Discerning the Way Forward Pt. 3

I have been at JW for over seven years now. I want to repeat it; what a great privilege to be one of the pastors of this church! Over the last seven years, we have seen many changes in our faith community. Some of those changes were intentional, and others were out of our control. The reality is God is in control of our church. I am not in control of the church, a small group of people is not in control, and you are not in control of the church. Together we are the church. We influence the fruit God can accomplish through our church, but God is ultimately in control.  

I want to make a statement that I hope you consider in a profound discerning way. Denominational affiliation does not dictate the heart of our church. I am an ordained United Methodist pastor, but I believe, practice, minister, and live out my faith not because of my affiliation with the UMC. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I believe the Bible is the inspired words of God, not because of my denomination. Every day I have to wake up and make Jesus the center of my purpose. I have never woken up in my life and made my denomination affiliation the center of my purpose. Why? Because the denomination has let me down since I was a baby, but God has never let me down. The UMC is a wonderful denomination with flaws like every denomination or large organization. I have never asked for it to be perfect or flawless, but it will never drive my purpose in ministry, my heart, or the way I practice my faith.  

I think we are at a crossroads with our denomination. Our denomination is struggling for many reasons. There are hundreds of healthy churches leaving the denomination in the state of Texas and around the United States. Yes, UM churches remain in the denomination. For those churches, it is the right thing to do. The reality of the current state of affairs in our denomination is change. With change comes a sense of fear. I do not believe as followers of Jesus, we must live in fear. During his ministry, Jesus says “do not fear” more than any other phrase. I believe followers of Jesus must live by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. I also think we are called to seek to make our local church the healthiest and strongest place on earth. To remain healthy and robust, we are constantly making changes. Change is also a part of the Christian life. We are a new creation in Christ every day, as the Apostle Paul says in scripture. Denominational affiliation does not dictate the heart of our church; only Christ must dictate our hearts.

Let me tell you a little about yourself…you are a neighborhood church that has faithfully served the Champions area for 50 years. As a Methodist church that preaches grace and practices grace, you have built a place that bridges the gap for Christians from various faith backgrounds. You do not all believe the same thing outside the tenants of the faith in the historic Creeds. Your church has been an incubator of growth for faith over generations. For generations, people at John Wesley have found a faith family to connect, grow and activate their faith. I believe you are an ideal church, an example for many other churches. Your affiliation does not dictate the heart of your church.

We are a large church with many resources because of all the generous people, past and present. Our ministry history has shown we are mission-minded, always working to serve our neighbors inside and outside the church. We have global and local ministry partnerships that help beyond our reach. We choose to bring Christian education to children through JW Kids and our preschool/Christian school. We will never finish with our mission or finish discovering the opportunities to serve in the name of Jesus. Our mission does not end until He comes again.

Over the coming months, you will hear information about what the pastors and the leaders in our church might deem the best solution for John Wesley to remain the same unified, healthy Methodist church. Do not be afraid, but remain sound in your love for the Lord and your church. John Wesley needs to remain connected to our Wesleyan Methodist roots and traditions. Our church must remain a vibrant and loving congregation rooted in Wesleyan Methodist theology and beliefs.

I pray we move forward and continue to make decisions for our present and future of who we are and what we believe God wants us to become. We must remain who we are to get to where we are going.   We must remain unified as John Wesley.

In Christ,
Dr. Marty Dunbar

1 Comment

Michelle - September 20th, 2022 at 10:03am

Great post!