... at IWU. Here's the written version of the introduction:
The calendar says that today is “Wesleyan Day,” which no doubt struck fear into the hearts of any of you who looked at the calendar. All it really means is that most of the prospective students here today are Wesleyans. And you’ll be happy to know that I don’t plan to talk about what a Wesleyan is today—well, not exactly.
Yes, I am a Wesleyan. But I suspect that most of you out there are not. In fact, you may not have a clue what in the world a Wesleyan is. Is that a cult? Kind of like Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses? (And, by the way, my apologies to any Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses who might be out there). In fact, I even wonder if those of you out there who are Wesleyans are quite sure what a Wesleyan is.
And of course, what does it really matter anyway? There was a time, long ago in a far away place, when there might have been some people in my tradition who actually thought we were about the only ones going to heaven. (In fact, when I was in high school, I used to be amazed to think that I just happened to be born into the Christian group that had it all right. I mean, how likely is that?!)
I’m a little wiser now (I hope). I still think we’re pretty close to having it all right (smile), but I’ll have to admit that Wesleyans are probably wrong on at least something, even though we don’t know it. And I think you’ll all agree with me that there will surely be Christians “from every tribe and nation”—and church—in the kingdom of God.
Every church—I think—has a flavor and, just maybe, a specialty. Non-denominational churches have flavors too—they just don’t announce what it is on their church signs. Most non-denominational churches are basically Baptist or charismatic.
Baptists, I think, really “get” the security of believers in Christ. God’s not waiting around the corner just looking for an excuse to shoot you. Now, as a Wesleyan I might think they take it a little too far, but I agree that true believers shouldn’t worry about their salvation.
The Reformed Church and Calvinists really “get” the sovereignty of God, His complete control over everything and the fact that He is what everything is about. Pentecostals and charismatics really get the fact that God still does miracles and that His power is available right now in our lives.
I’ve asked myself what the special flavor, the superpower of the Wesleyan tradition might be--Free Methodists, Nazarenes, Methodists, Wesleyans. I think it’s actually quite similar to the Pentecostals. We are optimistic about God’s power to make you morally pure, holy, actually righteous right now and not just in the kingdom to come. You can actually resist every temptation that comes your way, by God’s power.
Not only that, but God often works through us to change the world, right now—not just when Christ returns and forces every knee to bow. I know the idea of world changers can be a little cliché and is even the subject of a course that must not be named. But I believe that there are periods of history where God actually does change the world to be more like the kingdom. That he does sometimes help us do away with slavery or give women equal status to men.
I’ve also realized that different Christian groups have particular passages of Scripture that speak more directly to them than to others. For example, I bet the last part of Romans 8 really jumps out at Baptists—nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. It’s not that I don’t believe this as a Wesleyan. It just don’t hear quite the same thing when I read it.
I’ve asked myself what a good Wesleyan passage might be. Obviously you all would agree with the verse too. But I tried to think of some that might jump out at me given where I’ve come from. Certainly I can think of others, but a couple really jumped out at me. One is Colossians 3:17—“whatever you do in word or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The other one, where the title up on the screen comes from, is in 1 Corinthians 10:31—where the title of today’s sermon comes from: “Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”
Like I said, I don’t want to talk today about what a Wesleyan is, today—not exactly. I want to talk about what really gets me excited. You know the things that get your professors going. You know the questions to ask when you want to get them off topic. This morning I want to talk about some things that get me excited. And, yes, I am a Wesleyan.