John Wesley led a renewal movement around the nations of the British Isles that eventually became the Methodist Church. A firm believer in empowering lay leadership, he enlisted those people he met who showed leadership and preaching ability to become “Mr Wesley’s Helpers” – lay preachers of the day who formed the backbone of the movement.
Ever the autocrat, Wesley created a list of 12 rules that all such helpers were expected to follow. Read through the below list, and see which rules you think should still apply to leaders and preachers today.
What are the Rules of an Assistant?
- Be diligent, never be unemployed a moment, never be triflingly employed, never while away time, spend no more time at any place than is strictly necessary.
- Be serious. Let your motto be, ‘Holiness unto the Lord.’ Avoid all lightness as you would hell-fire, and laughing as you would cursing and swearing.
- Touch no woman. Be as loving as you will, but hold your hands off ‘em. Custom is nothing to us.
- Believe evil of no one. If you see it done, well, else take heed how you credit it. Put the best construction on everything. You know the judge is always sup¬posed to be on the prisoner’s side.
- Speak evil of no one, else your word especially would eat as doth a canker. Keep your thoughts within your own breast till you come to the person concerned.
- Tell everyone what you think wrong in him, and that plainly, and as soon as may be, else it will fester in your own heart. Make all haste, therefore, to cast the fire out of your bosom.
- Do nothing as a gentleman: you have no more to do with this character than with that of a dancing master. You are the servant of all, therefore…
- Be ashamed of nothing but sin: not of fetching wood, or drawing water, if time permit; not of clean¬ing your own shoes or your neighbours.
- Take no money of any one. If they give you food when you are hungry, or clothes when you need them, it is good. But not silver or gold. Let there be no pretence to say, ‘we grow rich by the Gospel.’
- Contract no debt without my knowledge.
- Be punctual: do everything exactly at the time; and in general do not mend our rules, but keep them, not for wrath but for conscience sake.
- Act in all things, not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel. As such, it is your part to employ your time in the manner which we direct: partly in visiting the flock from house to house (the sick in particular); partly, in such course of reading, meditation, and prayer, as we advise from time to time. Above all, if you labour with us in our Lord’s vineyard, it is needful you should do that part of the work which we prescribe at those times and places which we judge most for His glory.
You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those who want you, but to those who want you most.
(Minutes of Conference, 29 June 1744, revised 1745)
Have any of these rules become obsolete? And which of these rules do you think are most relevant for Christian leaders to follow now?
For more on John Wesley, click here for info on how to order your copy of A Blueprint for Revival: Lessons from the Life of John Wesley.
Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s an experienced leadership trainer, author of biographies on John Wesley and William Wilberforce, and is also passionate about praying for London. He enjoys good films, good food, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.