Why I Came Back to the UMC
by Gary Zimmerli
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
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.