Seeing the world through a Wesleyan lens gives an expansive, audacious vision. More than a worldview, this is a way of living out God’s plan in the world and engaging in the mission of the one who said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21).
A Wesleyan vision means living in “eager expectation” of God’s full salvation, the time of “general restoration” when all things are brought to fulfillment and the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is glorified in all things forever. With that vision and expectation, we seek to “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10 TNIV). Filled with the Spirit, we become agents of the reality we see through the gift of faith.
What might it mean, then, to be Wesleyan today? Followers of John Wesley who embody his spirit and project will—
1. Seek to live and act always in the presence of God, embodying a well-ordered devout and holy life. We know this is possible through being filled with and walking in the Spirit, trusting the Spirit to help us live and act like Jesus Christ, filled with Jesus’ passion to glorify God and do good kingdom work.
2. Ground our lives in Scripture—daily reading and study, seeking to obey and not just hear the Word. We will understand Scripture through God’s revelation in Jesus Christ (and vice versa), knowing that the Bible is not a private devotional book but the book of the church, the Book of the Covenant, interpreted and practiced in community.1
3. Practice an optimism of grace, born of God’s promises in Scripture, the resurrected Jesus Christ, and the fact of God’s reign.
4. Yearn for the renewal of the church locally, regionally, and globally, practicing that yearning through committed life in local Christian community and through using our spiritual gifts and other resources to advance the life and mission of the church worldwide.
5. Have a vision for God’s work in the world in all its dimensions—especially for proclaiming and demonstrating the Good News of Jesus and his reign in all cities and among all earth’s peoples. We will see the image of God reflected in every person and culture, though marred by sin. We will work to bring people to personal transforming faith in Jesus Christ. Our passion will be “God’s will done on earth as in heaven” in all parts of society and among all earth’s peoples.
Each of us will be personally engaged in God’s mission according to our gifts, calling, and opportunities.
And so each of us will be personally engaged in God’s mission according to our gifts, calling, and opportunities— witnessing by word and deed, building the church and our families, seeking to be Jesus’ salt and light within that part of society and culture that God has placed us.
6. Have passion for spreading Jesus’ Good News among the poor, building the church, learning from “the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the alien.” We will seek to end oppression and to provide for basic human needs everywhere, working for the just ordering of society locally and globally. We will watch out for “the danger of increasing riches,” not “laying up treasure on earth” beyond prudent personal stewardship so that we don’t become a burden to others. We will insist that government truly “secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy” (Psalm 140:12, TNIV).
7. We will praise “the wisdom of God in creation.” We will worship God in awe and wonder as we consider all the works of his hands, the intricacies of earth’s ecosystems and God’s whole universal “sanctuary” (Psalm 150:1). We will study God’s intention for creation and how that interweaves with his plan of redemption and new creation. We will practice godly creation-care stewardship, not only out of obedience, but because we see the link between human well-being and that of the earth, and because we live in certain hope that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21, TNIV).
For all of us, the goal is to follow Jesus closely, seeking to glorify God above all and to keep kingdom priorities absolutely central in our lives.
Of course, this way of incarnating the gospel is not exclusively Wesleyan. It is biblical. Our goal is to follow Wesley as he followed Jesus. We seek to follow Jesus faithfully in our world, to center our lives in God and his reign (Mt 6:33). For those of us in the Wesleyan tradition, the goal is to follow John Wesley as he followed Jesus Christ. For all of us, the goal is to follow Jesus closely, seeking to glorify God above all and to keep kingdom priorities absolutely central in our lives.
Perhaps the Apostle Peter’s reference to spiritual gifts in 1 Peter 4:10-11 applies also to the gifts or charisms we share in our different theological traditions: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s multicolored grace… so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Pt. 4:10-11, TNIV, translating “in its various forms” literally as “multicolored”).
One day in his travels, Wesley came to the city of Salisbury. There he found a little nine-year-old girl, Elizabeth Bushell, who wanted to take the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper along with the other Methodists at the local (Anglican) parish church but was refused because of her age.
Wesley took Elizabeth on his knee, talked with her about the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, and “then and there administered to her the sacrament of Holy Communion.”
Elizabeth Bushell grew up to serve the Lord all her days.2
I want to see the world, and see people, the way John Wesley did—through the lens of God’s love.
HOWARD A. SNYDER serves as distinguished professor and chair of Wesley Studies at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His most recent book is Yes in Christ: Wesleyan Reflections on Gospel, Mission, and Culture.
Copyright © 2011 Clements Publishing. Yes in Christ: Wesleyan Reflections on Gospel, Mission, and Culture by Howard A. Snyder. Used with permission. May not be reproduced without publisher permission. All rights reserved.
1. Howard A. Snyder, Chap. 10, "The Book of the Covenant" in Liberating the Church: The Ecology of Church and Kingdom (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1983), 195-204.
2. Cited in Churnock, ed., Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, 5:291.