How The Radical Wesley Inspired Radical Obedience

6

radical wesley sliderAllison Norman narrates how an old, tattered book held together by blue painter’s tape, given to her by her pastor, changed her life. That book was The Radical Wesley by Howard Snyder.

My pastor handed me a book a few months back. From the looks of its cover, his old, tattered book held together by a peeling piece of blue painters’ tape seemed like it would be a snoozer. Let me tell you folks, it was actually a game-changer.

I love stories. I’m a real nerd about them. But I’ll be honest, church history and renewal is really not my cup of tea. Normally, I stay well within the realm of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and the Chronicles of Narnia (hey, I warned you, total nerd!). Furthermore, every church book or Christian book I endeavored to read, I’ve never finished. There is a shelf of half-read books pleading for me to pick them back up, but to no avail. This book broke that mold—well, more like blew that mold up and completely redefined the genre for me.

I finished it in two days.

I flipped through pages as though they were a meal for a famished traveler returning home, tasting and savoring every word. I guzzled down the remarkable stories of how God moved through Wesley and his bootstrapped gang of outcasts and rebels, reviving the faith and transforming the social woes of the Kingdom of Great Britain. With every story and every novel detail about Wesley’s ministry, my mind raced with ideas, thoughts, and dreams of modern-day parallels. Each facet of Wesley’s work unearthed the same repeating questions within me: “What would this look like for our church?” and “What if?” What took me most by surprise, was not the whirlwind of ideas, nor the unlikely dreams that God alone could carry out, but it was that this unassuming book awoke a calling within me as well.

Months earlier, I attended a perspective student event for a seminary, not because I wanted anything to do with seminary, but because my pastor asked me to go. He said he wanted to introduce a team representing the seminary to some of the leaders of the church. I was already halfway through a graduate program for social work and ready to be done with school forever. I thought nothing of it until my pastor’s dad, Pastor Dan, planted a seed.

One day after church, he asked when I was putting in my application for seminary. Laughing at the very thought, I told him I needed to finish this degree before pursuing another – it was my way of saying, never. I have no idea if he said it jokingly or if he was serious, but I wasn’t going to ask because I didn’t want that answer. I buried the thought deep inside my head and tried to smother it, block it from all light. It didn’t matter though, Pastor Dan planted a seed – a seed that waited through the winter for the warmth of spring to bring it to life.

This book was spring for me. Throughout the book, I couldn’t shake the thought, “when are you putting in your application to seminary?” With each passing page, this call was like the opening lines of Regina Spektor’s “The Call”: It started out as a feeling/Which then grew into a hope/Which then turned into a quiet thought/Which then turned into a quiet word/And then that word grew louder and louder/’Til it was a battle cry.

And just like that an old, tattered book awoke a calling, growing a feeling into a battle cry. God is calling me to be a pastor one day and he did so through this small book.

So, you are wondering what the name of the book is, aren’t you? The Radical Wesley.

GET THE BOOK: We’ve released an updated version of this classic work by Howard Snyder. Use code MOVEMENTMAKER before June 15 for a 20% early-order discount.

SHARE

Allison is simply a follower with a dream: to start a faith-based transitional employment bakery working with unemployed individuals who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness (“Made With Love Bakery”). A few years back, she would have told you that “God just wasn’t for her,” but it turns out she was for Him. Allison found her home in a quirky little church called Love Chapel Hill and nothing has ever been the same since.

6 COMMENTS

  1. “I guzzled down the remarkable stories of how God moved through Wesley and his bootstrapped gang of outcasts and rebels, reviving the faith and transforming the social woes of the Kingdom of Great Britain.”

    I have spent some time with Wesley over the last few years–my current read being “Wesley and a People Called Methodist”– and what finally hit me after reading your article was that John Wesley is the proof of this statement by C.S. Lewis:

    “If you read history you will find that the Christians who
    did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next. The
    apostle’s themselves, who set out on foot to convert the Roman Empire, the
    great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English evangelicals who abolished
    the slave trade, all left their mark on earth, precisely because their minds
    were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think
    of the other world that they have become ineffective in this one. Aim at heaven
    and you will get earth “Thrown in.” Aim at earth and you will get
    neither.” C.S. Lewis
    The detail that is often lost in talking about Wesley is that he personally did not set out to revive anything; everything started when he “aimed at heaven” with a desire to live a holy life centered in God and that desire led him to unlikely “places”; everything else was “thrown in”. He did not actually start anything; ultimately he fined tuned a movement that was already in the works.

LEAVE A REPLY