Statue of John Wesley by Paul Raphael Montford, in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Adam Carr, Wikimedia Commons.

Distinctive Emphases

Methodism began because of John Wesley, his brother Charles, and others’ desire to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. Together they pursued “holiness of heart and life,” which Wesley described as “universal love filling the heart, and governing the life” (Advice to a People Called Methodist). The dual emphasis on both what we believe and how we live, is essential to United Methodism today.

Living our faith

Following this teaching, United Methodists believe our faith is demonstrated in the way we live. Jesus used the metaphor of a tree. He taught, “Every good tree produces good fruit… Therefore, you will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-20). The book of James similarly states, “Faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity” (James2:17).

Wesley offered the early Methodists three General Rules to help us live out our faith. Do no harm is the first rule, followed by do good. The final rule is to attend upon “all the ordinances of God,” for which Wesley explains are things like worship, prayer, and fasting.

United Methodists today also have The General Rule of Discipleship stated in the Book of Discipline: “To witness to Jesus Christ in the world, and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit” (2016 ¶1117.2). We do these things as individual Christians, as congregations, and as a globally-connected denomination, not to earn something from God, but to participate in God’s ongoing work in the world, in our lives, and in the lives of others.