Thursday, September 18, 2014


After May 24, 1738, John Wesley set out with new energy. Having his heart strangely warmed was the impetus that he needed to move forward with the Methodist movement. Some call this his "conversion", but I have a hard time calling it that when he's been a Christian all this life nearly. But, if the word "conversion" works for you, use it. Whatever you call it, it was a watershed moment in Wesley's life. He intensified his preaching by going to the coal fields. Whitfield, another preacher, influenced him and helped sell him on the idea that he had to go out where the people were. So, if you can, picture this "perfectionist" and almost "neurotic" professor learning to go out to preach to the "common" person. There were no electric amplifiers in those days; so, Wesley and others had to speak loudly for all to hear. He believed that the Church of England had become a place for only the educated and the wealthy. Wesley's England was that of Charles Dickens. There were the very poor and the very rich. John Wesley reached out to those whom the church had left out, a lesson that every church must learn over and over again. Priests of the Church of England complained that Wesley would preach in their parish, something that was strictly forbidden. So, John was reprimanded but declared that "the world is my parish". He would continue to preach and many were converted to Christ by his preaching. John's genius, many say, was in his effort to put those who were converted to Christ into active classes. Each person was put into a small group called a class. Each week they would meet with a leader who had been trained and they were supported in their faith. Questions were asked like: "How is it with your soul?" Problems were dealt with. Prayers were offered. And, each person in the class was held accountable for their faithfulness to the faith. Some say that John Wesley was the Father of the small group movement. Some even say that he led the way in establishing Sunday Schools, which taught Bible, of course, but reading and other essentials that the poor needed. Each member of the class was encouraged to go to church at the Anglican Church. John had no problem with the beliefs of the church; he encouraged them to worship and to keep the sacraments. Some credit John Wesley and the Methodist movement for preventing a revolution in England at the time with their work with the poor. Maybe we learn something from John here. Maybe we ought to be more willing to go outside our comfort zones to do what God wants us to do, to bear witness. OR, maybe we ought to remember that a large part of his ministry was with the poor. Jesus, too, gave us this mission. So, lest we become so high and mighty, remember that John, though Oxford educated, ordained and all the rest, went where he was led and to people that he might not have chosen without God's guidance. The next time you're in Sunday School or in a small group, remember that this was the genius of John Wesley. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Comments on Lectionary - Sept. 1

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