May 16-17 covenant gathering to focus on lasting revival

By Amy Forbus Editor Aldersgate. The word may have multiple meanings for a United Methodist, such as the name of a beloved camp or church. Its significance comes from the experience John Wesley recorded in his journal on May 24, 1738: “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” A group of United Methodists hope the word “Aldersgate” will signify present-day revival, too. A Gathering of the Aldersgate Covenant will take place May 16-17, 2014, in Leawood, Kan., at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. This 20-hour prayer gathering, which is open to everyone, has roots in a meeting that occurred 20 years ago. Aldersgate CovenantIn 1994, a group of United Methodists first met as the Aldersgate Covenant. Among them were two future episcopal leaders: Scott Jones, now the Bishop of the Great Plains Area, and Gary Mueller, now the Bishop of the Arkansas Area. According to aldersgatecovenant.org, they gathered “to celebrate signs of hope in the United Methodist Church, address the loss of membership, resources and confidence in our denomination, and discern how to engage a world increasingly indifferent to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Bishop Mueller says the Aldersgate Covenant’s first goal was to unify the United Methodist Church around a common mission. The group ultimately proposed to the 1996 United Methodist General Conference a mission statement drawn from Jesus’ own words in Matthew 28: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ.” Adopted by that General Conference, it was amended in 2008 to the mission statement the UMC knows today, “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” 20 years later In 2013, discerning that the time for true revival is upon us, some original members of the Aldersgate Covenant called together a steering team to plan another gathering. It includes a variety of laity and clergy who already are working to shape the time of focused worship and prayer. Bishop Mueller says that this gathering will focus on calling United Methodists to spiritual and missional renewal; following where the Holy Spirit leads; and experiencing and sharing the love of Jesus. “True revival does not result in an event or institution,” he said. “We need to begin with a notion of what we’re having revival for: depth of commitment, passion, engagement… renewed relationship with Christ, commitment to God’s mission in the world.” Unlike many church conferences and events, the Friday night portion of the gathering will be near-continuous worship. Saturday will conclude with a covenant service, which Bishop Mueller will lead. Serious and lasting He cautions against any preconceived notions of the word “revival”—there will be no tent with a sawdust floor—and emphasized that every faithful United Methodist should consider attending. “The kind of revival we’re talking about is this renewed depth of faith, a closer relationship with Jesus, openness in being led by the Holy Spirit, renewed commitment to God’s mission in the world,” he said. “And it leads to the kind of discipleship that is truly engaging people, and truly trying to bring transformation in lives, communities and the world.” Mueller noted three things this concept of revival is not: “It’s not an event. It’s not hiding from the realities of the 21st century. And it’s not walking away from justice and mercy.” “We’re looking for people who are serious,” he said, “but also people who somehow have been prodded. They don’t know where they are, but somehow God has prodded them to come check this deal out.” The group plans to post information on lodging options and other details at www.aldersgatecovenant.org. Look for updates there between now and early February.