Methodism 102

John Wesley’s journey to a deeper relationship with God continued for several months until May 24, 1738. That evening Wesley went to a meeting of the Moravians in London. I will let Wesley describe the event that took place that evening. 

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Considered a pivotal moment, Daniel L. Burnett writes: “The significance of Wesley’s Aldersgate Experience is monumental … Without it, the names of Wesley and Methodism would likely be nothing more than obscure footnotes in the pages of church history.”

This was a major shift in Wesley’s understanding of salvation. As an Anglican, Wesley had been taught that salvation was primarily a result of works. Now armed with the belief that salvation was a gift of God’s grace, Wesley’s methods of ministry were turned upside down. As an ordained Anglican, Wesley once held that the only proper method of worship was in the traditional liturgy of the church. 

However, after being invited to join his friend George Whitfield, in preaching in the ‘open air’, Wesley’s views changed. Again, the words of Wesley himself, 

I could scarce reconcile myself to this strange way of preaching in the fields… having been all my life till very lately so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church. 

Wesley recognized the open-air services were successful in reaching men and women who would not enter most churches. From then on, he took the opportunities to preach wherever an assembly could be brought together, more than once using his father’s tombstone at Epworth as a pulpit. Wesley continued for fifty years—entering churches when he was invited, and taking his stand in the fields, in halls, cottages, and chapels, when the churches would not receive him. 

John Wesley came to understand the traditions of the church often prevented the lost from experiencing their own ‘heart strangely warmed’ moment. So, his methods for reaching the lost changed. This change opened the gospel of Jesus to countless people who would have never heard it otherwise. 

Wesley’s Methodist movement was rooted in a personal relationship with Jesus and the desire to tell the world about Jesus. This hasn’t changed. It is still our goal to grow our own relationship with Jesus and tell our family, friends, and everyone we meet about the ‘heart-warming’ love of Jesus. 

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