In my library, I have an 1836 copy of The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which was published less than 50 years after John Wesley’s death. It is small and inexpensive; it would have easily fit into a person’s pocket and would have been available to every Methodist home in the United States. It begins with a few interesting lines to all Methodists: “Dearly beloved brethren, we think it expedient to give you a brief account of the rise of Methodism both in Europe and America.” This is followed by a quote from John and Charles Wesley in the Historical Statement: “In 1729, two young men in England reading the Bible saw they could not be saved without holiness; followed after it, and incited others so to do. In 1737, they saw, likewise, that men are justified before they are sanctified; but still holiness was their object. God then thrust them out to raise a holy people.”
Notice it says, “God then thrust them out to raise a holy people.” They were thrust out or compelled by Christ to take the message to hurting and helpless people. They knew the dangers and the difficulties of this majestic struggle, but they were totally captivated by God to do this work.
That holy purpose has been unstoppable for almost three centuries. It will continue, because it is God’s holy purpose. John and Charles Wesley believed the Bible taught that men and women must be holy before they can enter heaven. They believed that we can be sanctified after we are justified, and that this holy purpose compels us to go into the world and reach people for Christ. A holy purpose is absolutely unstoppable.
Our 80 districts and each of their churches continue this holy march. Perhaps you are saying, “We don’t have much influence. We can’t imagine ourselves as a mighty force.” Nothing could be further from the truth, my friend. Many of our individual churches may be small, but together we are a mighty force. Last year, the 5,000 churches in the USA/Canada Region gave more than $65 million to missions. Together, we saw more than 60,000 people come to Christ. Together, we started new churches. Together, we educated future ministers and laity. Together, we saw young people find Christ and their calls to ministry. Together, we took the message of heart holiness to people of all nations. Together, we sent out mission teams all over the world. Together, we are a mighty force for God.
We are unstoppable, because we are consumed by a holy purpose. If our purpose for being a church is not a holy purpose, we will not make progress. An influential leader in today’s evangelical circles said, “Don’t worry about the growth of your church. Focus on the purposes of your church.” He is right. Our purpose is not to grow the church. Our purpose is to introduce people to Jesus and his abundant life. Our purpose is not to build big buildings. Our purpose is not to have great worship experiences. Our purpose is not providing religious activities and great programs. All of these are good things, but they cannot be our purpose. Our purpose is to lift up Jesus and his message of holiness as hope for a hurting world. Our purpose is to make Christlike disciples. If your purpose is to meet the deep needs of people by lifting up Christ, you will be invincible.
As John Wesley would say years later, “I look upon all the world as my parish.”* Wesley was after more than a target audience or membership rolls. He desired that ALL, both locally and globally, hear the message of salvation and grow in Christ. We need to recapture Wesley’s notion of parish, which can be defined essentially as a local community. When you look at your local community, what do you see? What ethnicities, what ages, what economic levels, and what language groups? Are you gripped by a holy purpose to bring Christ and find Christ among those in your parish?
No church is too small to reach people. Every district can make a difference. No economic crisis can stop us. No disappointing demographic can keep us from reaching people.
With the power of the resurrected Christ flowing through our lives, nothing shall be able to stop us from reaching men and women with the gospel of Christ and the message of heart holiness. May the same Spirit that thrust John and Charles Wesley upon their world, thrust us forward to take our message to the hurting people of the United States and Canada.
Pleased with the Prospects,
USA/Canada Regional Director
* John Wesley, The Journal of John Wesley, accessed online at www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/journal.vi.iii.v.html.