abandon all those vain attempts to justify themselves before God, to be seen as “just” in God’s eyes through religious and moral practices. It’s a time when God’s “justifying grace” is experienced and accepted, a time of pardon and forgiveness, of new peace and joy and love. Indeed, we’re justified by God’s grace through faith.
Justification is also a time of repentance—turning away from behaviors rooted in sin and toward actions that express God’s love. In this conversion we can expect to receive assurance of our present salvation through the Holy Spirit “bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).
Sanctifying Grace
Salvation is not a static, one-time event in our lives. It is the ongoing experience of God’s gracious presence transforming us into whom God intends us to be. John Wesley described this dimension of God’s grace as sanctification, or holiness.
Through God’s sanctifying grace, we grow and mature in our ability to live as Jesus lived. As we pray, study the Scriptures, fast, worship, and share in fellowship with other Christians, we deepen our knowledge of and love for God. As we respond with compassion to human need and work for justice in our communities, we strengthen our capacity to love neighbor. Our inner thoughts and motives, as well as our outer actions and behavior, are aligned with God’s will and testify to our union with God
We’re to press on, with God’s help, in the path of sanctification toward perfection. By perfection, Wesley did not mean that we would not make mistakes or have weaknesses. Rather, he understood it to be a continual process of being made perfect in our love of God and each other and of removing our desire to sin
 
Faith and Good Works
United Methodists insist that faith and good works belong together. What we believe must be confirmed by what we do. Personal salvation must be expressed in ministry and mission in the world. We believe that Christian doctrine and Christian ethics are inseparable, that faith should inspire service. The integration of personal piety and social holiness has been a hallmark of our tradition. We affirm the biblical precept that "faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (James 2:17).
Nurture and Mission of the Church
For Wesley, there was no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness. In other words, faith always includes a social dimension. One cannot be a solitary Christian. As we grow in faith through our participation in the church community, we are also nourished and equipped for mission and service to the world.
Why does the church exist? According to Matthew’s Gospel, the risen Christ made it clear: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (28:19-20).
 
Based on this “Great Commission,” our United Methodist Church has stated its purpose: “The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs”
 
Spirit is not far off but present with us, wanting an open and loving friendship with each of us—not only friendship but commitment as well
Through worship, baptism, Communion, Bible study, prayer, and other means of grace, we’re strengthened for ministry.
So the mission of our congregation is to make disciples. This is a four-fold task….We could abbreviate our mission as one of welcoming-worshiping-nurturing-sending.
 
We reach out to people and welcome them into the church
We relate people to God and help them deepen their relationship with God
The second task in making disciples is to offer people opportunities for growing closer to God.
Third, our congregation’s mission is to nurture people of all ages in the Christian faith and to help them practice the disciplines of discipleship. The church exists not to serve itself but to serve the world.
We support people in their ministry
As members of the congregation, we’re sent into the community to serve those in need and to make our community more loving and just. . . . So the congregation exists, in part, to surround and support each member in his or her ministry.
 
We take time to call, to visit, to write, and to ask how we can help. We also take the time to respond.