It has been a long time since I’ve taken an American history class. I don’t really remember much from my studies. Working with my coins, I feel like I’m taking a crash course. I have been working a lot with the state series in quarters. The quarters were minted in the order the states came into the union. After going through all of my change, I determined I have 49 of the 50 states. New Mexico is the one I’m missing, and my daughter has an extra she is going to send me. I was a bit surprised the quarters also have the District of Columbia, and 5 U.S. Territories. I apologize in advance for being insulting, but I couldn’t have named the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
As I went through my coins, I came across two $1 John Adams coins. I wasn’t sure what they were. It turns out they are part of a presidential series for presidents who have died. The last president in the series is President Reagan. It’s unclear to me if all the presidential coins have been circulated. I went to the bank and was able to get eight more presidents. Can anyone tell me (without looking it up) who was our fifth president? It is easy for me to look at my coins and see it was President James Monroe, who served from 1817-1825. My oldest American coin is a 1798 large cent penny. President John Adams, our second president, was serving at the time.
My penny was minted only seven years after John Wesley died. His death was one hundred and seventy-three years before my birth. Having known many people who lived to be over one-hundred years old, this difference doesn’t seem as long to me now as it did when I was a kid.
So, who is John Wesley? John Wesley (some would also include Charles Wesley, his brother) is considered to be the founder of Methodism. Ironically, Wesley was never a Methodist preacher (kind of like how Jesus was never a Christian). Wesley was a Church of England priest intent on bringing revival to the Church of England. The Church of England did not consider Wesley to be orthodox. He was a radical pushing hard for change! Why did Wesley start open-air preaching? He didn’t have his own church, and the other Church of England priests reached the point where they didn’t want John preaching in their churches.
I like a statement posted on Wikipedia about Wesley. It says: “Moving across Great Britain and Ireland, he helped form and organize small Christian groups that developed intensive and personal accountability, discipleship and religious instruction; most importantly, he appointed itinerant, un-ordained evangelists to care for these groups of people. Under Wesley’s direction, Methodists became leaders in many social issues of the day, including prison reform and the abolition of slavery.” It amazes me how in the 1700’s Wesley was already using women as some of his preachers. He was a man ahead of his time!
As we struggle to figure out the future of United Methodism, it’s a good time to take a really intense look at our Methodist roots. What lessons can we learn from early Methodism? I don’t accept the notion Americans are no longer interested in Christianity. I think the problem is we, as United Methodist, have become too settled and institutionalized. Do we still know how to evangelize? How well do we teach people how to grow as Christians? The revival Wesley desired for the Church of England is the revival we need in the United Methodist Church!
Each of us (and each of our churches) have the potential to be a part of a revival. It starts with having a burning desire to help other people to know Christ. Being fully honest, how hot is our desire? The beginning point might be stirring up the coals of our own spiritual lives.
I can guarantee revival requires change. Revival is not needed if what we are doing is already working. Most church members are going to resist change. It’s time for us to stop being “most church members”! There are people who don’t have time to wait for us to quit fighting within our denomination. Their lives depend on hearing the message of Christ now! Is God able to use us, or will God have to look for someone else?
Your brother on the journey, Mark