When it comes to music, I'm rhythmically challenged. I can't simultaneously clap and carry a tune. I'm incapable of fulfilling the psalmist's call to "Let them praise his name with dancing ..." (149:3, NIV). For the sake of those around me in church, it's best I stand still so no one gets hurt.
But I value the rhythms in my life, especially those in step with God’s Spirit.
Rhythms can be personal and organizational. The Wesleyan Church (TWC) has a rhythm of looking back and ahead. General Conference contributes to this rhythm, helping us to remember our foundations and what is central to our shared faith even as we discern and lean into where God is leading.
These rhythms help shape our identity as TWC, a combination of actual and aspirational, our current reality and who we’re becoming. We live and move forward by faith, giving God glory for what is seen and believing for what is yet to be seen. We’ve not arrived but enthusiastically embrace the kingdom adventure of being included in what God is doing!
Our desire to be a Kingdom Force reflects this actual and aspirational combination. Empowered by the Spirit to be witnesses as the church was born, God has always catalyzed his people to be a movement — multigenerational, multiethnic, multieconomic, women and men, lay and clergy, from everywhere to everywhere. TWC statistics reflect this reality — we have more multiethnic churches and women in ministry in all leadership roles than ever before.
But we continue to aspire for the Spirit of Jesus to create a movement through TWC that more fully makes us an expression of his body.
How is our identity defined?
It may begin with our name. My full name is Wayne Keith Schmidt, Jr. — when people see or hear it, they know I’m named after my dad. Sometimes this prompts them to ask about my father.
We are The Wesleyan Church. “Church” reminds us that we’re the bride and body of Christ … he is our head. Our roots go back to Pentecost. We’re “Wesleyan” — we’re named after John Wesley. Our primary identity is the church, uniquely within that body we are “Wesleyan.” We’re not a very big part of it, and we resist any propensity to boast that we’re its best part, yet we want to steward well the unique identity God has entrusted to us to make the contribution he has called us to make.
We’re defined by who we’ve been — our history. Our DNA is this intriguing and sometimes complex mixture of being connectional and entrepreneurial — denominational but barely institutional.
We put a lot of effort into connecting or “conferencing” — officially in “conference” settings in local churches and districts annually, in North America and the International Conference of TWC quadrennially. We often characterize ourselves as a family; so these conference times feel a bit like family reunions.
We are entrepreneurial; innovating new approaches to discipleship, birthing a wide variety of church plants, and creatively seeking to bring the transforming presence of Christ to our widely differing community contexts. Our unity (connection) does not mean conformity — we don’t all look or think alike. Unity amid entrepreneurial diversity reminds us our unity is not a matter of sameness, but an answer to Jesus’ prayer that we may be “… one … that the world may believe” (John 17:21). That phrase was on the platform banner when The Wesleyan Church was created in 1968.
We’re defined by what we believe — we’re evangelical but not generically so. We’re a holiness church embracing an optimistic grace. We praise God for forgiveness and confess our sins to experience the cleansing from all unrighteousness provided to us through Christ. We also confidently affirm that the Spirit who provides forgiveness also provides freedom. By his grace, and through our spiritual formation disciplines with the transformation only God can bring about, we’re holy people.
We are defined by our behavior — we’re a notably generous people. We seek to be gracious, exhibiting what Wesley called “perfect love” by loving God completely (heart, soul, mind, strength) and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
The list could go on.
Identity is important.
When her kids were young and they lived in Eastern Europe, Global Partners Director of Learning and Leadership Nikki Nettleton asked her children daily, “Who are you? Whose are you?” They would answer, “We’re God’s.” Nikki replied, “Don’t forget … Live for him.”
Wesleyans, who are we and whose are we? We’re God’s.
Don’t forget your identity. … Live for him!