(An Open Letter to United Methodists from Pastor Paul Lawler)
As Christ-following United Methodists, many have expressed deep concerns for the direction of our denomination for some time. This Saturday will bring positive news for our future as a denomination. Thousands will gather all over the United States for the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Move – On Mission with God Gathering. Whatever part of the country you reside in, there are over 60 sites to choose from. It is not too late for you to sign up and attend.
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” – A. W. Tozer
Close your eyes for just a minute as if you are getting ready to pray. Before you open your mind or your mouth to pray, what do you perceive God to be?
What is He like? Is He warm, welcoming, smiling? Or is he distant, cold, and impersonal with principles you are supposed to follow?
Is He a lot like one of your parents who made you feel like no matter what you did, you could never measure up? Or is He laid-back, saying “Hey whatever, just do whatever”?
I went on my first mission trip when I was twenty years old. Coming home from a short two weeks spent sharing the love of Christ and news of the gospel, I knew I had discovered an aspect of Christian life I’d been missing. But I didn’t know how to keep living the “mission trip life” back at home. It seems impossible, among the whirlwind of daily responsibilities, to find the time or the place to be a witness among the lost. It’s easy to forget, and it’s easy to be timid.
I could definitely tell you how many ceiling tiles were in the ceiling of Lakeview Baptist Church, my childhood church home, along with how many window panes caught the sun streaming in through the windows every Sunday morning. As a child, I diligently filled in every “O” on the bulletin and drew masterpieces on the offering envelopes stuffed in the pew rack alongside the miniature pencils. The choir sang beautifully of old rugged crosses, but I could not recount one word the pastor spoke. It floated over my head and my understanding Sunday after Sunday. Even though I was present, I was sitting (and sometimes laying) on the periphery of a worship time meant for adults.
Words are not simply sounds – words have real power. God spoke the world into being by the power of his word (Hebrews 11:3), and we are in His image in part because of the power we have with words. Words do more than just convey information. The power of our words can actually destroy a person’s spirit, or even stir up hatred and violence. Of all the creatures on this planet only man has the ability to communicate through the spoken word. This is a powerful and unique gift that God has given us.