Experiencing the Spirit
I don’t have a celebrity crush (or not one I will admit publicly here), but I definitely have theological crushes and one of them is John Wesley. Wesley is known as the father of Methodism, but his theology has shaped a number of denominations and movements (including the Church of God, Anderson).
John Wesley (1703-1791) was a priest in the Anglican Church in England. In May of 1738, he was met with resistance to his enthusiasm toward the gospel message by his Anglican brothers. In frustration, he went to a group meeting of a local Christian group called the Moravians. It was at this meeting, in a chapel on Aldersgate Street in London, that Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed.” The Holy Spirit moved him profoundly. The experience became an assurance to Wesley of his salvation and of his calling. It would give him the courage he needed throughout his ministry to challenge theological strongholds and tackle societal issues.
From that moment forward, Wesley’s life was a testament to his courageous faith. He had lived through the early years of the Industrial Revolution and seen the degradation that came with it. Based on his reading of Scripture, he advocated for the vulnerable. He raised funds and collected clothing for the poor. He regularly visited the sick and those in prison. He assisted with housing for those marginalized in the community, including widows and orphans. He helped with a school in Kingswood, an underserved community. He started a medical dispensary, which is believed to be the first free medical clinic in London, gave jobs to women processing cotton at the Foundry, and started a loan program as early as 1746.
Wesley was also a strong opponent of slavery. The last letter he wrote before his death was to William Wilberforce, encouraging him to continue the fight against the injustice of slavery. None of these actions sound exceedingly progressive to our ears, but to his contemporaries, he was pushing against the cultural and religious tide.
This year, the church celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost on Sunday, May 23. Coincidentally, on the same Sunday this year, Wesley’s Aldersgate experience is remembered as well.
As you prepare for Sunday, May 23, are you praying for the move of the Spirit in our midst? Are you praying for people in your community to have their hearts “strangely warmed” by the Spirit? Are you praying for people to go—into their neighborhoods and into the world—with courageous calls to love and care for the vulnerable? God is still moving, still calling, still equipping, and still sending.
Wesley history taken from:
The Theology of John Wesley by Kenneth Collins.
Scriptural Christianity: A Call to John Wesley’s Disciples by Robert Eugene Chiles