By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor
John Wesley was the reluctant founder of our United Methodist Church. I say he was the reluctant founder because he was clergy in the Church of England; what he really wanted was to seek change in that Church. Instead, he brought about a movement of believers who lived out God’s grace and social justice in a way that was very different from that of the Anglicans.
Roger Ross is a United Methodist pastor who is the author of Meet the Goodpeople: Wesley’s 7 Ways to Share Faith. In it, he looks at how we can take some of Wesley’s ideas and make them work today. Here are some of the early Methodist practices:
Be devoted to prayer. Wesley called prayer the “grand means of drawing near to God” and he modeled that by devoting at least two hours a day to prayer. Wesley knew that prayer deepens our connection with God. You don’t have to dedicate two hours a day to prayer, but why not try setting aside some time to talk with God when you wake and just before bed. You don’t know how to start the conversation? Ask Jim, Keith or me.
Place Everyone in a Small Group for Spiritual Growth. John Wesley realized that people were responding to his sermons, but would fall away from their faith once they were no longer in the large gathering. He discovered that when believers met in small study groups, their faith flourished and they had a deeper understanding of God’s word. Ross writes, “Such transformation of heart and life happens best when people do life together with a handful of others who become a spiritual family.”
Give the Ministry to the Laity. As Wesley’s early ministry quickly grew, he took the advice of his mother (smart guy!) and enlisted laity to help lead the church. Some were called to lead small groups, others even preached in large groups. Wesley used both men and women to be lay leaders of his church gatherings.
Use Mass Communication to Get the Word Out. Wesley missed owning a Mac by about 250 years. His mass communication tool was the printing press. He wrote and published many sermons, tracts and books. Today, we have phones, tablets, laptops and desktops to keep us tapped into all forms of social media. This provides us unlimited opportunities to spread messages of grace, peace and kindness. How our world would be different if everyone’s posts were designed to build up instead of break down; to inspire instead of insult.
John Wesley’s ideas were sound and scripture-based. They are as timely and relevant today as they were when he shared them with the believers of his day. I pray that Trinity United Methodist church will continue to grow, flourishing as we become the place God has planned for us.