3 Lessons for Living and Leading from a Rejected Clergy

No, I am not talking about me. It was 1739 and John Wesley was struggling.  It was a theme for a large part of his early career as a pastor.  But now, there were few places he could preach.  He was at odds with the Church of England and he was even being banned from preaching in churches.  The specifics had to do with his conversion and convictions about the Christian message.

Then, around March 15, John Wesley received letters from his friend, George Whitefield to come preach in the fields near Bristol.  There were many working poor and families, who had not place of worship or pastor. He hated the idea outdoor preaching but wrote in his journal in the days that followed…


Thursday, 29.—I left London and in the evening expounded to a small company at Basingstoke, Saturday, 31. In the evening I reached Bristol and met Mr. Whitefield there. I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; I had been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.

Then on, April 1.—In the evening Rev. Wesley wrote: (Mr. Whitefield being gone) I began expounding our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (one pretty remarkable precedent of field-preaching)

Monday, 2.—At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, , speaking to about three thousand people.


You can read more about the Methodist revival online and in many books (here is an interesting lecture from Gordon Conwell on Youtube), but I am struck by a few things, not merely because I have been a Methodist clergy for almost 30 years but because of Wesley’s lessons that enhance life and enhance soul.

1.  Wesley’s Journal.  He didn’t write everyday but he sure came close.  I write about the power and impact of journaling in “Life Sucks Seek God.”  John Wesley’s journal give snapshot of a man, a revival, a period of time in history, and how God transforms not one soul, but many.  The Methodist revival is seen as one of the contributing factors in the preventing a second revolutionary war in England itself.  Did the journal change Wesley? Yes, it helped him to be able to critically review his life, his thoughts and his teachings.  He became a better person and leader.  Where are you recoding life?

2.  Wesley’s Conviction.  It is common for the world to evolve and devolve.  John began his life’s work as a failed missionary and wasn’t much better as a local pastor in the Church of England.  But Wesley still sought after God.  Thanks to a few good friends and his soul habits and morning ritual, Wesley put himself in places where God might speak to him.  When God did, Wesley was ready: to act but also to grow.  He valued learning and was considered one of the most well read persons of his day.  Can you say the same?

3. Wesley’s Humility.  It may not come out often as Wesley’s convictions seem to overshadow his humility but it remains: Wesley was humble.  He listened to his mother’s counsel as well as his younger brother, Charles, and his good friend, Peter Bohler.  Here, we see he listened to George Whitfield, and went completely against his conviction that preaching only belonged in church.  He changed his approach to having lay people of the congregation preach, going against his conviction that only clergy could do this.  Wesley would also commission Thomas Coke and through him, Francis Asbury, as the first bishops in the 13 colonies to care for the Methodist Church.  On matters of heart, is your’s too hard or are you willing to listen to others who are wise?

John Wesley is one in a long line of leaders who have kept the world from devolving and moving forward - evolving toward a world of mercy and justice.  How might you use Wesley’s pattern of learning through journaling, living out convictions, and acting with humility, to enhance your life and change yourself and thus, change your world? 


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