United Methodists come together because they are answering God’s call to discipleship in Christ Jesus. The purpose of coming together in church is to enact with each other the teachings of Jesus, to model our lives upon his life and ministry in this world, and to be mutually accountable and supportive of one another as we all seek to grow in grace as individuals and as communities. Discipleship is constitutive of community — of church — for United Methodist Christians.
It is difficult being church together. The History of Christianity is filled with a progression of conflicts over right teaching, the authority of the church and its leaders, and the proper shape and character of a Christian life. These things are important. Sadly, though, these conflicts often distract from the example of Jesus and his life and ministry in this world. Instead of an athletic contest to see who can best exemplify God’s love as demonstrated by Christ, Christians waste large amounts of energy on arguing with one another. It is discouraging to those within the faith and its various traditions. It is wholly off-putting to those ‘outside’ the church who are trying to decide whether they see anything of value in Christianity.
What keeps me going as a Methodist Christian is the question I ask myself with regularity. It is a question, in fact, that I ask my students when I teach — Do God and the world still need Methodists?
God has a life-story; and so do all those whom God gives life. We meet one another, as God’s creatures, in the overlapping narratives of our lives. We, likewise, engage with God in the narrative of the Divine life. We are all making history together. We all participate with God in creating that history moment by moment. Our mutual experience of each other is the living of that history.