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Why I Came Back to the UMC

by Gary Zimmerli

We have all read the articles by people giving the reasons why they left the UMC. I left the UMC myself for a while, and my reasons are much like theirs. I certainly have no words of condemnation for those who choose to leave the United Methodist Church for greener pastures, especially to protect loved ones from the ravages of the heresies which are afflicting the UMC. But now Iím back, and Iíd like to tell you why.

You will ask, "Why on earth would you want to come back to a mess like the UMC??!" Sure, there were theological reasons for my choosing to leave my new church; there were also personal conscience and family reasons, and those were all good reasons for leaving. But there was one overriding reason why I came back, and that is: God called me back!

I come from a family which has bee Methodist for as far back as anybody can remember. I even have a great-great grand-something or other who was a Methodist circuit rider way back in the late 1700s or early 1800s. The Methodist church has been my home, and my familyís home. But is that a good enough reason to come back? I had switched over to a Presbyterian church, and I have heritage there, too. I am part Swiss (Calvin, Zwingli) and part Scottish (John Knox and the Presbyterian church). Over on my momís side of the family they were all Bible-believing Norwegian Lutherans. I could have gone that direction, too. So why come back to the UMC?

In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah was being sought by Jezebel and his enemies, who wanted to put him to death. Elijah fled into the wilderness, hiding out in a cave. A voice came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Elijah replied, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too."

What was Godís response to Elijah? "ÖYet I reserve seven thousand in Israel - all whose knees have not bowed down to BaalÖ." (Scriptures quoted from the NIV.)

How many thousands are there in the UMC whom God has reserved for Himself? Certainly more than seven thousand. The number (known only to God) must certainly be more than a million. And like Elijah, God has called me out of my cave and back among the people to be a witness for Him.

God has called me to be among the believers and unbelievers alike, the faithful and the heretics alike, the wheat and the tares alike. Certainly the leadership of the UMC has been infiltrated by heretics; they even fill many of the UMC pulpits. But in those same churches are people who are seeking, even yearning to know the Living Christ, and the heretic in the pulpit certainly isnít going to lead them to Him. That is why the Lord has called me back. A Methodist for all my fifty years, a believer since I was seventeen, I am called to lead people to the Christ I know. He didnít call me to single-handedly destroy the heretics who infest the UMC. He didnít even necessarily call me to openly oppose them and speak out against them in my local church. The Lord will take care of the heretics in His own time and in His own way. But He has called me to shepherd His people, and to lead them to Christ.

My heart goes out to the seekers in my local church. They need a pastor who can show them the things of Christ, and guide them and walk alongside them as they walk with the Lord. But what do you do when the one who is supposed to be the shepherd is really a wolf who would lead the sheep to destruction? You go and shepherd the sheep yourself, protecting them from the wolf. I am not a seminary-trained preacher, nor does my talent lie in church administration. But it appears to me that I am gifted by the Lord to pastor some of His flock here in my local church. They look to me to show them Christ, and I pray I can be faithful in doing that.

I think this is a concept we evangelicals within the United Methodist Church should seriously consider. Look at yourself, and at other believers in your church. Is there somebody who follows the Lord Jesus, whom people seek out when they want to know Christ? Are you called to shepherd a flock? I am not called to pastor a church, but I am called to shepherd a flock, one-on-one and in small groups. I am called to be a faithful witness for the Lord.

And thatís why Iím a Methodist again.



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