By Bishop Scott J. Jones –
Serving Christ with biblical faithfulness, intellectual integrity, and cultural relevance has become increasingly difficult in my lifetime.
Nevertheless, I can repeat with joy the words of the apostle Paul: “I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.” With John Wesley, I understand that difficult passages of Scripture are best interpreted in accordance with the analogy of faith, “that grand scheme of doctrine which is delivered in the Bible.” This general theme of Scripture is the way of salvation. …
Let me remind you of Wesley’s opening words in his “Thoughts Upon Methodism:”
“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”
Three key elements: spirit, discipline, doctrine. We must maintain the spirit and by that I understand our focus on our mission. We are at heart a missionary movement. We were raised up to reform the continent and to spread scriptural holiness across the land. You should know that the first draft of our current mission statement quoted that phrase found in the first discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church. … Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and our future vitality depends on aligning all our resources on that mission.
Wesley’s admonition also calls us to maintain our discipline. Our disciplined approach to serving Christ is a hallmark of our identity. We obey our conferences. We obey our rules. In Charles Ferguson’s famous phrase, we are organizing to beat the devil. We are methodical.
Wesley’s admonition also focuses on our doctrine. We are a biblical people, and our way of reading Scripture is faithful and fruitful. Our Wesleyan understanding of the gospel, contained in our doctrinal standards is a precious resource for accomplishing our mission. …
God’s primary tool is the church, because all holiness is social – we do this in community. We do this by participating in the means of grace which are the ministries of the church – weekly worship, accountability groups, holy communion, daily Bible study, daily prayer, acts of mercy toward the poor. The Holy Spirit is aching to use us for the transformation of lives. We must embrace the gospel and our role in its proclamation and embodiment. I want to be part of a church that conveys God’s amazing grace to people in need.
I belong to a denomination where many local churches are embodying God’s amazing grace. What a privilege it is to be part that process. Thanks be to God for his gospel.
Bishop Scott J. Jones is the Resident Bishop of the Texas Annual Conference/Houston Episcopal Area.