I currently serve in an area of the country in which Southern Baptists, and Southern Baptist theology, tend to dominate. Even people who have been raised Methodist are sort of infused by it, including pushing for full immersion over pouring, and not practicing infant baptism, along with other theological issues.
That's okay to a point as it's our job to educate our congregations on the differences between Methodism and baptists, and what we stand for and what they stand for, and I do think there are significant differences that are important. But a large part of the problem is that a number of Methodist clergy are closeted baptists, and some aren't even closeted, and that doesn't make any sense to me.
We are Methodists, we follow the teachings of John Wesley, and that should mean something. There is something significant that we have to offer that is different from what people will hear if they attend the baptist church or the Church of Christ. We have a different proclamation of the gospel, we have something to offer people that is different from those churches, so why don't we proclaim that?
Here is the biggest problem with us trying to be baptists (or in New England it was trying to be UCC), we're not any good at it, and they will kick out butts, and are kicking our butts. If people have to choose between the original and a watered down knock-off they are normally going to choose the original, and the same is happening in our churches. People aren't choosing the other churches because they offer more "programming" or whatever it might be, they are choosing them because we are not offering them another option.
There is something very unique and I believe very important in what we as Methodists can offer than is very different than other churches. I'm really tired of hearing people, including ministers, saying there is little difference between baptists or lutherans or methodists. There is a difference, and when we begin to proclaim that difference I think we will in turn see a difference. If we all want to be Calvinists then we might as well merge and get it over with. We're not all the same, nor are we Calvinists and we need to say how Arminians are different than Calvinists.
We as Methodists have something unique to proclaim, something unique to offer, and a different way of not only proclaiming the kingdom but of working towards that kingdom and we need to start claiming that and proclaiming it. We need to stop being Southern Baptists because we're not any good at it and their kicking our butts, and instead we need to start being Methodists.
But, and here is a significant problem, could many of our pastors actually proclaim what makes us different from the others?