A few weeks ago I wrote about Presbyterians. Today I want to talk about Methodists. Both of these groups possess good biblical church order and governance. Presbyterians are governed by elders (Greek, presbuteros). Methodists first developed out of a method - small house groups. This was an alternative place for converts to gather, to pray, to study the Bible, and to confess their sins. These home meetings were needed because the historical churches were resisting the revival. In fact, some Methodist pioneers (my ancestors) were tarred and feathered and driven out of town, simply for believing you could know you were saved. They were pioneers in the faith.
The Methodist denomination came about from the preaching of John Wesley and his genius for organizing small groups. Like most revivals, it was a movement before it was a denomination. Movements begin with individuals encountering God. They morph into movements as more people get on board, then organizations develop. Other revival movements had amazing leaders like Jonathan Edwards (Presbyterians) and William Seymour (Assemblies of God).
Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with denominationalism. I love the church, but I dislike what religion has done to Christianity. Sadly, many parts of the body of Christ (believers everywhere who are born again) have mostly been boxed into sectarian groups who rarely interact with each other, pray together, or witness together.
Denominations started off to protect the orthodoxy of the faith, to prevent heresy. Upholding faith in Christ Jesus or teaching historic doctrine is good, of course. It isn't that denominations are wrong, it's just that when you add an ism to it, that it becomes sectarian. "We are right! You are wrong!" Maybe so, but we still need to love one another in the Lord, right?
The fervor of a revival movement, the freshness of rediscovered biblical truth, the presence of the Holy Spirit: these things characterize a move of God in its beginning stages. In the movement stage, there is very little organization, just key men and women used by God to proclaim the message. Denominations started off with an aspect of neglected truth the church had forgotten. It could be justification by faith, the reliability of Scripture, experiencing the new birth, receiving the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, or our personal obligation to evangelism. Today, I'm watching charismatic renewal movements reveal genuine prophets and apostles. I'd love to see evangelists emerge again. Where is Billy Graham when you need him?
My late sister Carol and her husband Fred were wonderful Methodist pastors in Florida. We had many theological and practical discussions. I admired their work. I vividly recall being invited to come forward and pray in one of Fred's churches. It was a very old historic church in Jacksonville, Fla. As I stepped behind the ancient wooden pulpit - surprise! I was suddenly enveloped in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I knew instantly that members of the church had for generations prayed for whoever stood in that church pulpit, that they would be anointed by the Spirit to declare God's word. What a wonderful heritage!
Denominations today are institutions that hold assets and property and uphold fundamental doctrines. In some cases, they are still anointed by the Lord. We owe it to those pioneers of Christianity to be true to the Lord as they were, and if necessary, to claim new territory for God and His world.
If you want to learn more about Methodists, a new book will soon be out- Marks of a Movement: What the Church Today Can Learn from the Wesleyan Revival, by Winfield Bevins.
--RON WOOD IS A WRITER AND MINISTER. CONTACT HIM AT WOOD.STONE.RON@GMAIL.COM OR VISIT WWW.TOUCHEDBYGRACE.ORG. THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR.
Religion on 09/18/2019
Print Headline: Methodist Movement Came From The Preaching Of John Wesley