A New Generation of Methodists

New Methodist

Leonard Sweet says that the Wesleyan Revival was born on its knees, rooted in fasting and prayer. For Wesley, prayer was the most powerful force in the universe.

Listen to what others have said about the Wesleyan movement.

Roger Starr, a journalist known as a liberal, Jewish, Democrat, when writing for a journal called The Public Interest, discovered there was only one other period in world history that actually matched the time in which we lived. It was 18th century England. There were problems of addiction, families decomposing, pollution, crime, violence, and rioting.

To find out what pulled England out of its crises, he consulted a historian by the name of Nathan Hatch at Norte Dame University.   Through his research he discovered that the only thing that saved England was someone that he had not really heard much about. Someone by the name of John Wesley who started a movement called Methodism.

Starr wrote, “Now, I don’t even know any Methodists. I don’t know anything about them. But this Wesley started a movement that literally saved England. It was movement that had profound social, economic, and political consequences and transformed and indeed saved that nation. And maybe what we need to do is to study those Methodists to find out how they did it, and to duplicate what they did back in the 18th century.”

About a month after Starr’s article, George Will, a journalist known as a conservative, Roman Catholic, Republican, wrote an editorial for The Washington Post. Will wrote, “I never thought I’d agree with anything Roger Starr has ever written. But you know, this liberal has actually got a point. It is that in the 18th century you have the German and French revolutions, and other revolutions around the world, but you don’t have an English Revolution. But they did, you see. It was called the Methodist revolution. Because these Methodists turned their world upside down, maybe what we need to do is to take Roger Starr seriously and look at what was the secret of those Methodists.”

Then Will added, “I know this is going to sound strange for me, saying that we need some more Methodists to save this world, and I hate to end the column this way, but does anybody out there have a better idea?”

About a month after Will’s article, Fred Barnes, a journalist known as an evangelical, Episcopalian, moderate, and editor of the New Republic, wrote an article in response to George Will and Roger Starr.

He registered both agreement and disagreement with both of them. Barnes agreed that the world today needs another Wesley, but found Will’s and Starr’s analysis coming up short.

He wrote that they forgot one thing: “The source of Wesley’s power was religious faith, and religion of a peculiarly social kind. Wesley’s evangelism was inseparable from his social activism.” People today are not just hungry for the things of the world, but for the things of the Spirit. ” A secular Wesley with tips on how to shake poverty won’t grip the underclass.  A religious Wesley, a new Martin Luther King, Jr. might. I understand why Will didn’t play up Wesley’s religious appeal.  Some people insist that religion not only can’t solve social problems, it shouldn’t even enter the national debate on them at all.  I disagree on both counts.”

Barnes writes, “What they forgot was that basically the Methodist Movement was at heart, a spiritual awakening. Yes, it had tremendous economic, social, and political consequences, but it began as a spiritual revival…And unless we get in this nation a spiritual awakening and a spiritual revival that will create these kinds of economic and political implications in our day, it won’t work. It has to begin as a movement of the Spirit or else it doesn’t go anywhere. But we have to begin. We have to have a new generation of Methodists who will do for this day what they did in the 18th century.”1

A liberal Jewish Democrat, a conservative Roman Catholic Republican, and an evangelical Episcopal moderate all looking to the Methodists for the hope of our nation!

With this General Conference, why don’t we give them what they are looking for? A new  generation of Methodists who will do for this day what they did in the 18th century!

-Tim Bias

  1. Story adapted from Leonard Sweet, 11 Genetic Gateways to Spiritual Awakening, “The ALTARS-GATE Gene,” page 171-172.
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