“A way inclusive as the love of God and as exclusive as the readiness of the human heart to follow”
-J. Ellsworth Kallas, Being United Methodist
In recent years, there has been a discussion concerning “The United Methodist Method.” It is the method John Wesley called the “General Rules” of the Methodist movement. These “rules” were expectations of all who participated in the movement. Following them was evidence of the desire of salvation. (The “General Rules” can be found in paragraph 104 (pages 77-80) of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2016).
In his book, Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living, Bishop Rueben P. Job focused upon the “General Rules” as set forth by John Wesley. Bishop Job writes:
I believe we have reached a place where, as a people of faith, we are ready to give serious consideration to another way, a more faithful way of living as disciples of Jesus Christ. This way must be so clear that it can be taught and practiced by everyone. It must be accessible and inviting to young and old, rich and poor, powerful and weak, and those of every theological persuasion. It is a large order, but we already have in our hands the blueprint for this way of living. And with God’s help and our willingness, it can change our world.
This way of living was given to John Wesley in a time much like our own. He took this blueprint, fleshed it out, taught it, and practiced it. And now it has been passed on to us. Now it is up to us to see if we will take it, teach it, and practice it until it becomes our natural way of living—a way of living that will mark our life together and our lives as individual Christians. Some already practice this way of living, and I believe many more are ready to try it.
With these words, Bishop Job invited his readers to a “radical change of direction” which was marked by three simple rules:
- Do No Harm
- Do Good
- Stay in Love With God
John Wesley knew that everyone needed help to live a holy and good life in a world like ours. He feared that new converts to Christ would fail to practice their faith and would, in his words, become more a “child of the devil” than before their conversion (Journal from August 12, 1738, to November 1, 1739,” in Works, Volume 1; page 239).
Job writes, “He (Wesley) was fully aware that one could have all of the structures and systems right but could lose the power of God that translates into a Christ-like life—a way of holy living that is constantly reforming and renewing the individual and the community. Because of these fears, Wesley was determined to foster the disciplined practices that would lead to faithfulness to the way of Jesus. These practices were outlined in the “General Rules, “ and instructions in them and accountability to them was centered in the classes that formed the United Societies of the early Methodist movement.”
The “three simple rules” of the Methodist movement transformed and gave new life to Christians, setting them on a path that would become a movement that transformed England, and a formed a nation in North America.