I have been taking a Methodist History class online through Asbury Theological Seminary. As I read about the Wesley’s, Whitfield, the Oxford Club, and the people of the movement within Anglicanism, I’m realizing two congruent trends that made them successful.
Trend 1: They were passionate about their faith. They fully believed in Christ as their saviors and in the Bible as their word of Truth. Within the scriptures they learned about compassion and action – moving out to help those in need, and doing so as often and as much as possible. They preached the Good News from owned cemetery plots when towns said they could not speak on their soil, and the word got out. These Methodists believed what they preached, they lived it out, and they had a passion to live out the discipline to make it real.
Trend 2: They were rational and disciplined in their lives. The amount of responsibility each Methodist man and woman would have, astounds me. Especially those who would become the ministerial wing – they lived and breathed the study of life, of God, of the natural sciences, of everything. They were people of learning and would never have rejected progress of thought and the goodness that free will has in potential. They woke early, prayed and studied, they ministered and worshipped every day, they fasted, they fed the hungry, developed medicines to heal the sick poor, they visited prisons and started schools for orphans, then they would do watch night services and worship in covenant into the night.
Take Away – I’m ashamed of my own discipline. I feel that I work hard, but the more I hear of these men and women of early Methodism (who were modeling their lives after the early church’s apostles and ministers), I realize that my work is a drop in a bucket. Their zeal for personal holiness is something to venerate.
In books, I often wonder how much of the human side we are missing. John Wesley struggled with something that kept him from feeling completely assured of God’s salvation in his life. Much like Paul talked about a thorn in his side. I wonder at that, and perhaps on the facade he was a powerhouse, but on the inside, he was the same as any of us – working out the details of a relationship with God and sometimes the doubts of that same faith. But as a whole, this movement reinvigorated England, almost directly led to the end of the Slave Trade on the English side, reformed the practice of Christianity, and showed that despite the decline of the Anglican church of the time, there were plenty of people who wished to live out serious faith.
I think that we are in a similar time. People who want to be serious in their faith often wonder where they will belong, and perhaps are in a wandering experience. I have had that experience going from Nazarene to Pentecostal to Baptist to Non-Denominational churches and finally I find myself at home in the Methodist church.
I think that is because the historical Methodist faith is the faith of Christ in its simplest form, rationally though passionately experienced, with a well thought out action plan and Methodologically carried out. Reading the Social Principles of the Methodist church alone gives me the chills. If you’re looking for a church that is about action, read up on the Methodists. It is a living faith that continues to inspire millions around the globe today.