During his lifetime John Wesley established over 500 societies around the British Isles. In modern language, that means he planted over 500 churches, across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
He had numerous frustrations with them throughout his ministry, but the following five were recurrent traps they often wanted to fall into, and that he continually steered them away from, to ensure they remained as vibrant church communities:
1.Stopping field-preaching: This was always Wesley’s number one fear for the societies. If preachers no longer had the heart to get up early enough to preach the gospel message to workers, then how did they expect to continue to grow as a Christian movement?
2.Stopping band meetings or class meetings: Without the fellowship and accountability these meetings provided, individual members could quickly become cold in their relationship with God.
3.Stopping church attendance: Wesley believed that taking holy communion regularly was an important means of grace. He also believed in unity within Christianity, and therefore wanted his followers to remain faithful in Anglican church attendance.
4.One preacher staying too long at one society: This would result in the congregation becoming bored of the sermons, and would therefore reduce their missionary zeal.
5.Not preaching perfection: Without this goal to live towards members could plateau or even go backwards in their spiritual growth.
“Leaving Bristol after preaching at five, in the evening I preached at Stroud; where, to my surprise, I found the morning preaching was given up, as also in the neighbouring places. If this be the case while I am alive, what must it be when I am gone? Give this up, and Methodism too will degenerate into a mere sect, only distinguished by some opinions and modes of worship.” (Journal, 15 March 1784)
The five frustrations could be summarised and modernised as;
- no evangelism,
- no system for discipleship,
- no partnership with other local churches,
- no variety in preaching/ teaching, and
- no vision for what a mature disciple looks like.
Are any of these relevant to your church? Which are you in most danger of slipping into? Where do you most need to heed the wisdom of John Wesley?
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.