- Published: February 26, 2017 February 26, 2017
John and Charles Wesley grew up in the Church of England where their father served as a Parish Priest. The 18th century church was in decline as it had become a somewhat closed culture where prosperity and wealth set the tone. Priests trained in some of the finest academic institutions in the world, as did John and Charles, where the study of Greek and an understanding of theology superseded the Gospel of mercy and grace.
Tension in England grew as the struggle escalated between the haves and have nots, where no real middle class existed. Pressure began to build in both England and France as the privileged ignored the plight of ordinary people.
John and Charles didn’t see this either. Attempting to fulfill God’s call they formed a “Holy Club,” to make themselves “righteous.” They continued their human efforts until John graduated Oxford and came to Savannah, GA. Wesley failed in America and headed back home nearly broken. On both voyages to and from Savannah, Wesley got to know some Moravian Christians. They impressed John when they calmly rode out vicious storms. John saw something different about their faith.
In May of 1738, Charles encountered something more and about a week later John attended a Moravian gathering and discovered another powerful attribute of faith. His heart warming experience unleashed the power of the Holy Spirit. This led John and Charles to form Methodist Societies, Classes and Bands, to introduce others to Christianity. Most came from outside any normal Church of England path, which usually restricted membership to those born into the church.
The course the Wesleys chose ran headlong into an established church, where they rejected John as Pastor and Preacher. He took his message into the streets, to the fields, places he loathed, yet he understood God’s love needed go get to God’s customer. The Church of England thought of themselves, the members, as the customer, or the consumer, the people whom the church served. But, all around them people died never hearing the Story.
John Wesley famously said, “The world is my parish,” meaning his message knew no boundaries. His “customers” lived all over, need not be born into any certain class, they included any who would listen and who “feared the wrath to come.”
Sometimes we fall into that kind of thinking, too. We see the church as ours, as our building, as an institution we own, by which we are served. A place to meet, to teach our children about being “good,” to enjoy the choir, even the preacher on occasion! But ours to do with as we please.
But it’s so much more. The church is “us,” the people who know what it means to be caught in sin, delivered from its clutches, who experience the love, mercy, and grace of God through Jesus Christ. We are the body of Christ in the world today, the incarnation of God’s love. Christ is the head, the One who calls us, who gives us direction, and empowers our efforts.
The customer remains the same, the outsider John and Charles sought, the sinners Jesus came to save.
So, the question might be, “How’s business?”