I became a Methodist because I read John Wesley during one of my desert periods. As a result I decided to join the United Methodist Church. But over the years I’ve learned that United Methodists aren’t very Methodist, at least not by Wesley’s standards. We aren’t vile enough. Let me explain.
When Whitefield invited Wesley to Bristol, Wesley saw Whitefield preaching to a crowd of thirty thousand. He compared that to the handful of people who gathered in the cathedrals of London to hear him preach. He longed to reach large amounts of people, but this new model of preaching in the fields instead of the church didn’t seem proper to Wesley. In his journal he says that he had been, “so tenacious on every point relating to decency and order that I should have thought saving a soul almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.”
The next day Wesley changed his mind. Here is what he said: “at four o’clock in the afternoon I decided ‘to be more vile’ and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation.”
Friends, if a prim and proper English gentleman would stoop so low as to consider his actions to be “vile,” what is keeping so many of us from acknowledging that the way to reach unchurched people has changed as drastically for us as it had in Wesley’s day? What is holding us back from using the “vile” music of hard rock? What is holding us back from taking to the streets with the Good News? Why do we still wait for people to come to us?
If Wesley could change, why can’t we?
I’m speaking now directly to all the mainline groups in the U.S. By all accounts, Wesley was a hardheaded man, set in his religious ways. But all that changed because of his passion for the gospel. He went from a pimp of the church to an outcast from the church for his newfound faith.
I want to challenge you to consider doing the same. Change your tactics. Do what Wesley and Jesus did: get down and dirty with the rank and file of sinners. Go to where they are. Hang out with them. Get to know them. And then share the Good News.
How vile are you willing to get?
Question: What are some ways you think today’s church has wrongfully resisted becoming “vile”? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.