Developing Discipleship: A Response to the call for Moving Methodism

Dave Warnock of 42 has posted a manifesto for what he calls ‘Moving Methodism‘ (please click and read! He also has some follow up posts here, here, and here). It’s a fantastic start. The funny thing is that as I was reading his post, this post was already forming in my mind. So I would like to see this post as a somehow supporting Dave’s call to us.

It began with our Monday evening House Group on Hebrews. We discussed people’s reasons for their kids getting into Christian schools. Many parents want their kids to have the ‘Christian values’ taught to their children. I can’t comment on whether or not this works (and all church schools are not equal in their commitment to values education), but there is an element of continuity in that they are part of a routine everyday. I asked our house group the question, what if someone wanted to be taught the values of Christians as an adult (or as a child/young person who did not attend a church school)? I think we all agreed that Sunday worship once a week is only a part of it, in particular when it doesn’t appear to relate to anything that goes on the rest of the week.

In other words, we don’t have a set way of developing someone’s discipleship – many Protestants don’t, I don’t think. Maybe this is due to our traditional emphasis on accepting some propositions about the faith. Maybe there are other factors. Whatever the case, I have come to understand Christianity is lived out rather than just beliefs that are accepted. I don’t want to belittle the beliefs, but I am saying they are truths that perhaps are ‘lived into’ rather than simply accepted and then we are done with them. Our values come from what we are taught, but make little sense if left alone and not practised.

So I wonder, for Methodists already so and those who would be so, if there is any mileage in creating a Methodist ‘rule of life‘ (if ‘rule’ sounds too negative, would ‘way of life’ be better?). This would be particularly helpful to me, especially if done with others. It could be a simple way to assist people in developing personal discipleship that would lead to reaching out.

An outline could be:

  1. Daily Prayer and Scripture Reading: What form could this take? Not all Methodists would just open up the Book of Common Prayer and have a go at the daily office. We do have the Prayer Handbook. I always feel like as Methodists hymns should be involved.
  2. Worship: Finding ways to worship each week in community I think would be essential. Weekly Eucharists (for some) may be hard to come by on the circuit plan.
  3. Service: There could be two sides to this – either in a church leadership role (steward, treasurer, etc.), but also in some other form (hospice volunteer, etc.). Or it could be very loose (helping neighbours), but something to bring it a part of the routine.
  4. Community: Methodism was born in small accountability groups. Could this be a part of it?

I have no idea if this is all there should be or too much. Or if each point would be more detailed. Maybe a rule in the Methodist context wouldn’t work at all! Still, something that could be promoted, something could be given to anyone as ‘this is how Methodists live’.

Any thoughts? Comments?


13 thoughts on “Developing Discipleship: A Response to the call for Moving Methodism

  1. Will, I like those points. And, playing devil’s advocate, weekly Eucharist could be possible if people ‘church hopped’ around the circuit. Which might lead to people starting to think of the circuit as an entity that worked together. But that’s really too outrageous, I think. 😉

  2. A couple of things that struck me reading this post – the first one was about use of the word ‘rule’ as i thought we already had around 900 of those in CPD.
    The second one was about Eucharist and the possibility of weekly celebration – it could be possible if the emphasis was not so much on it having to be a minister who conducts services of holy communion. I am aware of other denominations where lay people take this and do it very well and in fact on a visit to a Baptist church to take the service recently I was asked if I would conduct the communion as well.
    I have to say I think Pam’s idea is pretty good and could be said to be a way of ‘Moving Methodism’ (as per Dave Warnock).

  3. FP, whilst I am personally a fan of having authorised lay people to do communion[1], one of the unproductive things I think is happening right now is our dogged persistence in maintaining lots of congregations of 10, 15 and 20 people who are struggling to keep their buildings open. And I’m afraid it does often feel like it’s for the sake of ‘our club’ rather than for the sake of mission. I fully appreciate the function of village chapels, but I don’t see the point of two Methodist chapels two miles apart in the same large town.

    [1] I think it’s important to train and authorise people. I’m afraid my experience suggests that local congregations are often not able to say to someone who is ‘one of theirs’ that he or she doesn’t have a particular gift.

  4. Dave: Thank you for the tip. It looks really good. I think I would look for something a little more expanded and less list-like (why I proposed the areas). Also, I think it would need some… accompanying documentation(?) to help to think through what it would mean to follow the rule.

    Pam: Anything that encourages Eucharist, I am in favour of! Getting people to see the circuit as a unit may need to be part of the ‘community’ aspect.

    FP: I used ‘rule’ because that’s the historic word for it, but also why I am open to suggestions about alternatives.

    In regards to lay presidents, I seem to be more ‘traditional’ on that, but I would be willing to put that on the table if we were looking to have a restructure. I agree with Pam, though. It would be seen as a means to avoid conversations about buildings.

  5. IMHO the critical need for discussion about lay presidency does not come from inherited Church but from Fresh Expressions.

    I agree with Pam’s comment on small congregations (although I would not want a blanket restrictions on numbers as that would also stop many new expressions of Church).

    Maybe we need to build more mission accountability to the circuit (mostly there in the structures just typically not used). Possibly in there making it a bit more straightforward for a circuit to close a Church that does not want to close but is doing no mission and has no vision.

    Remember Weekly Eucharist does not need to be on Sunday and if we are seeking a whole life faith maybe it shouldn’t be.

    Also couldn’t we consider ecumenical partnering to allow weekly Eucharist in each community once per week.

  6. Yes, I think that Fresh Expressions is the critical issue not only for lay presidency but for all manner of questions that I’m not convinced the Methodist Church can deal with – see ‘Moving Methodism’.

    Where do our structures fit in with Fresh Expressions – the circuit system, assessments, child protection (critical and not an option to ignore)? All of these areas are ones where I don’t think our structures can actually cope at all unless they are radically overhauled. We risk starting a lot of Fresh Expressions that will have no choice but to leave Methodism.

  7. How are Fresh Expressions and lay presidency connected? Perhaps most of what I have seen in Fresh Expressions has been more ‘outreach orientated’. That’s part of the reason why I started this post… as a means of looking at a pattern of life we could offer to those looking to go deeper into the Christian faith.

    I agree with Pam that if Fresh Expressions become communities in and of themselves, I find that they would be hard pressed to stay within in the confines of Methodism as it is today (though I hope there could be means of addressing accountability of all types, financial and child protection included).

  8. I was assuming that Fresh Expressions would grow into communities in and of themselves.

    We’ve already seen this happen in our District. ‘We are a legitimate Christian community. We don’t want to attend Sunday Services at High Street Methodist Church and we don’t see why Mrs. Smith, who we see as our pastor, can’t preside at communion.’

    One of the big tensions seems to be ‘Why should we start Fresh Expressions if they aren’t ultimately going to become part of our congregation?’

  9. Will my comment about rules was a little tongue in cheek – I am having some difficulty with the application of what are called guidelines in CPD but seem to be being applied as rules that are hard and fast – I am sure the conference that approved the guidelines never meant for this to happen. I am not against rules per se just worried about the application of some of them and peoples perception of them.

    In respect of keeping small chapels open I can really see the points being made and I suspect every circuit has at least one church that would be better ceasing to meet and joining with a neighbouring fellowship. I have for a number of years now visited a Wesleyan Reform Union church which was in quite a poor state from a building point of view and would almost certainly have failed our quinquennial inspections. recently I had a call from them to say they had been forced to close following an inspection by a surveyor. I expressed my sadness for them as a fellowship and the lady said it was actually quite good because they were going to join the local Methodist Church who they had a working relationship with already. I did say to her that I was quite surprised as i thought they would want to try to stay open and she said they had come to the realisation it was no longer a viable proposition – what sensible people! Perhaps some of our folk could learn from them!
    I can see a lot of sense in Pam’s last comment and can understand where the people are coming from.

  10. Pam: I haven’t had that kind of experience with Fresh Expressions. I wish I had. That sounds exciting! I, for one, am not bothered by the tension, but I wish The Methodist Church would figure out how to at least address the tension between a congregation and a Fresh Expression. It still seems to want to fit FEs under the current structure.

    FP: I understand your frustration with CPDs guidelines and rules!

    As far as small chapels, I think the problem is actually that most circuits have more than one chapel it could close – and that is increasing. It is good to hear that this congregation is making sense. I can say here buried in the comments, that isn’t always the case.

  11. Yes, I think we want to fit FEs into current structures and I think that’s ultimately a hiding to nothing.

    I also agree that many circuits have more than one chapel that is struggling.

  12. Pingback: When Realism Meets Defeatism « Ramblings from Red Rose

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