In part 1 of the series, we wrote about the mission side of Wesley’s crystal-clear vision. His mission was to save souls for Christ. In part two, we explore Wesley’s similarly clear strategy to accomplish his mission.
In August of 1763, Wesley wrote in his journal:
I was more convinced than ever that the preaching like an Apostle, without joining together those that are awakened and training them up in the ways of God, is only begetting children for the murderer. How much preaching has there been for these twenty years all over Pembrokeshire! But no regular societies, no discipline, no order or connection; and the consequence is, that nine in ten of the once-awakened are now faster asleep than ever.
This short passage gives an inside look into the distinctiveness and genius of John Wesley’s strategy of ministry. In a day when other more famous preachers were drawing larger crowds, Wesley implicitly asked the critical question, “how do we achieve our mission?”
The vivid language of begetting children for the murderer is haunting when we consider those who have responded to preaching–sometimes vigorously–and yet have not persevered. Theological distinctives aside, every tradition is scrambling trying to crack the code of how to reach the millennial demographic, which is vastly becoming an unreached people group. To add insult to injury, most 21st century methods of children and youth ministry are falling flat and, in Wesley’s words, begetting children for the murderer.
Any practice of ministry that believes that hearing a sermon alone suffices for discipleship is not paying enough attention to the results of preaching, nor to the role Scripture places on perseverance. However we work out the theology of conversion, Wesley’s observation holds true today: those who respond to the preaching of the Word but aren’t then connected into an orderly and disciplined process of discipleship don’t continue in the Christian life as consistently and as deeply as those who do.
Wesley’s methodical strategy included the formation of societies and bands, the equipping of circuit preachers with theologically accessible materials, and preaching to all who would listen. Without the foundation of the first two pieces of strategy in place, Wesley felt preaching alone could actually do more harm than good.
What is your strategy for ministry? Young believers should know where to go to experience discipleship. Mature members should know that God has called them to be leaders and have opportunities to make disciples. Discerning a strategy that fits your context can be difficult, but if you do not know what your strategy is, then how do you know how to spend your time, energy and resources?
Steps toward creating a clear strategy:
1) Develop a crystal-clear statement of mission and values.
This allows you to craft a strategy that has parameters as well as a goal.
2) Describe what success looks like.
A statement of mission measures defines the “win” for your church’s ministry and can help you avoid many of the ministry treadmills that keep you busy with the urgent but unimportant.
3) Design a simple and focused strategy.
The strategy needs to be broad enough to encompass everything you do but simple enough that everyone knows exactly what to do to accomplish the mission of the church.
4) Devote your ministry and your resources to your strategy.
Always work every ministry through the lens of your strategy. Start new ministries through it and align existing ministry under it.
A simple strategy is about helping people make choices and eliminate decision paralysis. Wesley’s strategy was not easy but it was clear. His leaders knew what to do and what he expected. They focused their time, energies, and resources on the strategy and it bore fruit like no other movement of their day