My memories with the Methodist church go back to when I was 5 years old in a small congregation in Cali, Colombia called "Cristo es el rey" (Christ is King). In that church I found a family, a community of love and grace. In Sunday school we learned several Bible stories followed by a delicious snack and drink. I remember as a child I loved to act and dress up, as at the end of the service the children would perform the lesson in front of the congregation. It was definitely fun to go to church.
Then over the years my family moved to other congregations of other Christian denominations. And the years went by until my parents felt that overwhelming sense of the call to ministry. A call to plant a Spanish-speaking Methodist congregation in Texas. There my life took a turn that marked my life forever.
When we arrived in Texas, we found a community that loved us without knowing us. The hugs and welcomes made us feel at home. We found ourselves in a place of acceptance, love, and brotherhood. A place without the legalistic and religious atmosphere. A place where the grace of Christ could be felt.
At every step of the process, my parents had the unconditional support of the church in their ministry, regardless of language barrier, culture, or other differences. In the church we found a home.
As a child, in the church I found refuge and family. After several years of service in the local church, I also felt the call to ministry. At age 19, having a planned career in healthcare and many years of study, I was ignoring a clear conviction. The gifts that God had placed in my life, to have affinity with people, to worship in spirit and in truth, and to serve in ministry were not for the world, but to be used for His kingdom. I felt confronted and decided to give my life to the one who first gave it for me. I could not hold back the tears and I could finally understand the words of Jesus when He said follow me. Now 3 years later, as a certified candidate to ministry I am confident and dreaming of going to seminary and becoming an ordained minister.
As a young candidate to ministry, I feel a sense of uncertainty among my peers about the future of the church. I have been taking my first steps in this vocation and it may seem that the church is in an unstable position. However, our faith is grounded on the unshakable Rock that is Christ. The truth that endures forever.
When we look at history, we can see that seasons change. In every generation there are conflicts. We have experienced reforms and divisions within Christian circles; these schisms have been the dynamic of the Church. Recall the Protestant Reformation, as well as the spiritual renewal movement in England, and so on, divisions have been present whether over independence sentiments in America, or in the face of abolitionism and segregation. There are always differences in theological or ministerial emphases, politics, humanism and the social sciences. These are realities that haunt us to this day. What does the word of God say about it?
1 Corinthians 1:10,13,17 NKJV
10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
1 Corinthians 3:18-22 NKJV
18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”;
20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours:
22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours.
23 And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
In the bible there were great movements and currents. The great leaders behind these movements were Paul, Apollos and Cephas. There are great differences among them, each one defends their worldview, and has a movement behind them. Each one claims for themselves a protagonist, an influence and an identity. They demand a choice between opposing views. However, certainly one day they will no longer be, nor will their movements.
So what is God calling us to?
God calls us to continue working responsibly. Each one, where the Lord has placed them, continue planting, watering, and harvesting as good collaborators and servants of God. He calls us to work in His work, according to the gifts He has given us, but we must remember that each one will receive their reward according to their work. Let us not allow conflicts to prevent us from fulfilling what God has called us to do.
My prayer today is for the church: I pray that we may speak the same thing, and that there may be no divisions among us but that we be perfectly united in the same mind and in the same judgment. Let us not forget that Christ is not divided, He was crucified for us and in His name, we were baptized, for Him we live, we are, and we move. God will continue to be God, and the body of Christ will continue to be the church.
Pablo A. Sarria is a candidate for ministry in the Texas Annual Conference and an independent contractor for United Methodist Communications. Contact: [email protected]