“As I listened to you preach I thought to myself, ‘Isn’t this a Methodist Church? This guy’s gonna get himself in trouble!'” a pastoral friend told me after visiting a service where I preached about the Holy Spirit in a rather Pentecostal fashion.
I’ve gotten comments similar to this over the years. While I’m certainly not the only Pentecostal-ish Free Methodist pastor out there (not by a long shot), I felt alone enough around the time I got ordained that I developed an elevator speech to explain why I still made sense as a Free Methodist. Historically, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was very Pentecostal himself. If you read through his journals you’ll see him write about the times the Holy Spirit knocked people to the ground during his services; his conversations with demons as he cast them out of people; how he and many others had been healed from physical pain; how he once raised a dead man back to life; how he believed the people who told him that they had experienced dreams and visions of Jesus; and much more. So for those who think me to be a strange Free Methodist, I simply make them aware of our history. For if any Methodists are concerned about me because I’m part-supernaturalist, then they should also be concerned about their founder and their own tradition/history.
When Paul was brought before a council for judgment, he gave his own elevator pitch in attempts to get the council to trust him and the gospel he preached. He reminded them that he was a Jew just like them, and that his mentor had been Gamaliel, a prominent rabbi of the time. Therefore, Paul had trustability in the council’s tradition and so they should listen to what he had to say—and so they did. Indeed, they listened to the testimony of how he got saved and even heard him out on the things Jesus had said to him via supernatural means. They eventually cut him off once he proclaimed that Jesus had sent him to reach the non-Jewish people, but up until that point, he had their attention.
When we can prove our thinking and actions with tradition, we are able to help people trust us better. Many people in the church today are very unaware of their own Christian history. When we learn how to teach our past well, we’re able to help people see more clearly what’s going on in the present.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 21:37-22:16 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net. The main picture comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom.