I was asked recently for an “elevator speech” so that our congregants could share what distinguishes the Methodist Church from other denominations (Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists, etc.). My response was that I really don’t have to go beyond sharing one word – and that word is “grace.”
That’s right! While a theology of grace is certainly a part of the message carried by other denominations, for Methodism the word “grace,” or “unmerited love,” is understood in at least three forms. Prevenient grace is God’s unconditional love we experience before we even respond to God. Justifying grace is the power of that love which lures us toward a relationship with God. Sanctifying grace is the perfecting love that is shared most commonly in the church community. But while it’s one thing to talk that talk, it’s quite another to walk that walk!
And, while I would never presume to suggest that Methodists are perfect in always expressing love through word and deed unconditionally, that remains the higher calling to which those who’ve associated themselves with the Methodist movement over the past several centuries have aspired. And, we’re somewhat methodical in learning and practicing that kind of love through the practice of spiritual disciplines.
Is it any wonder, then, that Napa Methodist Church’s journey statement is to grow in God’s grace and our vision statement is to serve our neighbor?
– Pastor Lee Neish