United Methodist Forum: Why I am United Methodist (Reto Naegelin)

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'All other things are opinions'

By Reto Naegelin
September 27, 2017

Courtesy photo of Reto Naegelin.

Courtesy photo of Reto Naegelin.

First, I am not a Methodist; I am a Christian. But if you’d like to call me a Methodist, I’ll tell you what my faith is about. These words by John Wesley are one reason why I am a part of the people called United Methodist.

So, what is my faith about? As Wesley said, we should in a few essentials be one, but all other things are opinions. This fits my deep understanding of being a representative of God in this world. Pray together, break bread together, share love together and all other things are opinions. Every human being is loved by God and has his or her unique relationship and, of course, her or his one call and way. So I am called to be in a deep friendship with Jesus to change the world with God’s love. And I am also warned to not judge other people (Luke 6:37).

As long as I can remember I’ve tried to connect people who are not, and never will be, a part of the traditional church with the love of God. In my work as a “Bluesdeacon,” I try to be a full part of a specific subculture and represent God’s kingdom there. In other words, like Jesus, full in the world but not from the world. I understand my “job” in his kingdom is to be an ambassador. An ambassador is fully a part of the nation he lives in, but his car, his home, himself (or the place he stands) belongs to another nation or kingdom. In all subcultures of our society are people who struggle with the traditional church or are searching for their place and job in this world.

For these people — I call them the “gospelopen” but nonreligious people — my heart is beating.  I just started a new movement called “eifachWiit.ch” (which means in English “simply wide”) to find, connect, empower and consult them to be a Christian in their way, at their place, with their people. Sometimes this is in opposite to the mainstream understanding what a Christian is or should be. It is not easy at all to make the traditional religious people understand that their rules and traditions do not all fit for the people in other subcultures. This is not a new issue — maybe you’d like to check the Book of Acts 11 and 15. 

Last year was horrible for me and I feel like a newborn, starting all over again. I decided to quit my job as director of the children and youth department of UMC-Switzerland to serve God and these people in full and start living a new (old) way of understanding church. As Wesley said, “The world is my parish” (yes, I would love to travel on a horseback, but it is so expensive in Switzerland!). I began to build a ministry for supporting these people and a community to connect them. The general board of UMC-Switzerland decided to support this project for the next four years. The main goal is not to bring more members to The United Methodist Church, but to reach more people by the love of God, that the world will be changed for the better. Many other denominations are really surprised that The United Methodist Church supports a project like this. Isn’t this amazing?

That is my understanding of prevenient grace. And I will be a part of such a graceful movement. I hope and pray that we as followers of Christ, called the Methodists, will be known as the people who will not condemn, but change the world by prevenient grace, loving people with heart, hands and brain to better.

If you’d like to join our movement, please visit www.eifachwiit.ch. But at this time you’ll need to use the Google translator.

Reto Naegelin is founder and leader of EifachWiit (SimplyWide), a movement for nonreligious Christians in Switzerland. He also is the author of the book "Kirchen die Menschen mögen - die Kirche anders denken" (Church how likes People - Rethink Church) and formerly director of the children and youth department of the UMC Switzerland. 

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