Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Question: why? Our answer: "cause."

There are certain answers that fit most any question. As an adult my favorite is "that depends." Try it out.
Which shirt (dress, etc) do you like best? "That depends" (on whether you intend to use if for dress or casual wear, on whether you wear it with blue jeans or shorts, etc.). Do you like to listen to music? "That depends" (for example, on what I'm doing). It even works for highly specific questions which you might think have only one answer. For example, is Washington DC the capital of the US? "It depends" (on whether you mean political capital, or entertainment capital, or financial capital).
"It depends" can be used to answer many questions. It is my default "adult" answer. As a kid my favorite response was probably "because" which I shortened to "cause." It works best with why questions.
Why did you hit your brother? "Cause" he hit me first, or he took my toy. Why didn't you take out the trash? "Cause" it was too heavy or it smelled too bad. Why? "Cause."
Today "cause" isn't an answer so much as it's a question. What "cause" are you living for?

I've been writing about movements and asking what it's going to take if we are ever going to see a great movement of God in our city. I believe great movements occur when people find a cause worth giving their lives to completely!

John Wesley didn't plan to start a movement, but nonetheless that's what happened. The founder of Methodism, Wesley lived at the epicenter of one of the most significant religious and social movements of the eighteenth century.

Wesley's goal was to reform a nation by spreading Scriptural holiness over the land. Wesley believed that people without Christ were lost, that sin brought destruction in this life and the next, that faith in Christ should result in loving obedience to his commands, and that by faithfully following Christ the world could be changed!

Denied access to the church, he declared "The world is my parish!" He began preaching in open fields and public places. In his lifetime he traveled almost a quarter of a million miles on horseback, preached 40,000 sermons often preaching two or three times a day, and saw over 100,000 conversions.

Wesley didn't work alone. Wherever he went he appointed local lay preachers to carry out the work of ministry. This expansion of lay preachers was one of the keys to the growth of Methodism.
Wesley's commitment to Christ and his cause never wavered throughout his lifetime. He endured opposition and derision from ministers and magistrates alike. Mobs often turned up at his meetings to disrupt his work, but never wavered in his commitment to Christ and his cause.

When Wesley was carried to his grave, it's been said that "he left behind him a good library of books, a well-worn clergyman's gown" and the Methodist church. Records show there were 71,463 Methodists in Britain and 61,811 in the US around the time of his death (1791). By 1850 Methodists were the largest Christian denomination in the US! (For the story of how this happened check out my blogs on "How the West Was Won.")

Summarizing his life and impact, Steve Addison says: "Although there were many factors that fed into this amazing expansion none were more important than Methodists' discipline and commitment to their cause." [italics mine]

Why am I writing about movements and how they come about? Because I believe a great movement of God is needed -- in our city, among our churches, in our denomination. Christian influence is waning. Our denomination is poised for decline. We can't just keep on as we are and pretend everything is going to be better.

That's why at UBA we have a cause: to mobilize churches to take on lostness. We believe that without Christ people are lost, that sin destroys but faith transforms, and that following Christ can truly change our world. We believe that the church is God's instrument in society for change. Only by sparking a movement of God that ignites our churches to take on lostness in exponentially greater ways is there hope.

You might ask, Do you really think if people follow Christ it will change the world? Based on the way I opened this article you might think my answer would be "that depends." Not this time. This time my answer is a definitive "yes."

Will it happen? Will we see a movement of God? This time my answer is "that depends." Do we have a white-hot faith? Are we committed to a worthy cause?