10 Reasons Why I Am a Wesleyan (Andrew Dragos)

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1. God is most basically a God of love.

Most basic to God’s nature and character is love and relationality. God exists in community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In this community there is pure delight and mutual submission which paint a perfect picture of love. This means God did not need to create the world—he was sufficient in himself, but since he did, we have a most perfect model for what loving, human relationships should look like. It also provides a beautiful means by which we may commune with him—because of the Son’s work, we may commune with the Father through the Holy Spirit.

2. Universal grace which reaches all people.

Since God is love, this works itself out in a universal grace which reaches all people and leaves no person unaffected, so that all might “seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.” (Acts 17:27) His sovereignty and concern for his glory is not over against this love for the world, but expressed most perfectly in the suffering of the cross—God’s most able attempt to reach a lost world. The Holy Spirit also touches all people and seeks to draw them into relationship with Him, even before that person knows or recognizes him (via prevenient grace). This means we recognize everyone is on a spiritual journey. Some are still lost wandering, some are on the porch of salvation, while others are on the verge of passing that threshold.

3. Liturgical orientation of worship.

Traditional liturgy sustains and grounds public worship. It also orients our desires toward the transcendent God in a way that works to form us subconsciously. It calls for interaction with all of our senses and therefore engages the person holistically, supplementing the gospel preached in the form of a sermon. Liturgy also protects the community from extraneous attempts to be “relevant” to the culture. Our energy can be re-focused from following the latest trends to other areas of need in the community (see, “Renewal and Liturgy: Why I Am a Methopentecostlican”).

4. Reform movement within a historical church.

Early Methodism was a reform movement of the Anglican church. Within the DNA of Wesleyanism, then, is the reformation principle of “always reforming,” but this expresses itself primarily through the concern for holiness rather than doctrinal minutia. Wesleyans should never settle for cold, dry, or rote spirituality. It recognizes the constant need for spiritual renewal, while holding fast to the institutions and structures that make church life sustainable (see this biographical sketch of Wesley).

5. Intellectual rigor.

John Wesley met the high demands of intellectualism in his own day (Enlightenment thought) through classic, Christian orthodoxy. He wrote many tracts and apologetic resources, making a case for the Christian gospel and modeling how to engage popular ideas in culture. He received a classic education, including graduating from Oxford, and came to hold a lectureship there in Greek. In his writing he commonly draws on classic philosophy.

6. The theological and dogmatic points.

Though John Wesley is not known for his principled systematization, in his notes & sermons and also in Charles Wesley’s hymns, it is clear that doctrine should be held in high esteem (watch, “Deeds Not Creeds? 3 Reasons Why Creeds Matter” by Andrew Thompson). Theology is powerfully formative so careful attention must be paid to what we allow ourselves to believe. For example, John Wesley believed there were certain non-negotiables in Christianity. These included justification by grace through faith and original sin. Wesleyanism therefore understands the formative nature of theology and embeds it in every aspect of liturgy, hymnody, sermons, etc.

7. Spirituality is inherently social.

John Wesley penned the famous words, “The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness” (Preface to “Hymns and Sacred Poems”). We learn this by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, who only understood himself in relation to the Father and the Spirit. By acknowledging that holiness is social, we don’t have to forfeit orthodoxy, evangelical identity, or the very personal nature of spirituality. It is simply to acknowledge that we were created for community and that God’s vision for the Christian life manifests itself in relation to other persons. “To turn it into a solitary religion indeed is to destroy it” (John Wesley, “Sermon on the Mount, IV”).

8. The inclusion of children under the covenant through baptism.

Though a reformer, John Wesley was unapologetically pro baptizing infants. Baptism serves as a means of grace by which God includes children into his covenant and therefore works against the rugged individualism inherent in our culture. We should understand our spiritual identity in relation to families and community. The sacrament of baptism models this initiation in a positive way. Nonetheless, Wesley did not resolve the tension this left as to when justification happens. Just like those unreached with the gospel, “who is in” is left to God’s perfect judgment.

9. Vibrant spirituality and empowered witness.

There are few better models for charismatic and apostolic ministry than the itinerant preachers of the 18th and 19th centuries. By pursuing holiness and recognizing the grace of God through the work of the Spirit, Methodism invited the supernatural work of God that served as a precursor to the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements of the 20th century. Though rejecting pure “enthusiasm,” John Wesley was not shy to recount the powerful ways that the Spirit manifested himself in leading people to repentance and loving his people through supernatural signs and healing.

10. God’s call for the Christian to entire sanctification.

This is by far the grand depositum of Wesleyanism and Methodism. If sanctification is a work of grace, then the gospel of Jesus Christ can overcome the bondage of sin. God calls the Christian to be perfectly in love with him, unrestrained by sinful distractions. We can believe this as reality, since “he who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thess 5:23-24). There is something beautiful and appealing about a gospel which is optimistic about the power of God’s grace in the lives. I have met people that are “pure in heart”—Wesleyanism simply names this grace of God.

Are you interested in learning more about Wesleyanism or Methodism from the life and work of John Wesley himself? Seedbed has started a reprinting project called The John Wesley Collection. It in, we arrange Wesley’s sermons topically and lay out the work so it’s more readable. Consider starting your collection of John Wesley’s sermons—purchase his work from our store now.

 

What are some of yours?

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Andrew is an acquisitions editor for Seedbed books and director of online resources for Seedbed. When not editing he enjoys design, photography, and gardening. He lives with his family in Tennessee.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Amen x10!

    This is so encouraging to read right now, particularly in contrast to much that I am reading about Wesleyanism recently. As an artist, called to pastor after following GOD’s leading into the Wesleyan Church later in life, I too celebrate these as ten of the best reasons I too am Wesleyan. Thank you so very much for putting them into such eloquent, clear, and concise language.

  2. Not all Wesleyan worship is liturgical in form, there are many wonderful examples of non-liturgical worship which engage persons holistically but do not pander to the idea of cultural relevance. In fact that broad brush stroke is insulting (although I may not understand what qualified as “liturgical” to you). I serve a church that has multiple worship events each Sunday with very different worship styles. I see value in both the liturgical and the non-liturgical and I certainly don’t see one as more “Wesleyan” than the other. This is a very good list – but on this point I believe you have missed the mark and I couldn’t let that go unchallenged. Thanks

    • Kelly-I originally thought about this and thought the same thing, but I changed my mind. I don’t want to put words into Andrew’s mouth, but I think of the liturgical sense of Wesleyan worship coming from an insistence upon participation and a connection to the larger tradition of worship in the Christian church.

      Liturgical comes from the latin word meaning “work of the people”, the rhythms of worship a particular community uses to express it’s devotion to Jesus Christ. The shape of liturgical worship doesn’t happen because of a delivery system. It happens through the connection of context of worshiping bodies.

      • Thanks Chad. I agree with much of what you say, but I would hard pressed to find many forms of Christian worship (if any… or as long as they sing at least) which would not fit your definition of liturgical. Also – in most cases, liturgical means reciting creeds, responsive readings, and such – which are not near as common as they once were.

        • I believe that was chadbrooks point. “Liturgy” is whatever we do to glorify God in the worship service. Every church and denomination has its “liturgy” whether it is free-church or high-church, contemporary or traditional. Every church has some set outline of service or program that the church generally adheres to and therefore, it is their liturgy. Creeds, responsive readings, the public reading of Scripture, hymns, and the like are simply the traditional liturgy passed down to us through church history. In the Wesleyan tradition, we have always struggled, as Wesley did, between freedom and form. I believe that Rob Staples in his book “Outward Signs and Inward Grace: The Place of Sacraments in Wesleyan Spirituality” hits it precisely. Worship is about spirit through form. So long as our liturgy, whether it is traditional or contemporary, brings us into the holy presence of God and tends to God’s glory (and not our own) it is good liturgy. Happy worshiping!!

    • Kelly,
      Thanks for the response. That point was not meant to be insulting so I apologize if it reads that way. Wesley was both an innovator and a traditionalist when it came to worship, which is yet another expression of his dialectical approach to theology & spirituality. He borrowed freely from traditions but as a life-long Anglican he continually recommended the Anglican liturgy, calendar, and Book of Common Prayer as the most suitable, regular expression of worship (“I believe there is no liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breaths more a solid, scriptural, rational piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England”). Wesleyans who do not practice the high church liturgy—in the technical sense—are identifying more with his “evangelical” side, and that’s fine. They are no less spiritual but here I was drawing attention to the formative power of the other.

      • Again, very well said, Andrew. Most Wesleyan worship that I have witnessed seems to be more contemporary or traditional, and I hope that they will not take offense to what you have listed here as your top 10 reasons. Contemporary and Traditional worship can certainly be equally spiritual, as you have said, but I agree with you on the formative power of liturgical worship – even if it is nuanced and contextualized to fit our culture today. I have drawn from and inserted parts of liturgical worship into contemporary and traditional services alike because I celebrate those foundational blessings. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer is a richly beautiful and expansive expression of worship with deep roots in antiquity. In this, I lament that evangelical anabaptist influences have “thrown the baby out with the bathwater”. Are their worship services efficacious? Certainly. It just seems that they do not capture and transmit to the people the full blessing of grace, as I believe John Wesley encouraged us, to the gathered worshippers.

      • Thanks Andrew – overall I found this list very encouraging to me as a deeply committed Wesleyan for all (except maybe one :~) of the reasons you list!

  3. Andrew. I appreciate your blog and I share your views as well. I was wondering if you had any scriptural references to support your points. Or if you could point me in the right direction of a reliable resource in scriptural evidence of Welyanisms claims. Thanks for you help.

    • Matt, I’m not sure which points warrant scriptural references that don’t have them. #2 is supplemented by a link to another article Andrew wrote on prevenient grace, it’s a great read too.

    • Thanks Matt! Some of the above are deductions based on key passages, others based on the narrative of scripture, and others are not grounded in Scripture but we sense their need as the Spirit works in the life of the Church. I would highly recommended Key United Methodist Beliefs by William Abraham & David Watson and also, read through the new collection of John Wesley’s sermons, arranged topically, edited by Kenneth Collins and Jason Vickers.

      • Dr. Constance Cherry has written a couple of wonderful books exploring this area of worship and rituals as well, and are rich with Scriptural, and historical support. They may be of some help here as well.
        The Worship Architect and
        The Special Service Worship Architect
        both published by Baker Books

  4. I am okay with most of this except our obsession with intellectualism. I am not against an intellectual pursuit of understanding God, I just think that to boast of it, and further to make it a hallmark is a barrier to those who struggle with intellectual comprehension. This particular “plus” that I see frequently touted, raises my hackles a bit because it subtly excludes those with mental challenges. Yet I really want to thank you for your explanation of infant baptism. I’ve read a lot about it and coming from an unchurched background, into a Pentecostal and then transitioning into a Methodist church, I still find the literature on infant baptism to be murky in explanation. Your explanation was brief, clear and made sense. Thank you again!

    • Teresa,
      Thank you for your encouraging words. On the first bit—it’s true that in some circles “intellectualism” is propped up as the primary way of loving God, but this is mistaken. Not all are gifted, called, or have the capacity to pursue God this way. Nonetheless, it is an important dimension to our tradition which is indispensable to the broader community of faith. It can be celebrated and is richly rewarding when pursued with faith and humility.

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