Monday, March 26, 2012

Lessons from Methodists – Part 3 of 3

John Wesley’s disciples, called Methodists, methodically sought to obey the Lord in all areas of their lives by observing three main rules:

1. Do no harm.
2. Do as much good possible.
3. Use every means of grace that God has given.

This simple, small-group discipleship saved souls, transformed families, and changed British society.

The first post in this series looked at the outcome of the first area of change in the lifestyle of Wesley’s disciples: “Do no harm.” The second post focused on the second area change: “Do as much good as possible.” This final post in the series will look at the third area: “Use every means of grace that God has given.”

They Lived up to Their God Given Potential.

Rules one and two are relatively straightforward. Rule number three doesn’t communicate well nowadays. We just don’t call things a means of God’s grace anymore. For me “means of grace” brings up the image of sacraments. Simplified, however, a means of grace is just a way God has made it possible for us to experience Him. Reading God’s Word might be an example.

For the Methodists, this was one means of God’s grace that was identified as neglected among many Britons, because of their inability to read. Reading is a learned skill, but it is something that God has given us the capacity to learn to do. God’s word had been made available in print and so, it was means of grace. A means which was unavailable to the illiterate.

In their small group meetings, besides encouraging one another to abandon sinful habits and do good works, Methodists read the Bible together and sang hymns. John Wesley’s brother Charles had written thousands of hymns. They were taught line by line, by rote, singing them and having them sung back. The hymns were published sold cheaply. When Methodists sang with their hymn books, they were teaching themselves to read by matching the written words with the ones they knew and sang by heart. It was a very effective method.

This new-found literacy gave Methodists the ability to do more than they ever could before, they communicated better, found better jobs, did business transactions for themselves and more. What they learned from reading scripture gave them the wisdom to live well. Combined with the changes in character of doing no harm and doing much good, seeking God through reading made the lives of Methodists much better. They were no longer living in poverty, but attained for themselves a dignified life. As a group, they created Britain's middle class.

Man’s Accomplishments or God’s Grace?

The Methodist motive for embracing literacy provides a good lens through which to view technology in general. Advancements in travel, communication, health, and the like can all provide better opportunities to both proclaim God’s glory and to seek it. While the world would use technology as a modern day Babble tower, Christians and churches should be proactive in utilizing all available technologies as a means of grace, helping others to know God worship him.

For a long time I followed a podcast called Geeks and God, which focused on how computer and internet technology can be used to benefit the church and spread the gospel. I have a friend, a son of a missionary, who dedicated a couple of years of his life to exploring how to create gospel communities through online social networks and massively multiplayer roleplaying games. Michael Card worked with a number of others to create Godly expressions of Art available on the Internet, seeking to call others to go and do likewise.

Can you think of a dozen ways your church is either embracing technology as a possible means of grace? Can you think of a dozen ways it is missing an opportunity? What needs to change? Following the example of the Methodists, there is a lot at stake.

I hope you enjoyed this small series.

Notes

This series of posts and the information with respect to Wesley’s revival contained therein is mostly a summary of an excellent piece written by Charles White and Robby Butler for Mission Frontiers outlining the impact of Charles Wesley’s ministry. The full article is available for download as a PDF file by clicking the picture below. I highly recommend it.

john-wesley-cpm

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