"The great danger of Christian discipleship is that we should have two religions: a glorious, biblical Sunday gospel that sets us free from the world, that in the cross and resurrection of Christ makes eternity alive in us, a magnificent gospel of Genesis and Romans and Revelation; and, then, an everyday religion that we make do with during the week between the time of leaving the world and arriving in heaven. We save the Sunday gospel for the big crises of existence. For the mudane trivialities, . . . we use the everyday religion of the Reader's Digest reprint, advice from a friend, an Ann Landers column, the huckstered wisdom of a talk-show celebrity. We practice patent-medicine religion: we know that God created the universe, . . . [b]ut we can't believe that he condescends to watch the soap opera of our daily trials and tribulations."

- Eugene Peterson
Could You And John Wesley Be Friends?

This is from a provocative post about John Wesley by Todd Rhoades over at Monday Morning Insight - a blog for church leaders. (It's a really good blog by the way.)

10 Things You'd Hate about John Wesley (and 10 Things He'd Hate About You!)

John Wesley: inspiring preacher, inspired organiser, relentless social activist, challenging writer, historic church builder, world-shaking reviver... but would you actually want to be in his church? And would he let you in?

He rode 250,000 miles on horseback, preached 40,000 sermons, gave away ?30,000 and left behind 132,000 followers. A hero maybe, but is he someone better appreciated at a distance? You decide.

10 things you'd hate about John Wesley

1. Despotism ? Even Wesley's own preachers called him "Pope John". He ruled his followers like an enlightened despot, and his beloved brother Charles plotted to "break his power". John expected every Methodist society to follow his rules like a McDonalds franchise, and took personal charge over every member's private life, expelling them for laziness or selling spirits.

2. Superstition ? He saw rain storms as God's punishment on him - or the Devil's attack. He made decisions by opening the Bible at random for God's guidance, and even decided whether to marry by pulling bits of paper out of a hat.

3. Copyright ? Wesley was a plagiarist and pseudepigrapher - he passed other people's writings off as his own and his own as other people's. He got into trouble for ripping off an anti-American tract of Dr Johnson's. And he attacked a book by Toplady (of "Rock of Ages" fame) by publishing a cheap caricature of it at the same time under Toplady's name. Toplady denounced him as a common crook worthy of deportation to America.

4. Grief ? He didn't believe in it, as Christians should be happy when someone goes to heaven. "I believe the death of your children is a great instance of the goodness of God towards you," he told his sister. "You have often mentioned to me how much of your time they took up. Now that time is restored to you, and you have nothing to do but serve the Lord without carefulness and without distraction."

5. Drink ? He wasn't against alcohol, actually, unlike later Methodists. While he forbad spirits, he loved wine and beer, published home brewing tips and campaigned for real ale. He also allowed tobacco for medicinal purposes. But he discouraged Methodists from drinking tea, being a waste of time and money.

6. Charismania ? Wesley often reduced his hearers to ecstatic convulsions, screams and groans, fainting, beating the ground and uncontrollable laughter. He claimed exorcisms and healings, and once thought he might have raised the dead. You might like that kind of thing or you might not.

7. Narrowness ? After his evangelical conversion, he considered all non-evangelicals "almost Christians". Though one of the most devout believers alive before then, he had been "an heir of hell". In later years he mellowed a lot.

8. Women ? Despite great services to the role of women in church, even his greatest admirers admitted that Wesley had "an inexcusable weakness" for the prettily devout. Nothing sinister, but as a married man, his gushing and intimate letters to his circle of young female acolytes was neither good matrimony nor good pastoring. And his treatment of a quasi-fianc? in Georgia led to him jumping parole and fleeing the state at night.

9. Perfection ? Throughout his life, Wesley preached the thoroughly eccentric doctrine that Christians can be perfect, full of love and without sin. Later he came to see it as a miraculous sudden change, like salvation, though he was as surprised as anyone when Methodists started to claim it had happened.

10. Plain-speaking ? Wesley believed in the importance of pointing out others' errors and faults with utter candour. As "one of the greatest instances of friendship", he told an old friend whose only child was dying that she was the most spoiled he had ever seen, "Happy would it be for both her and you if God would speedily take her to himself!"
To find out what 10 things Wesley would hate about you, you'll have to go over to the site and check it out. Todd intended this post as a lighthearted post about how times have changed. However, much of the feedback he got was negative. So he added this to the beginning of the post:
I'm taking a good amount of flack for posting this article. Some, after reading this article are very upset. Some feel that the statements below are not true. Some feel that the purpose of the article is to tarnish the reputation of John Wesley and impune his character. Some felt that the real purpose of the post was to make you really 'hate' (literally) Wesley.

Nah... this article is meant to be an interesting piece that, at least to me, shows how things can change in our culture over a few hundred years, and 1. What it would've been like to live in Wesley's time, or 2. What it would be like to have Wesley alive today. That's all. Nothing else. There is nothing deep here.
I, for one, wasn't offended at all. No Christian leader is perfect. God does indeed "hit a mighty lick with a crooked stick." Besides, times do change. It cracks me up that Billy Sunday dedicated entire sermons to the condemnation of cardplaying. I wonder what sacred cows we have today, that we just think are so Biblical, will just turn out to be cultural 300 years from now?


Trackback URL: http://thinklings.org/bloo.trackback.php/1994.

Comments on "Could You And John Wesley Be Friends?":
1. Bob - 04/12/2005 12:33 pm CDT

There is alot of truth in this post. No doubt about it. Some of the material though is a bit slanted, and some of it looks alot different today than it would have in the context of Wesley's own time. An excellent bio of Wesley is "John Wesley: A Biography" by Stephen Tomkins, published by Baker, available from Amazon et al. Tomkins does an amazing job of playng both hero worsipper and iconoclast to the dizzingly complex John Wesley. Tomkins hits on alot of these points. I almost wonder if this was the book Todd Rhoades read before making this post (speaking of plagiarism -- heh heh [Now don't get mad at me either. I'm just joking.])

2. Ark - 04/12/2005 3:24 pm CDT

Thanks for pointing that post out.

John Wesley is one of my favourite historical Christians, even though I disagree with his theology and a lot of his behaviour. In fact, seeing how God used him despite his faults (historical situation not withstanding) encouraged me incredibly - you don't have to be anywhere near perfect before God uses you.

Thanks again for the post.


3. bgart - 04/12/2005 4:21 pm CDT

"you don't have to be anywhere near perfect before God uses you." And we'd all be in trouble if we did!

I saw that list before. I didn't know much about John Wesley when I first read it. I still don't know a lot, but he doesn't sound THAT bad.

Heh, interesting list anyway.

4. Anastasia - 04/12/2005 7:01 pm CDT

john wesley irritates me but not for any of these reasons really. i can't stand his incessant worry about the state of his soul and his salvation. that and his insistence that people don't like him b/c he's one of god's prophets because i'm thinking maybe the fact that he acted like a real jerk from time to time had something to do with it.

that said, i don't begrudge anyone their right to like John. Probably, he wasn't too bad a fellow and I like the observation that god used him faults and all.

the most amusing thing on this list was the bit about drink. the dude was an anglican when he started out. of course he thought drinking wine was okay!

5. Mark - 04/13/2005 6:09 am CDT

What do you expect from a lifelong Anglican?

6. Bob - 04/13/2005 6:13 am CDT

BTW, beer was actually cheaper than tea back then, so Wesley was not entirely hypocrytical in allowing the former but prohibiting the latter as a waste of money. Beer could also be more healthy (or less damaging) since some tea companies actually added lead to make their teas look richer and darker.

7. alison - 04/13/2005 8:28 am CDT

I would imagine Billy Sunday had an aversion to playing cards, at least in part, because of his involvement in Rescue Missions. Many people at that time, and maybe even today, ended up in rescue missions because of their card-playing (i.e., gambling) habits.

8. Bob - 04/14/2005 3:06 am CDT

Fascinating. Then again, the same can be said, and much worse, for many other "heroes" of the faith. Take a close look at Martin Luther, for example. Great man of faith, sure, but if he took over as pastor of my church, I guess I'd probably be out "church-shopping" in no time.

I guess these guys were no better than, say, Moses (a murderer who had a problem with anger), David (adulterer, murderer), etc. God still managed to use them a little. Heh heh.

9. Bob - 04/14/2005 5:19 am CDT

Bob makes a good point. Much the same point I would make if I were Bob.

10. JOLLYBLOGGER - 04/15/2005 3:00 am CDT

Skeletons in Our Heroes Closets
Todd Rhoades at Monday Morning Insight has a post called 10 Things You'd Hate about John Wesley (and 10 Things He'd Hate About You!).

11. Jamie - 04/16/2005 6:17 am CDT

hehe... maybe a contraversal comment... but maybe the fact that these people clearly were used by God, but we wouldn't want them as part of our church shows something bad about the christian society today? :P

The comment about not griefing about a child... maybe thats what God thinks!...

hehe, One thing about John wesley for anyone who took offense at those 10 points... So what if he acted like a punk... He completely changed the church for the entire western world (which is currently the most influencial, so he kind of changed the entire christian world)... He's pretty cool...

The other thing I found interesting about John Wesley. Apprantly he had major issues with preaching outside a church building. Despite there being no theological reason for it, the influence of tradition in an anglican church had such a huge influence on a man so crazy like John welsey! (Crazy in a good sense)... just think if he descided to preach only buildings because that was "the right thing to do".

btw just as a little disclaimer, I'm totally in agreement about whether I'd like him to pastor a church.... I'm not trying to be evil or judge anyone or anything and blah blah, other stuff you are supposed to put in a disclaimer...

12. Andrew - 04/16/2005 2:34 pm CDT

I would agree with Jamie here... Yes, there were issues, but then again if you find me one pastor who doesn't have issues yet is still massively used by God then I'd be impressed. Of all the people I know who are used by God they all have faults! In contrast, very few of the people who I would say don't have big character flaws are used massively by God. This is a bit of a generalisation, but it's my experience!

Also, there is something about the people with these big character flaws that makes them IDEAL for Big things! These are the people who are passionate, who don't back off when things get tough and who aren't afraid of offending people! We desperately need more people like this, as these are the movers and shakers of the gospel in our current days! These are the people who step out and follow God, because they aren't bothered about 'oh people will think this' or 'oh but I do this wrong'! We need more!

As for the preaching outside of church - yeh, he had huge issues with that. So much so that he didn't preach outside of church for ages, he got his brother (or a companion) to preach for him if my memory serves me correctly!

As for having him as my pastor... I would both love to and not want to. There is an amazing thing about having someone all out for God! I mean, John was soo on fire for God that the ICEBREAKER in their cell groups was 'What sins have you struggled with this week?'! They strained to be holy, and also admitted their weaknesses and were humble. I'd love to see more of this! I think it would make a HUGE difference!

13. Jamie - 04/17/2005 1:20 am CDT

hehe to be honest andrew I think you're right, I've heard about the whole Icebreaker thing...

My cell group has struggled with openness to a horrible degree (we once had someone talk about how their parents divorce has got really terrible, Now I've been to this guys house its normally really really bad... so if he said anything it must of been almost unbearable) yet we just moved on and asked the next person how their week was...

How cool would it be to have the Icebreaker as intense as that! (my cell has multipled to be all guys, maybe we could do it:P)...

hehe one thing that I would like to see...

10 reasons why you would not want to let paul within 10km of your church :P

1. He was one of the first people to kill christians
2. He went on a massive christian killing rampage as far as he could go :P

"These are the people who are passionate, who don't back off when things get tough and who aren't afraid of offending people!"

Paul didn't just not back off, he killed people :P I reacon this passion in him was the thing that made him so powerful when he found Jesus...

I'm guessing andrew you've read and like Wild at heart then :P hehe

I think most people would like Jesus to pastor their church? Despite insulting the pharisees, and attacking the people at the temple... if you came to him with humility generally Jesus seemed like a nice guy?

Someone should make another list of top ten reasons why you would NOT want to get used by God...

number 1 reason: Hosea!

14. Edward - 01/31/2006 11:31 am CST

Someone once said that if great men have great faults, that's because little men don't have room for such faults. Could apply here?

15. Kay DeLoach - 09/13/2007 3:21 pm CDT

I am trying to find a book or article that tells about John Wesley's mother teaching him about God using a set of religious playing cards. I can find references to this but no any articles. I remember reading one when I was a child in Church. If you have any info e-mail me at georgiaspur@bellsouth.net. My son does card tricks to get peoples attention and then begins to talk with them about their faith and I think that it might help him to know how John Wesley's mother taught him using playing cards. Thanks

16. Kay DeLoach - 09/13/2007 3:24 pm CDT

I am trying to find a book or article that tells about John Wesley's mother teaching him about God using a set of religious playing cards. I can find references to this but no any articles. I remember reading one when I was a child in Church. If you have any info e-mail me at georgiaspur@bellsouth.net. My son does card tricks to get peoples attention and then begins to talk with them about their faith and I think that it might help him to know how John Wesley's mother taught him using playing cards. Thanks

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