Isaiah 28:11 -- For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people.
Methodism grew out of two “Great Awakenings:” The first in England in the 1730s and the second in the United States in the early 1800s. Both awakenings were marked by enthusiastic response to the word of God preached and offered to everyday people. Unstated then but understood now the Methodist movement focused on ‘The creation of disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.’ Transformation marked the Methodist movement.
For example, Gertrude Himmelfarb, writes “[T]he miracle of modern England” is “the fact that England was able to survive the economic revolution of the eighteenth century without succumbing to a political revolution [the best example is France].” She places much of credit for this on John Wesley, the people called Methodists and the Methodist blend of Justification by Faith and Good Works.
Wesley accomplished this through field preaching, the creation of active small groups, and high personal accountability – all of which were as “strange” or “foreign” to the people of his day as in our own.
Wesley, and the people called Methodists, accomplished this national transformation by starting a movement. Wesley and his people changed a nation -- for the better.
America was also changed by Methodists – providing spiritual support in a growing foreign and strange land. Francis Asbury was one of the first two American Bishops and the most movement focused. He was tireless in his leadership of the church. Like in England, during a time of religious awakening, a good man was prepared to lead a movement.
My friend, the Reverend Doctor Bob Kaylor of Tri-Lakes UMC in Monument, CO, sees “humility, confession, repentance and surrender” as critical to our Christian experience, and I offer those four words framed the Methodist movement implicitly if not explicitly. Those words of “humility, confession, repentance and surrender” often sound as “strange” and “foreign” to our ears bombarded with the constant worship of self. Jesus words of unconditional grace sounded “strange” and “foreign” in his time as well.
I think it is safe to say that the movement part of Methodism seems to have “gone out” and our flame needs to be re-kindled. Our leadership sees our goal as: We will re-ignite a Christian movement that begins with grace, offers abundant life, and reclaims the life-changing love of Jesus Christ for ALL people. Key there is re-ignite acknowledging that the flame has gone out.
How do we re-ignite this flame? I posit it is by looking at our history. Wesley and Asbury were driven by an interest in individual souls lovingly cared for and brought back to the bosom of God. I am their theological and biblical child.
I once heard a person say about being a Texan as “I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could.” I confess, I wasn’t born a Methodist, but I got here as fast as I could. I love the Methodist movement that focuses on Grace and Faith in Action. That is exactly what Himmelfarb is driving at when she talks about Wesley’s combination of Justification by Faith and Good Works – Grace and Faith in Action.
But let’s be clear – the ideas espoused by Wesley, Asbury and Jesus that include humility, confession, repentance, and surrender – sound strange and foreign to us. Those are not words with worldly endorsement, in fact, the opposite is true. Our call is to be foreign and strange in the land in which we sojourn. There are times in this movement leadership people will look at us and say “you are not making any sense.” If our marks are humility, confession, repentance, and surrender, they might sound foreign and strange, but that puts us in good company, as Jesus sounded foreign and strange in his own time.
“You are not making any sense” is a badge of honor if we are witnessing in the spirit of Wesley, Asbury and Jesus, especially Jesus!
Selah, Pastor Dennis