Recently I was asked by a 10 year old parishioner “What is the difference between Catholics and Methodists?” and I asked the facebookosphere for thoughts. Most of the responses focused on doctrine and tangy grape guice.
Little did I know that Kevin Watson offered the best response in his new book A Blueprint for Discipleship.
Watson, a United Methodist minister, hacks the traditional question of “What do Methodists believe?” and turns it into “How do Methodists believe?” By outlining the method of discipleship and discernment that John Wesley created, Watson offers support to the claim that it is not the “what” that defines Methodists, but the “how.”
In this way, Watson’s book fits nicely into “Hacking Christianity” principles and is worthy of a review.
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of Kevin’s book by being fast on the submit button. Again, yes, I can be bought.
Watson and I both hail from Oklahoma, so I resonate with many of the examples he uses in the book: the “two by two” evangelists roaming the dorms looking for sinners to convert, off-the-beaten-path idiotic biking, and such. So I felt an immediate kinship with his examples that paralleled the books’ content.
Watson articulates the “Bad News” for Christianity in this way:
- We live in a culture where people are turned off by a church that doesn’t practice what it preaches. (page 8)
- [John] Wesley saw the main challenge not as getting people to come to a moment of conversion but as helping them live out the decision to give their lives to Christ (page 38)
These admonitions support the claim that the Sinner’s prayer is not enough and that to focus on conversion as the end of a journey misses out on the lifetime of discipleship that Wesley wanted and built in the Methodist church. Read the book to read more about how the three simple rules and the church structure can help along this journey!
Finally, Watson is very pragmatic and offers pages of support organizations for “how to put faith into action,” which is super-helpful and relevant…today, at least. In 10 years, maybe not as much! As well, the Appendix shows how to use the book in small-group study.
On the concerns front, most of them will appear in a forthcoming post tomorrow about the relationship between Rules, Law, and Love. It’s not specific to Watson’s book, so it’s another post.
However, my biggest concern is Watson’s condemnation of door-to-door fearmongering “if you die today will you go to heaven” while he articulates a nicer version of the same. He articulates people losing salvation here:
- “if we accept the gift of salvation but refuse to allow God’s grace to transform our lives, we put our very salvation in danger.” (page 64)
The UMC is not “once saved always saved” because it negates free will. So Watson is correct. However, he seems to articulate that it is through apathy that we can lose our salvation too. If we “refuse” transformation, isn’t that more intentional than “slumbering?” Is the whole of Methodism that slumbers instead of allowing transformation really in danger of losing their salvation? If we refuse to accept the means of grace through transformational discipleship…do we lose our salvation? Even Wesley when condemning the Pembrokeshire people didn’t say their salvation was lost…only their discipleship.
So it’s an interesting question: does “not participating” in sanctifying grace mean we lose our salvation? Watson’s argument is fine by itself; there’s no need to resort to fear. It doesn’t take away from the book, but it does seem to be the “rough edge” of the cost of refusing discipleship that I don’t see as well defined. I’ll have to ponder it a bit more and perhaps the more scholarly Watson will dialogue with me here.
A Blueprint for Discipleship works in “Hacking Christianity” realm as it isn’t an implementation of a rigid doctrine or even a constellation of beliefs that can transform the church: simply by re-examining how we do discipleship can transform our church. By hacking the process of discipleship back to its core Wesleyan components, I found Watson’s book a pleasure to read and it gave me a challenge in my local church.
All in all, Watson sees Methodism as a slumbering giant, one without the discipleship structure implemented even though it is in our DNA. Wesley called this “the form of religion without the power.” By reclaiming the general rules and intentionally living them out in accountability groups, Watson hopes to wake the church back to faith, works, and transformation of the entirety of our lives.
BTW: Watson blogs at Deeply Committed if you want to read his blog and converse with him there.