I believe Francis Chan would have appreciated the founder* of the United Methodist Church.
I really want to draw a layman’s parallel between Pastor Chan and Wesley.
A man is influenced by his historical context and that must be said about Wesley. You just can’t pull him out of the historical times in which he lived. He lived in a period of spiritual decline for the Church of England [1703-1791]. The social climate was an ever widening gap between rich and poor, the rich flaunting their opulent lifestyle and the poor living in squalor. Major population shift was occurring as the people of England were moving from the countryside to city life where they took industrial jobs. Most industrial bosses had little concern for their workers; pay was bad and working conditions were dreadful. Believe it or not, to make matters worse, 18th century England was wracked with a gin addiction. People who struggled in life turned to the gin bottle to drown their sorrows.
John Wesley was born in the middle of this situation, and he grew to be a man who felt that Christians should give God their best effort to make things better. There was a lot of work to be done.
He knew of the suffering in his country and he was determined to do something about it. It began with his own soul. He worked hard to study the Bible, and had a daily Bible study, prayer group and accountability group at Oxford. His group’s Bible study lasted three hours daily. He was ridiculed by his fellow students. That is where the term Methodist came from. Originally his group was labelled the “Holy Club” but they soon were referred to as Methodists because they had a method in their approach to their faith.
From his own soul, Wesley branched out. He saw the problems in his world and he and his group started witnessing to people in prison and they started preaching on the street.
This was the beginning of a life devoted to Christ. He was tireless in his effort to spread the message of Jesus.
Wesley felt that there were different stages of the Christian life and he coined terms to designate the stages. He felt that God was active in every human’s life and he called the “pre-born again” grace, prevenient grace. God has an active presence on our lives even though it is not that evident. It is a gift from God. When one accepts God, the next stage that is reached is called justifying grace. One who feels’ God’s presence and acknowledges it, is justified or “made right” with God. This is for many people a “born again” experience. Sanctifying grace is the ongoing experience of God’s gracious presence transforming us into the person God intends us to be. Wesley felt that Christians could enjoy sanctification their whole life, loving God and their neighbors, living a life of meekness and lowliness of heart, abstaining from all appearance of evil and doing all for the glory of God.
Sanctifying grace is not a one-time event; it is a never-ending event—a lifelong event.
I like to refer to it as steady Christian growth. Pastor Chan calls it giving God your best. It is life-long devotion to learning God’s work, witnessing to others and doing God’s work as God asks you to do it in this world.
Life-long work represents the man named John Wesley.
Wesley said of his mission in life: “The world is my parish.” In the 18th century one had to get around on horseback and by the end of his life he had traveled 4,000 miles. By the end of his life he has preached 40,000 sermons.
He was on fire for God. He wanted to help his country out of the malaise it had fallen into and when it came to doing God’s work, he gave it his best effort.
As we have been studying Christians who give God leftovers and Christians who are lukewarm, this would not be John Wesley. I can’t believe Pastor Chan would characterize John Wesley as one of “those” kind of Christians. He preached right up to the last days of his life. One of the last things he said on this earth was “The best of all, God is with us.” Truly God was with John Wesley.
The more one studies his life, the more it is inspirational. The more you learn, the more you realize that he was a man who went crazy with his love of God, many years before Francis Chan wrote Crazy Love.
One of Wesley’s most inspirational quotations is “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 you can.”
This is not a quote from a man who gave God leftovers.
*[Some of you knowledgeable church historians know that Wesley did not “found” the Methodist Church but his denominational credentials are not the focus of this post.]