A Reflection on the Irony of Methodist Denominations and the Kingdom of God

I fell in love with the work of God in and thru the Moravians in my “Church Since The Reformation” church history class in Seminary.

I know that may sound weird. But the Moravians captivated me.

To the point that I forced my wife to go with me to Winston Salem, NC to go see the first Moravian community that formed in the United States.

The struggle and imperfection of the people.

The difficulty of living in close community with one another.

The devotion to prayer (almost 100 years of 24-7 prayer) and confession.

The dedication to taking the Gospel to the whole world (before it was easy – they’d literally send family members off on boats to unknown places only to never see them again).

Hardly any of us in today’s world commit ourselves to anything like these people committed themselves to one another and to God, if we’re honest.

Then, shortly after Seminary, I fell in love with the Wesleys and the Methodist movement in the same way.

Of course, I had learned about them in that same class. But there was something about the practicality of working in a church that created the context for the principles of the Methodist movement to come alive for me.

The desire for all people to hear the Gospel – not just “preach” in a church gathering.

The intentionality of grouping people together to care for one another’s souls.

The balance of relational structures with Spirit-led movement.

Just like the Moravians, it took my breath away. How God was at work in and through people in such normal and yet powerful ways.

And these movements captured me because the Spirit who is in me resonated with the same Spirit in those people. The same Spirit that has always been ushering in the kingdom of God.

Thru the elders and craftsmen of Israel.

Thru the prophets and poets of the Old Testament.

Thru the disciples and apostles of the New Testament.

Thru the priesthood of all believers of the Church today.

The love I felt that drew me toward these movements was the very love of God for His people, actually for all people that He wants to come to know His love.

And this is why, after “swimming in the Methodist waters” for the last nearly decade, I’ve grown even more confused by the “denominationalization” of the kingdom of God.

Yes I just made up a word.

And this isn’t just true of Methodists. I have friends in so many denominations that started as kingdom movements and yet now, let’s just be honest, aren’t.

So we must ask ourselves: Why are denominations consistently the place that kingdom movements go to die or become dormant?

And then secondly, and potentially more importantly, if thats true, then: Why do we keep creating the same things expecting different results?

So many Christian leaders continue to say they want to be a part of something like these kingdom movements that happened outside and alongside the established religious structures of their day, but then attempt to do the work of kingdom movement within the structures that have consistently not allowed for kingdom movement. And then are confused when it doesn’t work.

It’s either ironic or insane. I can’t decide which anymore.

It’s what I did for nearly half of my life. I kept holding out hope for “renewal” or “revitalization” or “reformation.”

But over the last 7 years or so I’ve been asking myself: Is that really how resurrection happens though?

So for the last several years I’ve made it pretty clear that I think God is doing something he’s done before, if people are willing to follow Him into it.

Something He did in Acts.

Something He did in the Monastics.

Something He did in the Moravians and the Methodists and other modern kingdom movements.

He’s calling entire communities of people into renewed relationship with Him and one another.

Not for the “purpose” of revival or awakening. Just simply for the purpose of His love.

Not with a “plan” of creating the next big thing or fast-moving, multiplication model. Just simply with a plan to devote themselves to one another and to Him.

Prayer and presence will mark these communities.

Hospitality and hope will be their commitment.

Sacrificial love and sustainable life rhythms will become their pious work.

Hidden acts of service and homes filled with God’s presence will permeate all they do.

The thing that unites them won’t be organizational, nor performative, nor attractional, nor visionary.

It will be incarnation.

Real life with one another, with God.

They will work and play full of the Spirit.

They will raise kids and grandkids and other’s kids together in the faith.

They will work thru conflict and practice forgiveness as a means of grace.

They will listen and give generously and celebrate God’s creation.

They will be a kingdom movement. Whether they have a name or logo or website or building or bylaws is irrelevant. It will barely cross their mind if at all.

Because they will have one another.

And they will have God’s presence.

And after all, isn’t that what this whole Advent of the kingdom we just celebrated is all about anyways?

God with us.

God among us.

God experienced through our relationships with one another in the midst of our every day life.

That’s incarnation.

That’s a kingdom movement.

It’s simply beautiful.

And it captivates the depth of my very soul.

Leave a Reply