What makes worship United Methodist?

In my intensive this week at United Theological Seminary, I found myself pondering the question of what makes United Methodist worship United Methodist. In what ways should worship in a United Methodist setting be shaped by our particular history, tradition, and doctrine?

I can’t fully articulate my response yet, but my answer will be shaped heavily by doctrine.

United Methodism is grounded in a Wesleyan soteriology. We believe God’s grace is at work in fallen humanity awakening, convicting, justifying, and sanctifying us. Worship is a place and time of encounter, reception, and response to that grace.

Because of our particular emphasis on the need for human response to divine grace, our worship should have a noticeable accent on the congregational response to revelation. We do not gather merely to proclaim God’s glory and be awe-struck by God’s majesty. We are brought in the worship encounter to an opportunity to cooperate with grace, to deepen holy habits, and to bear fruit. Or we should be.

I will be asking myself in coming months how the services I lead put an accent on grace and response.

I will also be looking for ways to highlight the Holy Spirit. We are the movement that birthed holiness and pentecostalism. The Holy Ghost should not be a stranger to us.

I know we can put too much emphasis on what makes us distinct and lose the small “c” catholic spirit, but I think it does help us understand what it means to be a Christian when we try to connect what we believe to be we worship.

What do you think makes worship United Methodist?


5 thoughts on “What makes worship United Methodist?

  1. John…because of other things that are happening right now (like the travesty of the Bishop Talbert resolution), your question clanged in my ears. I thought of my atheist brother in Tukwila who could care less about the difference between a Methodist from southwest Iowa, a Nazarene from Kansas City, and an Adventist from Kalamazoo, and who doesn’t really want to know, after all. If the gospel corresponds to reality (not just a sectarian preference) and if there’s any truth to the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ (beyond a fantastic proposition), shouldn’t our focus be riveted on the main thing, not on the parochial peculiarities that we puff as the importance “of the people called Methodist” against all the others? Now I have invited all the duck shooters to blast away from their blinds. But all I am trying to do here is speak my grief over what we truly are NOT, and that is a church in united in obedience to Christ.

    1. I suspect Tom Lambrecht’s recent commentary on the Talbert “resolution” speak more to your heart right now.

  2. United Methodist worship, I believe, should teach Methodist doctrine in the preaching, the songs, throughout the worship service.

    But even more, United Methodist worship should encourage the practice of Methodist doctrine, in particular the doctrine of sanctification and more particularly entire sanctification. This is doctrine founded in and unique to Methodism, and it is a very important doctrine to teach, learn, practice, progress in and live out.

    Naturally, the Person and the Passion of Jesus Christ must be at the forefront of Christian worship, Methodist or otherwise. But we Methodists have something unique to offer in Jesus Christ as The One Who sanctifies us and can sanctify us entirely through His work on the cross and in His resurrection.

    Since the Person and Passion of Jesus Christ are to be foremost, and since John Wesley taught and practiced, along with the earliest Methodists, weekly Holy Communion, which was also apparently the practice of the early Christian Church, I also believe that Holy Communion should be administered and partaken of each Sunday.

  3. I’m working on developing a worship survey and then following that having a conversation with my worship leadership team about what defines/characterizes our worship.

    “We believe God’s grace is at work in fallen humanity awakening, convicting, justifying, and sanctifying us. Worship is a place and time of encounter, reception, and response to that grace.”

    This is really helpful.

    I think too often, worship is solely about praising God. The offering is the big triumphant moment in worship… when as Wesleyans, perhaps it should be the declaration of forgiveness or the partaking of communion. If God’s grace defines our theology, then it should be an intentional part of each act of worship in a way that teaches/forms the participants.

    1. I think Wesley’s heart would sing at the thought that forgiveness and communion were the high points of worship. Bless your work with your worship team.

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