Last week a group of agency leaders and bishops gathered in Charleston, South Carolina to discuss the strategies of our connectional work in our mission. As most know, we have zoomed in on our collective work in increasing vital congregations throughout the church as they carry out mission and ministry in our four areas of focus. This mission and ministry fruit will be known as we create new places for new people and invite 1,000,000 new disciples to profess their faith in Jesus the risen Christ. It will be known as we partner with 400 communities engaged in ministry with the poor through our annual conferences around the world. The fruit will be known as we invite 3,000,000 Christian disciples to make an outward commitment to their experience of the inward gift of grace. And of course, our efforts in joining hands to save 1,000,000 children through life-saving interventions is an important way we live out our transformed lives.
As we engaged in this conversation, someone raised the theological question about our church striving to do good works, and forgetting why we do this work to begin with. Everyone paused and started engaging in the conversation about whether or not we knew how to “BE” the church, rather than being stuck in the “DOING” part of our church work. It reminded me of the “Salvation by Faith” sermon Wesley wrote in 1738. It is part of a series of sermons introducing Wesley’s “new gospel,” proclaiming that salvation is by faith alone.
He writes: For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God’s hand. ‘All our works thou, O God, hast wrought in us.’ These therefore are so many more instances of free mercy: and whatever righteousness may be found in man, this also is the gift of God.
Wesley continues to make the case that there is nothing in our will or in our being that warrants God’s salvation on us. But, rather it is our faith in Christ that overrides all our actions and inactions. Instead it is about being and becoming new creations through our faith in Jesus. It is about inviting everyone to discern where God is calling and responding out of our love for God and our deep desire for living with God’s grace in us, through us and in-spite of us. So, how can we BE the church as we strive for these strategic directions together? How can we communicate that everything originates from that glorious and wonderous gift of grace? It wouldn’t hurt us to re-read “Salvation by Faith,” and find ways for us to live as people transformed by the power of Jesus Christ who are reaching new people, developing Christian leaders, engaging in ministry with the poor and striving for abundant healt for all. This is who we are. This is what we do as people saved by God’s grace through our faith.