New UMC: Life in Christ

In the new UMC, life in Christ will be the heart of it all. This may appear to be stating the obvious, but it more radical than that. It is more akin to the ancient commitment to “live for God alone.”

Institutionally, this means that the new UMC will not settle for “being Wesleyan,” for fresh expressions of ministry, for recruiting new members, or for making converts. [1] All these are important, but they leave us short of the goal of why we become Christians in the first place The goal, simply stated, is to live the abundant life in Christ. [2]

Theologically, we are schooled for this in our Wesleyan tradition, with John Wesley himself making it clear that the marks of a Methodist were rooted in the two great comnandments. [3] Loving God and loving others is the aim. The new UMC must organize its ministries in relation to this.

I continue to believe that we have as much work to do in the new UMC as we have had in the current one, perhaps more–in the sense of being intentional in receiving, nurturing, and sending people into the world who make life in Christ their purpose. This means helping them unlearn old things while learning new ones–essentially seeing (Mark 8:18) that “the kingdoms of this world” are not the kingdom of God.

The new UMC will be a “something more” church, not settling for institutionalism (no matter how good) but pressing on toward the goal of defining ourselves and our actions incarnationally–that is, offering ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) to a world that has lost much of its interest in the church, but remains very interested in Christ.

People are still saying, “we want to see Jesus” (John 21). If the new UMC makes life in Christ our center, we will be a church (a called-out people) in this time of New Awakening whom God will use to make him known.

[1] Dallas Willard wrote about this spirit in his book, ‘The Divine Conspiracy.’

[2] E. Stanley Jones’ books ‘Abundant Living’ and ‘In Christ’ go into detail about this. I have also written about it in my book, ‘Life in Christ.’

[3] This was in one of Methodism’s foundation documents, “The Character of a Methodist” (1742). I write about it in my book,’Five Marks of a Methodist ‘

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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