John Wesley will always be recognized as the founder of the Society of Methodist. John Wesley and his followers were first called “Methodist” because of their belief that only by living a life based on strong self-discipline could anyone find peace with God, resulting of course in peace for the soul. Even though Wesley later drifted away from this idea, the name “Methodist” became a permanent label of his followers.
John Wesley was born in 1703 and attended the University of Oxford to prepare for the ministry. It was not until Wesley was thirty-one years old that he actually experienced conversion. At this time he came to realize that salvation is only of a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and not of works. It was with this idea that Wesley started the Methodist movement.
Earlier I mentioned that his movement and his followers were first referred to as a society. Wesley made it quite clear that he did not consider his movement a protest against the church to which he and his followers belonged. This fact distinguishes this movement from the other large Protestant denominations, which had their origins based on protest against existing church bodies. Although many of his teachings seemed to be open criticism of the Church of England, Wesley and his followers believed them to be the genuine doctrines.
Although Wesley started his movement as missionary work within the church itself, it soon became clear that they would not remain with the Church of England. After being banned from first one church and then another he was finally compelled to hold his meetings in open fields. This was the start of the Methodist as a separate church, or as Wesley put it “a company of people associating together, to help each other work out their own salvation.”
Wesley describes a Methodist as one who believes that all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God, that the Word is the only and complete rule for Christian living, and that Christ is the eternal supreme God. As to opinions which do not strike at the roots of Christianity, whether right or wrong, they are not distinguishing marks of a Methodist.
In his later years Wesley claimed that the only requirement to enter into the Methodist society was the sincere desire to save souls. Although this is one of the main objectives of this movement it was certainly not the only rule. To act as guideline for everyday living, certain rules were drawn up and became known as the General Rules. These rules prohibit drinking, taking God’s name in vain, fighting and quarreling, unprofitable conversation, softness, needless indulgence, and laying up treasures upon earth. In general one should not use diversions that cannot be used to the glory of God.
The genius of Methodism is the fact that one does not have to hold so much to specific doctrines, but need only express a sincere desire to live a better Christian life.
I would like to present a few thoughts concerning a quote from a recent issue of the BEACON LIGHTS. The statement is taken from the section “News from, for, and about our churches.” Although it was entered in this section only as a fill-in because of news shortage, I feel quite strongly that this quotation deserves much more attention from us as children of God. “The more you try to keep of yourself the less there is to keep. The more you give yourself away the more there is to give. To live the abundant life you must die to yourself, be alive to Christ, and share with others. If we live this way we are born to eternal life.”
Although the preceding statement may well apply in the many situations we may find ourselves, more often the opportunity for sharing, or giving a few moments of our time out of live and concern for others, can be found when in the presence of fellow Christians.
How often don’t we simply look the other way or pretend not to notice when a friend is confused or down and out, or simply finds making friends a hard thing to do. In most cases, these young people move off by themselves; they don’t mix readily in groups and activities, but instead withdraw into a world that seldom generates a smile on their lips or a sparkle in their eyes. Their world is not one of enthusiasm and excitement, but instead, their failure to communicate and express themselves forces a withdrawal. A barrier builds up and soon they live in emptiness, a void where there is no sharing of thoughts and experiences.
Can we look at these people and cast the blame on them? Is it their lack of being sociable that creates the problem? The answer is a very definite No. Certainly their being unsociable does not encourage us who easily make friends to include them in our circle of friends. This is very evident in our schools and young people’s activities where cliques form between close friends. As a result, this creates an even greater problem for those who need friends, but find making friends a difficult thing to do.
What is holding us back? Why do we continue to neglect these individuals?
There are many opportunities in our sphere of life as Christians, especially as young people, where even a smile or just a few words would help erase someone’s feelings of being left out.
Don’t stop here; pull yourself away from the crowd. Try to avoid forming cliques where just a few individuals become so involved in themselves that they lose the whole idea of what sharing really is.
Take a bigger step, start showing more than just a passive interest in their feelings and thoughts. Encourage them to talk and relate their feelings. Become involved in trying to generate a feeling of friendship.
Isn’t it a shame that so many of us never take the time to do our part to make life a little easier, or the day a bit brighter for someone who needs encouragement. Too often we are too busy or indifferent to share a part of ourselves with someone who really needs a friend.
Many opportunities to overcome this are presented at retreats, conventions, society parties, etc. In fact, never have we as Christians been in contact with each other as much as we are now.
Reach out; take someone’s hand.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 3 May 1971