A Sense of Community: The Wesleyan Way
Henry H. Knight III and Douglas Powe, Jr., in their book Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith, spoke of what John Wesley might have called the relationship journey. Central to that journey, of course, is our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus set forth in the Great Commandment (Matthew 22: 37-40), however, our relationship with other people is also significant in this journey. Joh Wesley spoke often about inviting others, however different they may be in the background, into the community in which God’s love through Jesus welcomes and sustains all, as did the earliest followers of Jesus (Acts 2: 43-47). Such a sense of community is sorely needed in our time, at global, national, and local levels. Where do we start? Why not, as suggested in the lyrics of the beautiful song Let There be Peace on Earth, “let it begin with me!”
As followers of Jesus at Calvary United Methodist Church, we can become just such a community; but first, we need to understand how others see us and how we see ourselves? Are we viewed by outsiders or even ourselves as a single community focused on Jesus Christ; or are we identified by the many factors that make us diverse in racial/ethnic heritage (in our case a “white church”), our educational backgrounds and our political perspectives (which are varied), the neighborhoods in which we live (which are quite scattered), our church practices, e.g., at what our we worship, in which ministry areas we are involved (if any), or what Sunday School class we’re in (if at all)? In any diverse congregation, such as ours, it is very possible and easy to drift into compartmentalization… analogous to the ways in which distinctive ethnic-related neighborhoods formed and still form in urban communities of diverse populations.
What John Wesley sought to create, on the other hand, was a more unified sense of community, an evangelistic community. In the words of Knight and Powe (op.cit., p. 33 & 34): “An evangelistic community needs to do more than gather for worship one day a week. It should be a community of believers committed to growing in the love of Christ together… An evangelistic community has to find ways to bring down the walls separating believers so they can ‘break bread together’.” Such a community sustains one another as members of a family, while also reaching out to and welcoming others into the community.
So, my Calvary brothers and sisters, I ask how might we become a more Wesleyan-like community in Christ? How might we “break down the walls” that separate us from one another, as well as from others in our Frederick community, and do so through our relationship with Jesus Christ? As we begin this Fall season at Calvary, please join your Church and Society Ministry Team in prayer for our faith journey together. And, let us unite in the practice of being invitational evangelists for Christ by greeting all with the love of Christ, especially those whom we do not know. In other words, let us welcome the stranger and invite them into community with Christ through Calvary and its many ministries.
Paul D. Nelson
Church & Society Ministy Team