An Epistle to Methodist Christians in America

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This letter is from John Wesley Church in Northwest Houston, written by their Senior Pastor — Rev. Dr. Marty Dunbar. As a pastor, I am a part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed and a fellow Methodist believer in Jesus the Christ. I am writing to all who call Jesus their Lord, Savior, and the Methodist churches in America. I am a part of a church that believes God is big enough. More on that later. We are called by God — to share His Gospel of grace. We believe Jesus is the way, truth, life, and resurrection.

I greet you in the grace of God. A God who loves you beyond measure. May you know His joy — peace and love today and every day.

Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about a few things we face as believers in our Country. As brother Jude said, "I want you to live out the faith that God has entrusted once and for all to his holy people." I point this out because all churches and Christians in America have allowed ungodly speech, reactions, expectations, and teachings to influence their faith. These falsehoods have wormed their way into the Bride of Christ.  

I believe we desperately need a revival of true gospel beliefs and actions.  We must not separate the Gospel of Jesus from our actions and reactions. I want you to remember your first love, Jesus. Jesus is the Gospel! Not some set of religious ideas Jesus himself. In allowing false truths to invade your life, you have argued about faith instead of living out faith. You have bought into the anti-Christ idea of winning at all costs. Winning at all costs has caused division and polarization in the Church. Embracing the false truth that life is about only bigger, better, and our way has caused Christians to miss that God desires just you right now.

 It is such a dichotomy in life because the compelling truth of faith is everything starts with Jesus. It's not about bigger, better, or more. Remember, my friends, Jesus was the biggest loser who lived. If you gauge Jesus against the American ideal, more is better. He had no home, no retirement plan, no children, no political platform or power, and the religious establishment ultimately killed him. All because Jesus didn't even measure up to their specific ideals. Be careful what you value over God. Do not give way to false teachings!

Friends, there are so many distortions to the hopeful and beautiful message we know to be true. Hold firm to your beliefs about the validity of Jesus, but filter all truth through the lens of love. The truth is…truth is not only about what we believe, but who we believe. Our salvation does not come from aligning our behaviors to someone else's convictions. Do not shy away from convictions, but remember how you hold your beliefs is just as crucial as your convictions.    

Evil is also at play. It does exist but often gets blamed for our lack of grace and disciple-making. Take responsibility for practicing grace and making disciples of the next generation. No matter what, God is still God, and Jesus is still on the throne. Let this be a source of hope for you. Why don't we live more out of this hope? Why are we so anxious about something God has already defeated in the end?  

I think the reason is others have told us to take our eyes off the truth. So, I beg you not to live for power or pride but through the power of God. The weaker we become in the eyes of the world, the more powerful we become in the Spirit. Living in faith by the Spirit takes a tremendous amount of trust in God to live this way.
As your brothers and sisters in Christ, we know you are discouraged by the American culture and Country's brokenness. Although, what we define as brokenness is different for many. But using the Gospel as our guide, we feel the same way. We acknowledge brokenness is present but want you to be encouraged and hopeful. To encourage you, I would like to share a few things about our Church, John Wesley. I want to tell you about who we are and what we envision.

First, we exist to connect people to Jesus. We believe God is big enough to transform and shape the lives of the believer and non-believer. We believe God redeems and transforms us through grace, mercy, and love. We grow in truth by the power of God's Spirit, which equips us to connect with others to discover God's truth. Finally, we believe the love of God activated through the people of Jesus changes us and our world. We believe the most profound need of the lost and been-found believer is embracing God as love and grace. God thinks every single person is worthy of His love and grace, no matter the state of their life.

In humility, we are sinners saved by God's grace. We want other people to know this grace. Our mission isn't to convict others of their sins but to connect them to the Savior of their sins. That is our mission. Whatever distracts from the mission must be cast off or set aside. God is calling you to set aside the world's and religious distractions and embrace your first love, Jesus.

At John Wesley, we do not connect people to just a denomination, a pastor, or a ministry, but the person of Jesus. We believe three main qualities are evidence of God in a disciple's life. We think you will benefit from knowing them.  

They are…

Brother John said, In the beginning, the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. — John 1:1 

A disciple at John Wesley believes in The Word of God, Jesus!
We believe the bible and holy scriptures contain all that is necessary for salvation. These inspired words convey the promises of God. A disciple should embrace the truth that knowing the Word of God is about transformation, not just information. What a disciple learns in the holy places must be lived out in the marketplaces.

The first disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, not Biblical knowledge. They were filled with Jesus knowledge. I advise you to stop trying to win an argument based on a text others do not believe to be authentic or authoritative.  

As a fellow disciple said, Suppose your first step to evangelism is to prove someone wrong. Just stop before you start. You won't be successful. Listen — listen — it is your actions, reactions, and love lived out that will transform the citizens of America.

I understand this isn't easy. I've been working on this calling for a long time.

Jesus said, And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin and God's righteousness. — John 16:8

A disciple believes the Holy Spirit is active in our personal lives and the world. By God's grace through His Spirit, we are being shaped into the image of Jesus Christ. Although we believe a human response is essential, we can only do all things through Christ, who gives us strength.

Don't be motivated by condemnation nor motivate others to change through condemnation. Brother Paul said, So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. — Romans 8:1. The truth is that human condemnation is about the past and often pushes others away from God's saving grace. Do not underestimate God's love & grace. Here is another good word for all believers as well. Do not live in the past, for you will never reach God's future.

Brother John said For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16  

Think about this! The Father would never have sacrificed the Son, if the world and all in the world were not worthy of His love and a relationship with Him. The truth is that God does not want one person to sin, but He does meet them in their sin. This truth even applies to those who live very differently from a disciple of Jesus. Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, not when we finally got our life together.

This truth is the good news of the Gospel! People desperately need to know and want to know God is not waiting around for a future version of them to spring up, so He can then accept and love them.

God is so powerful; he loves them where they are.  

Do you hear this? I hope so!

So, don't listen to the false teachers who urge you to control the work of the Holy Spirit. They have been convinced controlling others' behaviors will save them. This makes a mockery of the power of God's grace. Instead, let God's grace save people. Let God's grace fill in the gaps.
Focus on such things. It is the way!!

Our Lord and Savior said, Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me. — John 15:4

John Wesley Church desires to tether the next generation's faith to Jesus, not to a model of the Church, time of worship, name on the sign, particular vocabulary, or culture. The false teachers have told you to protect the institutions of old; those institutions have failed you. Be alert and sober as you discern and make choices because only God is trustworthy and true. Seek His will for your life and your Church.
Friends, be a fellowship filled with people who seek to look more like the one they follow. You do this by clothing your hearts, words, and deeds in the Gospel's truth. As Brother Paul said, Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free, doesn't matter. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. — Colossians 3:10-11

Before I close, let me recap that our Church envisions and dreams of a faith-filled community with people who are connected to Jesus, growing in faith and Christ-likeness, and activated by the Holy Spirit to be world-changers.  

So what is next?

I believe all Christians must discern where God is going and follow Him.  The going and followering will look different from person to person and Church to Church. So be careful not to be divisive like the world that reacts and acts like heathens because of simple things. Instead, find unity in the Gospel and pledge to be the biggest cheerleader of other churches, even though they do things differently. They will reach people for Jesus; you will never reach.  

Also, stop tethering yourself to a denomination or the model of church. Seek only to be yoked to a living God who calls us to go into the world. As brother Andy says, marry the mission and date the model. Please — please! Do not tether your faith to a political party or politician. Your mission and ministry are more important than a political stance or ideology. Be unified in Christ and His mission for your Church.

As my Church discerns its affiliation, we will never stray from our Wesleyan Methodist doctrine and beliefs. This is who we are! The practice of our faith is birthed from scripture, interpreted by experience, reason, and tradition with a Wesleyan distinction.

In our denomination, we face division. Many say it is about social issues, but it goes deeper. We will never see a revival or true love shared if we stray from our beliefs and doctrines about the Gospel and who Jesus is. How could revival happen if we deny the very power of the Gospel?
This idea seems almost ridiculous to consider, but our denomination is struggling because of this heresy. We have teachers of the Gospel who openly profess they do not believe in the saving power of the Gospel. Other leaders believe Jesus was not really resurrected from the dead. This is a false truth that the early brothers and sisters in Christ fought against.

Sadly, we have some in our affiliation, even top leaders, who don't believe Jesus was the manifestation of God. How can we love? How can we be the Church, if some leaders and teachers in the Church do not believe in a real God of love and the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  
When people join our local Church, I ask them, Do you have faith in Christ? It seems to be such a ridiculous question, but it is not. Jesus is the way. For us to be a part of a movement of God,
we must cast off the false teaching that believes knowing about Jesus and the faith is the same as knowing Jesus and living out the faith. Our founder, John Wesley, wrote, "I felt my heart strangely warmed. And I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

I assure you our Church in Northwest Houston professes the historic Christian faith in God, incarnate in Jesus Christ for our salvation, and ever at work in human history in the Holy Spirit.
We share a common heritage with Christians of every age and nation. This heritage is grounded in the apostolic witness to Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord, which is the source and measure of all valid Christian teaching. Unfortunately, so many false teachings and false prophets in our nation continue to cultivate decisions based on modern open-source thinking and political power moves. To survive the nonsense that surrounds us, we must remain who we are to get to where we are going.  

I am so tired of the infighting that has broken our denomination. Is there a better way? I believe there is! I think our Church's future is founded in associating with healthy, like-hearted churches sharing and living the historic Gospel of grace. However, I don't want the government, denomination, or a political stance to hold my fate or the fate of our Church.

I believe God is calling us to go old school! What does that mean? Let's be a fellowship of churches who make our focus preaching and living the Gospel for the transformation of the world in Jesus Christ. Churches that profess the historic Christian faith make disciples of Jesus and evangelize the world.

Living as a follower of Jesus is not an easy task in modern-day America. Our nation needs strong churches and strong Christians. Please remember that we must not hate the very people God has called us to evangelize. Our witness is essential! If we do not evangelize, our churches cease to obey the Great Commission, and the hard truth is, our churches cease to be a church. A connecting church is a praying church because true praying churches care about the unchurched in their communities.

Let me say this directly to you for God and Country. Our Country needs sacrificial love and compassion more than ever. They need your humility and your patience. We live in a broken world, but we are not broken in Christ. You are whole in Jesus.

We send our love from Northwest Houston. We are not the perfect Church, but a church filled with imperfect people made perfect in Jesus. As we approach July 4, the birthday of America. Let us remember America is still an experiment of democratic freedom. We are not a perfect nation,
but a nation filled with imperfect people. God's plan of salvation took sacrifice, so may we be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, so we are willing to sacrifice when God calls each of us.  

I pray this letter gives you hope for the journey ahead. May you boldly love God, embrace the beauty of Christ, and live life to the fullest through the Spirit. Grace and peace, my brothers and sisters. Amen.In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Marty Dunbar
Senior Pastor
John Wesley United Methodist Church