Winfield Bevins has an ebook out via Exponential on the lessons from the early Methodist movement.
Here's my endorsement:
Marks of a Movement is a concise account of the characteristics of the Methodist movement and its application for today. I’ve read a lot of material on John Wesley and the Methodists, but this eBook has some valuable surprises. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of the greatest movements in history.
You can download it for free via Exponential.
I should be working on a book, not blogging. But listening to a podcast this morning I was struck by this fact.
Q. What is the most racially diverse and integrated denomination in the United States?
A. The Assemblies of God.
We're not just talking about a denomination having separate Latino, African-American and white churches. We're talking about the individual churches themselves being diverse. People sitting in the pews together. A diversity of leaders on the same team.
Here's the surprising thing, the least racially diverse churches are the politically correct old mainline — Episcopalians, and United Methodists.
Then I made a connection.
I'm working on a book and revisiting the explosive growth of the Methodists on the American frontier. African Americans flooded to join the Methodist movement and helped shape its character.
The Methodist on the frontier were not like the Methodists of today. They were wild. They expected to experience God in powerful ways. And they did.
Here's an example:
I went on to church, and the brothers and sisters prayed around me. Then, like a flash, the power of God struck me. It seemed like something struck me in the top of my head and then went on our through the toes of my feet. I jumped, or rather, fell back against the back of the seat. l lay on the floor of the church. A voice said to me, "You are no longer a sinner. Go and tell the world what I have done for you."
An ex-slave, from God Struck Me Dead.
Eventually the Methodists settled down. But Pentecostalism was their grandchild via the Holiness movement. Long story.
So let's drop in on the birth of Pentecostalism, and of the Assemblies of God. We're in an old deserted Methodist church building which has been used as a stable. There's a black man down the front with his head in the packing crate used for a pulpit. William Seymour (above) is the son of former slaves and he's crying out to God for the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes in power, the wild scenes look very much like those Methodist camp meetings on the frontier.
The most shocking thing was that the meetings were racially diverse and a black man, blind in one eye, is leading. That's the founding identity of Pentecostalism and the Assemblies of God.
Out of Azusa Street, Pentecostalism quickly became the most expansive missionary movement of all time. There are over half a billion people in charismatic, Pentecostal and related movements globally, and they are young.
There seems to be something about power encounters with the Holy Spirit that remake people's identity. Especially those who are excluded or marginalized in society. If you have encountered God directly and powerfully it changes you. You may be a janitor and the son of former slaves, but God can use you to launch a missionary movement. If you have the Spirit, you have equality and dignity regardless of what others may think, That man next to you has the Spirit, he's a different color, but he's your brother.
Let's go to Columbia where Elizabeth Brusco studied the impact of a Pentecostal conversion on family life. She found conversion transforms the life of the family as men stopped gambling, drinking, committing adultery and taking an interest in the family. These men were now least likely to commit domestic violence.
What's this got to do with racism? I think there's a reason why the early Methodists, the Pentecostals, and the Assemblies of God lead the way in creating communities that are racially integrated.
It's their commitment to the gospel and their experience of the Holy Spirit. Domestic peace and racially reconciliation are the by-products.
I'm always on the look out for case studies of dynamic movements.
In this episode, I talk to Dave Price, researcher and author of Turning the World Upside Down: Learning from The Primitive Methodist Movement.
There is a first time for everything. A report of a declining mainline theological seminary that has turned away from theological liberalism and returned to a high view of scripture and the historic Christian faith.
Not long ago, United Theological Seminary (UTS) in the Dayton, Ohio area was just another declining, has-been mainline seminary, facing ominous financial hardships, dominated by Scripture-demoting theological liberalism, and reflective of so much of what was wrong with its shrinking sponsoring denomination, the United Methodist Church.
Today, the school is a very different place than what many alumni experienced. It is now explicitly committed to a high view of biblical authority, “the historic Christian faith,” “the cultivation of holiness,” and “the renewal of the church.”
Applicants for faculty positions must be explicitly committed “to the historic Christian faith.”
God has clearly been blessing this new direction under the leadership of President Deichmann. A recent headline from the Dayton Daily News summed up the seminary’s new situation: “Rebounding from Crisis, United is Among Fastest-Growing Theological Schools in U.S.” United’s tripling of its enrollment in the last four years, with now over 600 students, along with the rapid expansion of its faculty, is all the more remarkable in light of the decline at other official United Methodist seminaries.
Dr. Deichmann describes the turnaround as “a miracle.” But it is also important to note her own impressive administrative leadership of making tough financial decisions in the face of a budget crisis she inherited, guiding the school through a nearly complete turnover in faculty, and being a clear, articulate voice for the biblical, historic Christianity to which the seminary is now committed.
What's the lesson? It took a crisis and an exceptional leader to turn a declining institution around.
Movements are renewed by making an innovative return to tradition. Well done Wendy Deichmann, you beat the odds.
On May 7 the United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops will visit the Mexican border to advertise their political support for “immigration reform.”
The United Methodist church favours open borders and the guarantee of all government benefits to all immigrants immediately.
Yet less than 1 percent of United Methodists in the U.S. are Hispanic. Not quite 1 percent are Asian. Despite all the political rhetoric from bishops and other church bureaucrats, the church, like other declining old-line Protestant denominations, remains over 90 percent white Anglo, unable to reach new ethnic constituencies.
Juicy Ecumenism asks,
What if United Methodist bishops and agencies, instead of staging political statements on immigration, actually focused on welcoming immigrants to United Methodist churches? And what if they kept in mind that growing Hispanic churches are evangelical, Christ-focused, Bible believing, and usually charismatic or Pentecostal?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if United Methodism were better known for evangelistic success among immigrants instead of ineffective, empty political rhetoric?
From the American Spectator on the impact of Margaret Thatcher's faith on her politics.
Margaret Thatcher was forever the thrifty Methodist grocer’s daughter of Grantham. Her father was both lay preacher and Conservative Party stalwart. They attended the Methodist church several times every Sabbath and heeded many then Methodist strictures against theater-going and dancing. Her family’s social life was enmeshed in the church’s sewing meetings, youth guilds, and missions work, as she recalled to the Catholic Herald 35 years ago.