Friday, October 31, 2014

The Father of Methodism

When I started thinking about my list of "soul shapers," John Wesley (1703-1791) did not immediately come to mind.  He should have  been the first since no one has had more of a shaping influence on my spiritual life than this 18th century Anglican who is known as the Father of Methodism.  The first Bible verses I learned were in a Methodist Church.  That same church provided a resting place for my Father.  Its baptismal waters and preaching called me to faith in Christ.  I attended colleges shaped by Wesleyan theology and was prepared for ministry in a Methodist seminary.  For over forty years I have preached from its pulpits.

For a long time my soul has been shaped and nurtured by the spiritual fruit of the man named Wesley.  He came to 18th century frontier Georgia full of hope and left overcome by failure.  Once home he made his way to a meeting on Aldersgate Street where his heart was made "strangely warm" by a deep and profound awareness of God's forgiveness.  With extraordinary organizational skills he created a spiritual movement on lay preaching and small group ministry.  Out of his heart came theological expressions of grace, freedom of choice, the new birth, assurance, and Christian perfection.  And from his heritage came forth a strong emphasis on spiritual discipline and order.  Unlike many of his day, he called forth faith in Christ to the poor, the uneducated, the broken and thrown away members of his world.

Even as there is no way to truly measure his significance and impact on our world, neither is there really any way for me to adequately measure the shaping influence of John Wesley and his legacy on my spiritual journey.  I would not be who I am apart from the spiritual influence set in motion by his faithfulness.  I would not be one striving toward who God is calling me to be without the nurture and care and guidance given to me by the church which God brought forth from the work of Wesley's heart.  Always I have been grateful to be one in a long line of Wesley's preachers.

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