My wife and I have spent the past year on a 37,000 mile prayer pilgrimage around the world. We recently traveled to London, England, where we visited the home of John Wesley.
Wesley was one of 19 children born to Samuel and Susanna Wesley. Standing just 5 foot 4 inches tall, Wesley was a man God used to fight the slave trade, grow the First Great Awakening, and spark Pentecostalism and the Holiness Movement. While technically an Anglican clergyman, Wesley was the leader of the Methodist movement – and his influence extended to the Wesleyan, Nazarene, and Evangelical movements.
Starting from an old cannon foundry in 1739, the Methodist enclave grew into a worldwide movement with over 80 million adherents today. The Wesley property is a compound of yellow brick buildings, fronted by a giant statue of Wesley. Wesley’s Chapel, built in 1778, was the sanctuary where Wesley preached to thousands each week.
After touring the chapel we walked to the cemetery in the backyard. Wesley was buried alongside his lifelong ministry companions, which I thought was beautiful. Wesley’s own grave, in fact, holds the bones of many other people, including at least five ministers. One can only imagine the bickering.
Wesley was especially known for prayer- the famous evangelist spent 2 hours in prayer each day, mostly in a small closet off his bedroom. The room would later become known as “The Power House of Methodism.”
John Wesley is one of the most misquoted fellows of the Awakening, including these gems:
“I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.”
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and, in all things, charity.”
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Wesley may have said these things, but according to Kevin Watson, Assistant Professor of Historical Theology and Wesleyan Studies at Seattle Pacific University and Seattle Pacific Seminary, they can’t be found anywhere in his numerous diaries, journals, or sermons.
I decided to sit down with Mr. Wesley and interview him, based on quotes that actually appear in his writings…
Brock: Okay Mr. Wesley, let’s start with an easy one- what are your thoughts on Angry Birds?
Wesley: What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.
Brock: Yikes, that’s a scary thought. Here’s another softball: What are your thoughts on having drums in church?
Wesley: I have no objection to instruments of music in our worship, provided they are neither seen nor heard.
Brock: I had a chance to check out your wardrobe… styles have changed considerably since your time, eh?
Wesley: As to matters of dress, I would recommend one never to be first in the fashion nor the last out of it.
Brock: There are a lot of arguments going on in the church right now, theology-wise. It seems like something new is being brought into question every day. Thoughts?
Wesley: In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church.
Brock: Some people think that you went a little overboard on Christian perfectionism. What do you have to say about that?
Wesley: True humility is a kind of self-annihilation; and this is the centre of all virtues.
Brock: But I was reading a book the other day…
Wesley: Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.
Brock: Yes, but it’s not like you were perfect. If we’re to believe your ex-wife…
Wesley: I the chief of sinners am, but Jesus died for me.
Brock: Has time mellowed your thinking on the issue of judging others?
Wesley: The longer I live, the larger allowances I make for human infirmities. I exact more from myself, and less from others. We should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others.
Brock: Good for you. It’s nice to see that leaders can still grow and change.
Wesley: Every one, though born of God in an instant, yet undoubtedly grows by slow degrees.
Brock: Amen brother. So I’m a young guy, just starting out. Any advice?
Wesley: You have one business on earth – to save souls.
Brock: Duly noted. I’ve heard that you were a pretty famous preacher, and that you made a ton of money back in the day. What did you do with it?
Wesley: I value all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity. Money never stays with me. It would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find its way into my heart.
Brock: Preach it, preacha! So what are you dreaming about these days?
Wesley: I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.
Brock: Wow, that’s a big vision.
Wesley: I look upon the whole world as my parish.
Brock: It’s going to take an army to reach everyone.
Wesley: Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.
Brock: So what’s the role of prayer in all this?
Wesley: God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.
Brock: It’s that important, huh?
Wesley: Prayer is where the action is.
JB: Thoughts on growing old?
Wesley: Lord, let me not live to be useless!
JB: Any final words?
Wesley: The best thing all, God is with us.*
*These were Wesley’s actual final words.