Reverend Patrick Evans, Senior Pastor

Self-examination

Something interesting happened the other day when I posted on Facebook about self-examination. I posted one of John Wesley's questions. The goal was to aid people in asking the question about themselves. Instead, people answered the question and gave their opinion of me. They gave their impression of Patrick! One person even called and asked, "Hey, are you ok?" They thought I was being needy and was fishing for affirmation. It made me laugh, but it also made me reflect on the situation. Did I word the post so poorly that people missed the point, or do we just outright miss the point of self-examination? It seemed to be a little bit of both.

I think we avoid self-examination because it is painful and it is hard work. So why do we bother? Well, glad you asked. Self-examination is critical to Christian growth. It is needed for all growth. John Wesley was clear on this matter. He gave us questions to be used in the process of devotional time. They were also to be used in class meetings.
In flying, self-examination is essential. Pilots practice to become better. We have objective standards for how we control the aircraft. I go out and practice takeoffs and landings. There are questions. Was my landing on the centerline; was it too long, too short, too hard? Then comes the corrective actions--to practice what I have problems with. Seriously, do you want a pilot flying you somewhere whose motto is: "Well, I have not bent up a plane yet.!" Or this motto: "A good pilot is always learning." Give me the person who is on the journey of constant improvement.

Yet, I have found few people are willing to do self-examination. What most people do is observe other people and say what is wrong with everyone else. As humans we project our faults onto others. I call it the coffee bar effect. I saw it often when a group of older men drink coffee together and "solve" the problems of the world. Never once did I hear one say, well, I messed up. Nor did I ever hear one say, "I have a problem with..." What I heard most of the time was, "The problem with the world is..." You see the issue. We humans rarely want to own the junk in our own closets.

In James 1:23-24 "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."

What I hear in this scripture is that the unexamined life will continue to give us the same results. We will remain unchanged. John Wesley believed that the class meetings were the core of the Methodist movement, and the activity of the class meeting was to support one another in love. In that pursuit the practice of self-examination and reflection became core.

I believe that self-examination, while being difficult and painful, will result in a more healthy life. It will lead to wholeness in heart, mind and soul. It is for these reasons I believe it is time for people who call themselves Methodist to rediscover their roots. This is our true heritage, and brave people of faith can accomplish many things for the kingdom of God. It is for this task we are called. The examination of our habits and spiritual life will bear fruit. What is wonderful about the process is that it draws us closer to God.

This is the way that leads to life... life of the individual and life of the church.

Grace and Peace,
Rev. Patrick Evans