Methodism

Uneducated leadership

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The second common objecting levelled at church planting movements (CPMs):

New believers are rushed into leadership without academic theological education.

This was charge levelled at Jesus followers, they were ordinary men who were untrained in academic theology and without proper credentials (Acts 4:13).

The same charge was levelled at John Wesley's workers and preachers.

Every Methodist was expected to have a ministry. At least one in ten had a formal leadership position in the movement. Many of those leaders were women, including some of Wesley’s preachers. Opponents among the clergy condemned this “prostituting of the ministerial function” and mocked the poor and illiterate Methodists who “pretended to be pregnant with a message from the Lord.”

Wesley followed Jesus' example and continually trained his workers on the job, not in the classroom; and just in time, not just in case.

This is how the Methodists and Baptists in the first half of the nineteenth century captured the US frontier. Meanwhile, nothing could convince the well-paid and well-educated mainline clergy to leave their comfortable parishes on the east coast for the challenge of reaching the Wild west.

The decline of the Methodist movement began when their mobile circuit rides got down off their horses to become theologically educated parish clergy.

So, what example did Jesus set in training leaders? The answer is in the scene depicted above. Head, heart and hands. On the job. On the road. Just in time. Obedience oriented. Life-long.

That's our model.

QUESTION: how are you growing leaders?

Uneducated leadership

disciples in storm.jpg

The second common objecting levelled at church planting movements (CPMs):

New believers are rushed into leadership without academic theological education.

This was charge levelled at Jesus followers, they were ordinary men who were untrained in academic theology and without proper credentials (Acts 4:13).

The same charge was levelled at John Wesley's workers and preachers.

Every Methodist was expected to have a ministry. At least one in ten had a formal leadership position in the movement. Many of those leaders were women, including some of Wesley’s preachers. Opponents among the clergy condemned this “prostituting of the ministerial function” and mocked the poor and illiterate Methodists who “pretended to be pregnant with a message from the Lord.”

Wesley followed Jesus' example and continually trained his workers on the job, not in the classroom; and just in time, not just in case.

This is how the Methodists and Baptists in the first half of the nineteenth century captured the US frontier. Meanwhile, nothing could convince the well-paid and well-educated mainline clergy to leave their comfortable parishes on the east coast for the challenge of reaching the Wild west.

The decline of the Methodist movement began when their mobile circuit rides got down off their horses to become theologically educated parish clergy.

So, what example did Jesus set in training leaders? The answer is in the scene depicted above. Head, heart and hands. On the job. On the road. Just in time. Obedience oriented. Life-long.

That's our model.

QUESTION: how are you growing leaders?

England Before and After Wesley

It is the plain old Christianity that I teach. John Wesley

As British Methodists consider their bleak future, we would do well to remember the contribution of their founder, John Wesley.

In an excellent article Donald Drew describes England before and after Wesley. He explains what was at the heart of Wesley's world changing movement,

Wesley's central understanding of Christianity was individual redemption leading to social regeneration. He believed that the main purpose of the Bible is to show sinners their way back to God by the atoning sacrifice of Christ. This and this only he preached.

But he understood also that social changes are an inevitable by-product and a useful piece of evidence of conversion. Therefore, because of the preaching, the high moral principles enshrined in Scriptures slowly began to take root in people's minds. Wesley knew that God's Word calls for the salvation of individual souls but also gives us firm ordinances for national existence and a common social life. Under God, this was his goal, and he never lost sight of it.

continue reading. . .

British Methodists prepare to die

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We are prepared to go out of existence not because we are declining or failing in mission, but for the sake of mission.

Rev David Gamble, Methodist Conference President (third from right). Addressing the Church of England’s General Synod, February 11, 2010.

Once a world changing movement under John Wesley, the Methodist church has seen its membership shrink to just 265,000.

Dave Price comments:

Winston Churchill said after the successful evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940 that, Wars are not won by evacuations. In other words, defensive measures may be necessary, but, as every chess player knows, attack is the best form of defence. A merger of the Methodist Church with the Anglicans may be necessary, but it is a defensive measure. At face value, it doesn't sound as if it is going to win the war.

Despite assurances to the contrary, this proposed merger is not driven by a commitment to mission or unity. Overwhelmingly mergers are driven by a) institutional decline, and b) lack of clarity and commitment to the movement's founding cause and core beliefs. They do nothing to arrest mainline decline.

The Methodists of Britain have gone down the same path as every other mainline Protestant denomination of the last fifty years. The sad reality is that attempts at union will actually speed up their decline. There is no other historical pattern.