United Methodists: Faith in Action through 200K Reasons

J.J. Whitney

When the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1784, the preachers in Baltimore decided that their task was to “reform the Continent and to spread scriptural Holiness over these Lands” (“Reexaming the Public/Private Split” in Perspectives on American Methodism, Jean Miller Schmidt).

Since our beginning, Methodists have been those who’ve overstepped the boundaries between “private and public.” It is in our DNA as Methodists to do something about the problems we find around us. We don’t sit inside the church; we go out to be the church to a world that needs us.

When I was selected to sit on the Bishop’s Extended Cabinet, we were reminded to consider that Methodist DNA. How do we as United Methodists stand out as Christians? As United Methodists in Arkansas, we began to see some of the common problems in our communities and it became very clear that childhood hunger in our state has gone on too long. While the national average of childhood hunger is 1 in 5 kids, in Arkansas it is 1 in 4. When kids don’t eat, they don’t have the brainpower to learn, they miss school because they are sick, and they fall behind in the classroom. Childhood hunger goes beyond a meal or two; it leaves that child without the resources to grow and develop into a healthy and thriving member of our community.

Since the beginning of the 200,000 Reasons Childhood Hunger Initiative in 2014, I have witnessed the impact many of our Arkansas United Methodist churches are making through feeding ministries in their communities. In 2014, the state had around 200,000 hungry kids; today we have about 176,000 children in Arkansas who are food insecure. I know that if we work together as the connectional church we are, we can make a big difference in helping Arkansas children.

Even though we are making an impact toward eliminating childhood hunger, it is the stories of transformation that have inspired me. I shared some of those stories during the 200K Reasons Vital! Plenary at Annual Conference. At Dover UMC, one teacher in the congregation felt a tug to care for hungry school kids in the summer which led to 14 kids getting confirmed in the church. White Memorial UMC decided to have snacks for kids when they got off the bus from school and then those kids started coming to church. Trumann UMC had access to land to start a community garden and today they are providing a homeless shelter through the church. And with the help of several churches in the community, Sheridan UMC is providing over 6,000 meals this summer to hungry kids.

These churches are getting outside the doors, opening their eyes to the needs, and inviting people to be a part of the church family. And through this relationship, everyone is changed. When the disciples asked Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 25, “When did we see you hungry and give you something to eat?,” and Jesus said, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you have done it unto me.” The Risen Christ is present when we get out into the mission field, when we meet our neighbors, and find a way to know them. Being involved in a transformational 200K Reasons ministry can bring on a spiritual revival for Arkansas United Methodist churches!

I’m inviting you to put your faith in action. What can your church do to let the Holy Spirit be at work in transformational ministry? Where are the resources in your congregation? Who are the volunteers in your church? Where are the hungry kids in your community? Look outside the doors for potential partners and collaborators. Go to our webpage to look at our “Getting Started Guide.” Ask your Sunday School class or small group to engage in the 200K Reasons Bible Study during the month of September.

Step out in faith.

What amazing things happen when we respond in faithfulness to the call that God places on our hearts! As people of faith, let us believe in the vision that God has given us. Let us have patience that the work we do for that vision will be brought to completion through the Holy Spirit. And, let us witness the 200,000 reasons that God works through the spirit of a people called Methodist.

BY R EV. J.J. WHITNEY – Special Contributor