FAITH JOURNEY AND JOINING OUR CHURCH COMMUNITY
In the Methodist tradition, we lift up a Wesleyan understanding of grace in the lives of believers. To begin with, we claim that there is “Prevenient Grace” – grace that goes before our knowledge. Biblical examples of this include Moses being put in a basket and sent down the Nile; David being in a sheep field and then chosen beyond anything he had already done. In other words, we believe that you are placed in the “sea of grace,” and that faith is being called forth in all of us. Faith comes from hearing, and particularly hearing the Word of God. After every sermon, the congregation is led in prayer and asked to respond spiritually in their hearts through song and personal prayer. We also provide a Prayer Minister who will help with personal decisions and discernment.
Our children are taught God’s Word and led into the faith through Sunday School, Children’s Messages, weekly Children’s Church, and other special Christian education programs such as Preschool, Vacation Bible School, After School, Upward Recreation Ministry, and Christian-based camps. Our youth are taught God’s Word in Sunday School, Youth Fellowship, and small groups. They are encouraged in worship, led to faith conversations with adult mentors, and expected to grow in service to others. They are invited and taught by our pastoral staff through Confirmation Classes, and are encouraged to come to an age when they personally accept Christ for themselves as well. We call this “Justifying Grace,” that is, knowing that Christ died for us, and receiving this gift of new life as individuals who say “yes” to the grace God has given to us. This is usually something we “call” our youth to consider doing publicly, beginning in the 6th grade. They attend classes, but they are also personally interviewed and must share their faith statements with us. At some point, having been chosen by God since before we are even aware, we must also, in a faith response, choose God as well.
As adults who want to come to the faith, they are invited to a New Member Conversation with a Pastor and Member Classes. In these classes, we ask people about their faith journey, and hope to lead them to the next place on that journey. For many, this is their first chance to express their faith publicly and we allow them to do that through joining Sundays, when if needed, we will also baptize them, and they recognize God’s justifying grace for them. (We do not practice rebaptism, but accept whatever baptism has already taken place realizing God did not lie or make a mistake when you were placed in that “sea of faith.”)
Our Children, Youth, Young and more seasoned Adults in our congregation are led and taught that there are 3 Commitments that lead to ongoing abundant and eternal life. We understand this as “Sanctifying Grace,” by which we are made holy to be a living sacrifice of God’s grace. Here at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, our values are:
- Worship: attending worship on a regular basis
- Service to Others: offering our God-given gifts for the benefit of the church, others, and transformation of the world
- Spiritual Growth: being a part of a small group for support, prayer, Christian nurture and accountability
We will advertise new member classes on a regular basis, where our Pastors go over these Values and any other faith questions that are presented at this time. If anyone needs any more personal attention, our pastoral staff is also available to talk about this in other venues as well. For many in our church, faith has come gradually through God’s Spirit moving over time in our lives and through the ministry of the Church. For others, faith comes more like Paul’s Damascus Road experience.
God is calling the people of St. Mark’s UMC to Grow, Live, and Love as Followers of Christ.