- Published: May 28, 2017 May 28, 2017
The date is May 24, 1738 and a dejected John Wesley half-heartedly attends an evening meeting with some Moravian Christians on Aldersgate Street in London. Wesley’s career at this point seemed to him a disappointment. Having returned from Georgia with little success among the indigenous people, even less with the English, he struggled with his faith. The Oxford graduate, described as a fervent preacher, was no stranger to hard work and discipline, but, he longed for more from his faith. He wanted something he saw in the Moravians who sailed with him both to and from the Colonies.
In the days leading up to this fateful meeting he was astonished by a life changing encounter for another man. “Wesley led a prisoner to Christ by preaching a gospel of faith and forgiveness, and he saw a man instantly transformed. His more enthusiastic Moravian friends encouraged him to have faith and to expect transformation and assurance.1”
You see Wesley’s Anglican roots rejected such vulgar expressions of religion, instead holding to more refined displays of an intellectual assent to Christ’s teachings. The idea of submission to any king but the English King offended them. The Church of England, so consumed with itself, failed to recognize or respond to the plight of ordinary people. So, like France, England seemed headed toward revolution. Without the power of the Holy Spirit the Wesleys’ faith couldn’t address the challenges of their times.
However, as a result of Wesley’s “heart-warming” encounter, God birthed a new movement, the Wesleyan revival. When Wesley realized God’s yearning for a relationship with us, he and Charles pursued a new direction in ministry with supernatural energy. Methodist societies flooded England. Class meetings, opened to rich and poor alike, blazed the redemptive trail. Paul Lawler writes,
“As the flames of revival broke out in what was once darkness, historians marvel at how the movement of revival was sustained for decades. While there were many important factors, many credit the Wesleyan society and class meeting with making the deepest impact upon the nation.2”
Without this movement, born out of John’s presence at that meeting, there would not be a United Methodist Church. We at Ocilla and Irwinville owe our existence to the power of God’s spirit working through John and Charles Wesley. They preached the Gospel, a message still capable of transforming people and rerouting history.