top of page

Our Minister Revd David Jebb's Blog

  • Facebook
Wesley2024.png

June to August 2024
REFLECTION 

‘Wesley’s goal was to reach the hearts of the unchurched people.
That’s also the agenda of Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to cater to the preferences of the churchgoers.’

On Aldersgate Street in London, there is a bronze memorial Methodist Flame and plaque (1981) commemorating John Wesley's conversion experience on this site on May 24, 1738.

Wesley described his conversion in his journal:

"In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

 

John Wesley was comfortable in the high church setting and was committed to his formal, liturgical Anglican background. This presented a rather complex dilemma when the pulpits of the Church of England began to close to him because of his newfound experience in Christ and his emphasis on salvation by faith. He found his audience, almost by default, to be made up primarily of the unchurched working class. It didn’t take Wesley long to see that the traditional way of doing things wasn’t going to work. The liturgy and hymnody were irrelevant to the unchurched crowds, who would often jeer and shout obscenities. Some would stop and briefly listen, but Wesley could not seem to keep their attention long enough to reach their hearts with the gospel.

John said to his brother Charles, “Go out and listen to the workers sing as they go back and forth to the mines, and then sit down and write something that will reach their hearts.” Charles Wesley’s work put the gospel message into a “Top 40” format. He wrote “folk music” for the sake of relating the gospel to the hearts of the unchurched masses. He felt that his music was not reverent enough to be used in the formal worship of the church; it was intended to be used only for the informal house meeting. The institutional church of his day never accepted his style. But the Methodist renewal was born out of the contemporary music forms of Wesley’s day. As the gospel becomes relevant to the unchurched through their own indigenous cultural forms, they begin to flood the church to the extent that they become more numerous than the churched. The informal then replaces the formal and becomes the new liturgical form. The church always adopts the worship forms of the last renewal movement. It is currently using worship forms that are 125 to more than 250 years old. We may update the words and images in the new book of worship, but the wineskins are still old and brittle. It is time to get new wineskins!

Wesley’s goal was to reach the hearts of the unchurched people. That’s also the agenda of Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to cater to the preferences of the churchgoers. He came to meet the needs of the unchurched. And this must be our agenda, too! Whether we like it or not, we were created to worship. Worship is that place where we get in touch with God’s presence and discover anew who we are. Through worship, our spirits are energised and our priorities realigned. Worship is meant to be at the heart of life but often has been presented in a way that is divorced from life.

Worship is one of the most important experiences we have together as a community of faith. It must be vital and relevant to people in the context of their life situations. We must be sensitive to the “user-friendly” models of worship that are growing in popularity without compromising the radical demands of the call of Christ in the name of relevancy.

People are looking for a relevant word but not a compromising word. They are listening for a clear word from God in the midst of a labyrinth of theological and moral uncertainty. The churches that will offer new life and hope to this age will be the churches that have relevant worship styles, Christ-centred prophetic preaching, and social sensitivity. The agenda of Jesus is the needs of the unchurched. If the church is to experience a new movement of the Spirit, we need new worship forms to hold the new wine.

Finally, as we observed Pentecost Sunday in May this year, the focus on the church’s mission to our community and to the world, and the enabling presence of God through the work of the Holy Spirit in the church to empower that mission, should provide a powerful impetus for churches, especially those in the Methodist tradition, to recover this season of Pentecost in the church year. There is a tremendous opportunity to use this year to call people to renewal through the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Have a great summer, and enjoy!

 

God bless you and yours!

 

David Jebb

bottom of page