Why Can't Methodists Stay in Their Own Lane?
When I lived in the big city I had many friends who attended other churches. Sometimes I’d go with them to a special concert or maybe a conference. But for the most part we all stayed in our own lanes.
Why did we feel the urge to stick within our own church circles? We weren’t religion snobs—we all had friends who were Catholic, Presbyterian, etc. Goodness, we even had friends who were (gasp!) Church of Christ. Maybe we believed once we picked our churches, we shouldn’t stray. Maybe we were afraid if we spent too much time with other denominations, our pastors might confiscate our membership cards and banish us forever. But honestly I think we all felt the churches we’d chosen met our needs. So why would we dip our toes into other religious waters?
Flash forward to my move to Grand Cane, Louisiana. John and I joined Grand Cane Baptist Church, just like his parents and grandparents had done so many years before us. It had everything we needed—Sunday School, Bible study, a church service with excellent preaching, men’s ministry, an annual women’s conference…why would we dip our toes?
But small town residents don’t think like that. Why not? Well, I’m not sure—no one can give me a straight answer. All I know is they definitely encourage dipping!
The Methodists invite the Baptists to their Monday lunch and Bible study. Bridge afterwards is optional but definitely encouraged. The Baptists invite the Methodists to their Wednesday night fellowship supper. Men and women of all walks of life go to the men’s coffee on Thursdays and the women’s coffee on Fridays. On and on it goes.
At first I found it strange…unsettling even. Who did these Methodists think they were? Why were they showing up at our Wednesday night suppers? Who told them to come? And why did they keep inviting us to their church? What was their agenda? Did they have plans to take over our church? They needed to shape up and do things the way the big city people do. These people needed to stay over on their side.
Mu husband told me that many years ago neither the Baptist nor the Methodist church had full time pastors. Everyone attended both churches. How is that possible? Surely both sides were breaking some major denominational rules! John said not at all—on the first and third Sundays everyone gathered together at one church to worship. On the second and fourth Sundays everyone gathered at the other church. What happened on the fifth Sundays? Maybe someone flipped a quarter. Maybe they met in the middle of the street. But they all met together.
Oh sure, I liked the Methodists. They were good people. I counted many of them on my list of dear friends. But they’d chosen a different path. So why would they want to come to our church? Okay, maybe they weren’t trying to convert us, or take over our building. But they had to have some ulterior motive, right?
Eventually my big city brain changed and adapted to small town life. At that point I finally got it. I understood there was no subversive takeover in the works, no hidden agendas. They were Methodists, yes..but first and foremost they were people. People who enjoy community and connection. Oh, and good food!
I think the rest of the world could learn a thing or two from small towns. If we stopped looking at our differences and putting people into categories so we can define them, I think we’d see some changes in our thinking. Then maybe we could see the similarities, and realize we have more in common with each other than we like to admit.