Methodism 104

After Wesley’s conversion at Aldersgate in May 1738, he began promoting the ‘Methodist Society’ in England. The name ‘Methodist’ was not Wesley’s idea. It was actually an insult begun by those who disapproved of his ‘methods.’ But it was a term Wesley accepted.

From 1739 onward, Wesley and the Methodists were persecuted by clergy and religious magistrates for various reasons. Among them was the fact that though Wesley had been ordained an Anglican priest, many other Methodist leaders were not. For his part, Wesley flouted many of the regulations of the Church of England concerning parish boundaries and who had authority to preach.

This was seen as a social threat that disregarded the established institution. Wesley was attacked by other Clergy in sermons and in print, and at times mobs attacked them. Wesley and his followers continued to work among the neglected and needy. They were denounced as promulgators of strange doctrines, fomenters of religious disturbances; as blind fanatics, leading people astray, claiming miraculous gifts, attacking the clergy of the Church of England, and trying to re-establish Catholicism.

Wesley felt that the church failed to call sinners to repentance, that many of the clergy were corrupt, and that people were perishing in their sins. He believed he was commissioned by God to bring about revival in the church, and no opposition, persecution, or obstacles could prevent him from continuing his ministry. 

As the Methodist movement continued to grow, Wesley saw that he and the few clergy co-operating with him could not keep up with the work that needed to be done. So, Wesley was led to approve local preachers. He evaluated and approved men who were not ordained by the Anglican Church but possessed the gifts and graces to preach and do pastoral work. This expansion of lay preachers was one of the keys of the growth of Methodism.

The work of reaching people for Jesus isn’t just the responsibility of the ordained. We all share in the opportunity of telling the world about Jesus. Let no opposition, persecution, or obstacles prevent us from continuing our ministry. 

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