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John Wesley on Methods of Ministry and Discipleship

Submitted to Dr. James Zabloski

in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of

SEMI 500-B14
Intro to Seminary Studies


Juan R. Damon

J.C. Watts, former Oklahoma Congressman and G.O.P. Conference chairperson of the
Republican Party said in his interview with Terrence Samuel in the Crisis (Nov.-Dec.
2002, Issue), 1If you do the same old thing, the same old way, you get the same old
results. Now that may be true in most cases, but it is not true in ministry. People respond
to things in different ways. What may move one, will not move another. Realizing that
people respond to things in different ways, John Wesley developed various methods for
ministry and discipleship. The methods he developed continue to prove to be effective in
ministry today. Therefore, his various methods should be pointed out and studied.
It is evident today that true ministry cannot be done without being a proficient
disciple of Christ. Reputable discipleship and effective ministry is seen throughout
Christendom. This paper will identify and point out methods revealed by John Wesley
that continue to strengthen church ministry and shape diligent disciples today.
Experiences in life shape the way the world is seen, and those same experiences show
an individual how to make it through. After going through an experience an individual
can look back and see the methods involved in producing a positive outcome. An
individual can successfully refine this by using it over and over again and adding or
taking away to find consistent methods that are not only useful for themselves, but for
others who will come after them. What then were some of the influential experiences of
John Wesley that inspired his thoughts on ministry and discipleship?


Terrence Samuel, OKLAHOMA SOONER, Crisis (Nov.-Dec. 2002): 40, accessed January 29,

Diligently seeking to be a Christian, so that others would know Christ through the
life he lived. That just might sum up the life of John Wesley who was born in 1703 to
Samuel and Susanna Wesley. His father, was an Anglican priest and Wesley soon
followed suit. He was educated at Oxford and in 1728 was ordained as an Anglican
priest. After serving as a curate for his father, Wesley returned to Oxford. While at
Oxford, Wesley, his brother Charles, and several friends, were called to speak to a
man who was sent to prison for murdering his wife. They were able to pray and speak
to the man. They were so happy with the results, they decided to try and go to the
prison once or twice a week. Soon after they were asked to visit a poor woman who
was sick and after visiting her, they decided that they would visit others who were
sick or poor.
One day Wesley decided to speak to the chaplain at Oxford, who took care of the
condemned prisoners, and asked him if he could preach to them once a month, if the
Bishop gave his consent. When they found out that the Bishop had given his consent
and blessings, Wesley, his brother, and several others began to earnestly minister to
and visit their neighbors, prisoners, and several poor families in the town.
Wesley was so excited with what was going on, that he wrote a clergy friend and
gave him an account of what they were doing and the success it was having. There
were some though, who were not so happy and became angry with what they were
doing and so named them, The Holy Club. Many were upset with what Wesley and
The Holy Club were doing, but John answered with this in a letter, To the law and to
the testimony (Isa. 8:20) we appeal, and by which we ought to be judged. If by these

it can be proved we are in an error, we will immediately and gladly retract it; if not,
we have not so learned Christ as to renounce any part of His service. 2
Wesley loved Christ and saw ministry as an opportunity to minister to those in his
community. This is only one of the many influential experiences that began to shape
the thoughts of Wesley and helped in developing his vision of ministry and
Another memorable experience is when Wesley went to minister at Savannah in
the Georgia Colony. On October 14, 1735, Wesley, his brother, and a few others left
on a ship bound for Georgia. While on the journey they ran into several storms and
they rejoiced that the Lord had brought them through. During the last of one of the
storms that they had to go through, they thought the ship was going to tear apart. So
they got together and prayed for nearly three hours. On the ship were two groups of
people, the Germans and the English. While the storm was raging the Germans began
to sing and continued singing as the storm worsened. The English, on the other hand,
began screaming. When the storm calmed Wesley asked one of the Germans if they
were afraid, and they answered, I thank God, no. He then asked if the women and
children were afraid, and the man responded, No; our women and children are not
afraid to die3 Wesley then went to the English and pointed out the difference between
those who fear God and those who dont. It was then that Wesley began to

Alice Russie, ed, The Essential Works of John Wesley, Barbour Publishing, (2011): 17-25.

Alice Russie, His Spiritual Journey, 29.

notice a difference between the English and the Germans. And so he decided to ask
the advice of one of the German pastors. The pastor asked Wesley several questions
that stayed on his mind. Have you the witness within yourself?, Does the Spirit of
God bear witness with your spirit, that you are a child of God? When the pastor saw
that Wesley could not answer the questions, he then asked three more questions and
this is how Wesley said the conversation went. Do you know Jesus Christ? I paused
and said, I know He is the Savior of the world. True, replied he; but do you
know He has saved you? I answered, I hope He has died to save me. He only
added, Do you know yourself? I said, I do. They were vain words,4 wrote
Wesley was troubled by the questions asked by the German Pastor to the point
that he neglected his flock and couldnt speak with the sailors. Close to three year
later still reflecting on the state of his own soul, Wesley came to the conclusion that
he did not have real faith in God. He searched himself and believed himself to be full
of pride and that his words were not edifying. Wesley got to the point that he made
this declaration, I went to America to convert the Indians; but O! who shall convert
me? who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of unbelief? I have a fair
summer religion. I can talk well; and believe myself while no danger is near. But let
death look me in the face and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, To die is gain!5
Wesley felt his ministry was unsuccessful, but what he really found was his own

Ibid., 29.

Ibid., 32.

need to develop a closer relationship with Christ. His experience on the ship helped
him to realize that true ministry cannot be done without true belief in God. Heading
back to London, Wesley asked his friend, Peter, whether or not he should preach
about faith, since he didnt really have any. His friend Peter replied, Preach faith till
you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.6 Due to his
experience with the Holy Club, Wesley began to realize his visions of ministry and
discipleship, and his experience on the ship with the English and the Germans, helped
him to see he needed to have a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
While in London, Wesley joined a religious group called the Moravian Christians.
They believed Christians should have a high regard for Christian unity, personal piety,
missions, and music. It was during this time that Wesley began to diligently search
the scriptures. Though he still didnt fully feel he believed, he continued to preach the
gospel. It was during this time that he experienced his conversion. While reading
Luthers preface to the Epistle to the Romans, he began to read the part that was
describing the change that God brings in the heart, through faith in Jesus. It was then
that Wesley states in his journal, I felt my heart strangely warmed.7 Though after
this he was tempted on many occasions, his faith never wavered. Wesley departed
from the Moravian Christians soon after, and began his own ministry.
Based on his past experiences, Wesley began to see the call that God had placed
on his life. These experiences would later shape the methods he would use throughout

Ibid., 35.

Ibid., 38.

his ministry and his teachings on discipleship. Wesley realized that his calling was to
reach out to those in need, but in order to do it effectively, he must have a personal
relationship with God. His experience revealed having a personal relationship with
God will bring faith, and faith will lead to strengthen not only those who are being
served, but it serves to strengthen those who exercise it.
Wesley then began to go out and preach on the streets. He would pray, read the
scriptures, sing praises, and then go preach. His prayer was a simple one, O God,
save me, and all that are weak in the faith, from doubtful disputations!8 The basis
of Wesleys beliefs regarding ministry and discipleship were formed by his biblical
studies and theological doctrines. What biblical or theological foundations
specifically helped form Wesleys beliefs regarding ministry and discipleship?
One of the key steps in Wesleys ministry is that he loved to travel and preach
outdoors. Wesley embraced the Arminian doctrines which believe in atonement and
Christian grace. Wesley said, All of my works, my righteousness, my prayers need
an atonement for themselves. So that my mouth is stopped. I have nothing to plead.
God is holy; I am unholy. God is a consuming fire: I am altogether a sinner, suitable
only to be consumed.9 Wesley was constantly checking himself to make sure he was
doing Gods will. Wesley wrote, And I found the difference between this and my
former state chiefly consisted in this. I was striving, yes, fighting with all my might
under the law as well as under grace. But then sometimes, if not often, conquered;

Ibid., 40

Ibid., 38

now, I was always conquered.10 Due to Wesleys beliefs in atonement and Christian
grace, he was led to focus on Christian perfection. Wesley was concerned that the
people didnt want the preachers to preach about perfection and that those who did,
the people would treat as heathens. So through his studies he declared the bible stated,
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded11 He then began to preach
at different churches to which he, endeavored to purge the [London] society of all
who did not walk according to the gospel.12 Wesley began to preach to the people
ways in which they could practice serious religion. He believed that in joining in a
covenant with God and giving Him your heart, soul, and mind you would begin your
journey to Christian perfection. Wesley also learned the importance of fasting. He
wrote in his journal, There is something remarkable in the manner in which God
revived His work in these part. A few months ago the generality of people in this
circuit were exceeding lifeless. Perceiving this, Samuel Meggot advised the society at
Barnard-Castle to observe every Friday with fasting and prayer. The very first Friday
they met together, God broke in upon them in a wonderful manner; and His work has
been increasing among them ever since. The neighboring societies heard of this,
agreed to follow the same rule, and soon experienced the same blessing. Is not the
neglect of this plain duty (I mean, fasting, ranked by our Lord with almsgiving and
prayer) one general occasion of deadness among Christians? Can anyone willingly

Ibid., 39


Philippians 3:15, KJV


Ibid., 49

neglect it and be guiltless?13 Another doctrine that rose up and influenced Wesleys
methods of ministry was sacramental theology, which maintains that means of grace,
is the manner by which God transforms and sanctifies believers. It encouraged
individuals to experience Jesus Christ personally. Wesley organized many small
groups that developed discipleship practices and gave religious instructions. These
small groups of people, under Wesleys instructions, became Methodist leaders or he
appointed them as unordained evangelist to travel and preach. This led to lay
preachers and lay evangelist. Are there any methods in ministry and discipleship
developed by Wesley that continue to be used to lead men and women to Jesus
Christ? Yes.
One is the importance of Grace. Kevin M. Watson in his book, A Blueprint for
Discipleship, says this, According to scripture, grace plays a primary role in our
salvation: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from
yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. Grace is the
source of our salvation. Grace is the reason that we can have hope when we begin to
realize the extent of the distance that we have put between ourselves and God.
According to the letter to the Ephesians, we are saved by grace through faith. Thus,
Wesley and many other influential Christian leaders insist that even our ability to
have faith is grace-empowered. Keven goes on to say before you can talk about the
methods that Wesley used for helping Christians become disciples of Christ, you

Ibid., 50-51


Kevin M. Watson, A Blueprint for Discipleship, 14.

must first lay the foundation that the methods are built on and that is the Grace of
God. What methods of ministry or marks then has Wesley left on the Church that
continue to be effective today. Dean Blevins and Mark Maddix in their book,
Discovering Discipleship: Dynamics of Christian Education, state, John Wesley had
his own version of the marks of the church. A saved and saving community
demonstrated living faith, biblical preaching and sacraments, disciplines of the Spirit
and Christian mission, all through the power of the Holy Spirit. These marks give
clues to the nature of what the church is called to be and do. Wesleys emphasis on
activity-preaching and sacraments-reveals both his appreciation for traditional
sacraments and his broader category of the means of grace.15 Another contribution of
Wesleys to the modern church is social reform. Dean and Mark in their chapter on,
Wesley the Educator, says this, John Wesley desired to cure the diseased soul. They
go on to say that Wesleys evangelistic goals were not only for the adults but also for
the children, namely Christian Education. Wesleys call is the call of the church now,
developing schools for children will save souls.
Wesley believed in small groups and today small groups are used to give bible
studies, to visit jails and prisons, for childrens ministries, and to do evangelism.
Wesleys methods of ministry and discipleship can be seen throughout the Christian
Church. Due to his ministry methods, many churches have been started and planted,
and many a soul has been saved due to street preachers preaching. Wesley has

Dean Blevins and Mark Maddix, Discovering Discipleship, 63.

opened the way for prison reform and prison ministries which continue today in jails
and prisons all over the world. Lay preachers are being trained and appointed by
pastors and churches to help in the vineyard. Jesus declared, Then saith he unto his
disciples, The harvest is truly plenteous, but the labourers are few.16 Lay preachers
all over the world are bringing souls to Jesus Christ, using the discipleship and
ministry methods of Wesley.
It is clearly evident that John Wesley was determined to develop a closer
relationship with God and make a difference in those around him. Based upon his
personal experiences he began to develop methods of ministry and discipleship that
consistently drew men and women to Jesus Christ. Due to his continued efforts to
create viable methods to share Christ and strengthen disciples, Wesley was able to
develop methods of ministry and discipleship that continues to guide ministry and
create effective disciples.

Matthew 9:37, KJV