WESLEY’s METHOD & Why It is Needed Again Today

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 1/30/16.

Many denominations trace their histories back to a “revival movement” sparked by John Wesley’s “METHOD” in 1700s England. These denominations include

  • the Methodists of course,
  • the Free Methodists,
  • most Pentecostals/Charismatics,
  • the Nazarenes,
  • most of the Church of God denominations,
  • Freewill Baptists
  • some Baptist denominations (e.g. in parts of Texas)
  • the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church,
  • Evangelical Church of North America,
  • African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church,
  • the Salvation Army
  • and of course the Wesleyan church.

But what is made this made Wesley’s “METHOD” so influential and so dramatic?

The secret was Wesley’s leadership and organizational “METHOD.”

So clear to his detractors that this “METHOD” was at the core of the movement’s emphasis upon conversion and discipleship that his detractors labeled his followers “Methodist.”

Methodist was a derogatory term. But the people following the “METHOD” knew that the “METHOD” worked and so they embraced the name. This would be analogous today to someone calling you a “program Christian,” meaning that you were just following some “program.”

But those who had been changed and now started caring for the poor because of this “METHOD” knew that the method was Biblically-based and divinely inspired. This they were proud to be called “Methodist” … attaching it to every church name.

Some Calvinistic churches and leaders may have disagreed with Wesley’s Arminian theology. But they don’t disagree with his “METHOD-ology.” Famous Baptist theologian and founder of the Liberty University School of Theology, Dr. Elmer Towns said:

Wesley Method Keynote Slides 2 copy.jpgWesley Method Keynote Slides 5 copy.jpgWesley Method Keynote Slides 4 copy.jpgWesley Method Keynote Slides 3 copy.jpg

See more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/method-3-basics-every-christian-should-know-about-wesleys-ministry-method/

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WESLEY TOUR & The Magna Carta explained – See it this summer! (21 days to reg. ends)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “The Land & Leadership of Wesley Tour that I lead yearly stays across the lawn from the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral. While we are there, the Magna Carta will be housed inside for viewing. If you want to join us sign up before February 15, the last day to register for this summer’s June trip.”

Read more at … http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturenews/11383687/The-Magna-Carta-explained.html

WESLEY & CHURCH GROWTH Before McGavran: The Methodological Parallels of John Wesley

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D.

Delivered October 3, 2014 to The Annual Conference of The Great Commission Research Network, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, TX.


This article will look at methodological parallels between John B. Wesley and Donald A. McGavran. The influence of both men arose during similar social shifts that were accompanied by a perception of ecclesial apathy. Parallels will be demonstrated in McGavran’s principles of 1) conversion as a priority, 2) effective evangelism as a process model, 3) the danger of redemption and lift, 4) the importance of multiplication and 5) pragmatism in methodology. A final section will look at the legacy of these two men and suggest how identification can help retain focus on principles rather than contextually-bound tactics.

Published in the Great Commission Research Journal (2015).  Delivered in abbreviated form by Dr. Whitesel as a keynote at Renovate: The National Church Revitalization Conference, 11/3/14, Orlando, FL.

Whitesel Wesley RENOVATE 1 copy

Parallel Times

In this article we will look at missiological parallels between the principles of John B. Wesley and Donald A McGavran. Wesley’s methodology was hammered out in mid-18th century England as the Industrial Revolution conquered Europe, driving peasants from agricultural to urban lives in a quest to better their lives though technology. As historian David Watson describers it, “a society which was suffering from radical change and depersonalization.”[1] Only in hindsight would history brand the promises of the Industrial Revolution as overly materialistic and rarely altruistic. Yet amid this cultural shift from organic to mechanistic, spiritual fires leapt from the field sermons and structured discipleship methodology of a former Oxford don.

Not surprisingly in such an era, methods overshadowed principles and soon the derisive appellation “Methodist” was applied to Wesley’s followers. Though they preferred to be called Wesleyans, Wesley would only bend to popular terminology by describing them as “the people called Methodists.[2] Yet the sarcastic term survives and even flourishes in churches and denominations with Wesley’s methodologies in their heritage (though they may not remember what those methods be).

Donald A. McGavran’s principles for what he called effective evangelism[3] were born in a similar cultural transition from farm to factory. In the post-World War II milieu, American ingenuity in science and quantification had defeated Europe’s historical masters of technology: the German nation. Amid the euphoria generated by the passing of the technological baton, Donald A. McGavran began to emphasize measurement and anthropological assessment as valid lenses to follow the unseen movements of the Holy Spirit within societies. Based in part on his background as an executive-level administrator of missionary hospitals in India; McGavran suggested principles and methodologies that appealed to a culture infatuated again with measurement and technology.

But, McGavran and Wesley had similar eye-opening experiences regarding the state of contemporary spirituality. Wesley famously received a letter from his brother Charles, who had just begun his studies at Oxford’s most prestigious seminary: Christ Church College. Charles summed up what he found in these words: “(at Christ Church College) a man stands a very fair chance of being laughed out of his religion.”[4]

McGavran had a similar experience as described by Tim Stafford: “One morning McGavran asked his class what should be the first question a person asks when he reads a biblical passage. One of the most intelligent men answered promptly, ‘What is there in this passage that we cannot believe?’ He meant that anything miraculous or supernatural ought to be deleted or explained as ’poetic.’ ‘I had never before been confronted as bluntly with what the liberal position means to its ordinary Christians.’ McGavran says. ‘It shocked me, and I began at that moment to feel that it could not be the truth’.”[5]

Both men encountered dichotomies that would set their spiritual and tactical trajectories. For both, a popular interpretation of what constitutes biblical spirituality had robbed Christianity of authenticity and relevance. As a result, it should not be unexpected that parallel explorations and codifications of the spiritual journey would result…

DOWNLOAD the presentation handout HERE >>> ARTICLE Whitesel – Wesley & McGavran GCRJ GCRN

DOWNLOAD the Great Commission Research Journal article HERE >>> ARTICLE ©Whitesel – GCRJ Wesley & McGavran

[1] David Lowes Watson, The Early Methodist Class Meeting: Its Origins and Significance (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2002) p. 129.

[2] John Wesley, Letter to John Clayton, 1732.

[3] Similar to what Wesley experienced, McGavran’s more nuanced designation underwent a similar simplification with an accompanying overemphasis upon its tactical nature. Though McGavran preferred his principles be described as effective evangelism (Effective Evangelism: A Theological Mandate, (Presbyterian & Reformed Pub Co, 1988), 43) but much like Wesley 256 years earlier, his work would succumb to the more modish label: church growth.

[4] Kenneth G. C. Newport and Gareth Lloyd, The Letters of Charles Wesley: A Critical Edition, with Instruction and Notes: Volume 1 (1728-1756), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 25.

[5] Tim Stafford, “The Father of Church Growth,” Mission Frontiers Journal, January 1986.

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CHARLES WESLEY & His Early Life as Told by UK Historian Richard Cavendish

By Richard Cavendish | Published in History Today Volume: 57 Issue: 12 2007

Charles Wesley (1707-80)Charles Wesley (1707-80)

The man who wrote the words of ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing’, ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling’, ‘Jesus Lover of My Soul’, and hundreds of other much-loved hymns was the sixteenth or seventeenth of eighteen children.

He was born in the rectory at Epworth in the Isle of Axholme in Lincolnshire, to parson Samuel Wesley and his wife Susanna. Born prematurely and seeming more dead than alive, the new baby was wrapped in wool for several weeks until he opened his eyes and cried. In 1709, when he was fourteen months old, the family almost burned to death when the rectory caught fire. Later there was a curious episode when the house was apparently haunted by a ghost which made dismal groaning noises and sounds of stamping about. Susanna Wesley, who never stood any nonsense, set out to drive it away by blowing a trumpet whenever the ghost ventured to make noises. After three months, it admitted defeat and departed, but the three Wesley brothers – Samuel, John and Charles – were fascinated by the haunting all their lives…

Read more at … http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/birth-charles-wesley

JOHN WESLEY & His Early Life as Told by UK Historian Richard Cavendish

By Richard Cavendish | Published in History Today Volume: 53 Issue: 6 2003

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, was born on June 17th, 1703. Richard Cavendish charts his early life.

John Wesley (US Library of Congress)John Wesley (US Library of Congress)

The founder of Methodism was brought up as a staunch Anglican, but cherished the dissenting traditions on both sides of his family. His grandfather, John Wesley or Westley, was a Puritan supporter of Parliament who was expelled from his Dorset living after the restoration of Charles II. This John’s son, Samuel, was educated as a nonconformist, but when he went up to Oxford, he explored his talent for writing and his misgivings about Dissenters. Surprisingly, he considered them unduly frivolous. He became a Church of England curate in London, where he met and married Susanna Annesley, one of the twenty-five children of a prominent Puritan divine, known as ‘the St Paul of Nonconformity’. Spirited and intellectual, she too had moved away from Dissent.

In 1695 Samuel became rector of Epworth, a remote little town in the Isle of Axholme in the flat country of northern Lincolnshire, windswept under a massive sky and so isolated among rivers and marshes that quite often it could be reached only by boat. It was a centre of Dissent and the inhabitants, who have been described by one biographer as ‘morose and in-bred’, were not all enthusiastic about their rector’s Tory politics, High Churchmanship and insistence that moral backslidings on their part required public confession and public acts of atonement…

Read more at … http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/birth-john-wesley