Wesley Attempts and Rejects ‘Charismatic’ Personal Evangelism

18th Century Map Showing the Main road out of London, 1742
18th Century Map Showing the Main roads out of London, 1742

Make the most of every opportunity
OK, OK, maybe I’m being a bit unfair to the Charismatics here but this is a fascinating little experiment that Wesley attempted for two days.

Fortunately for multiplied thousands he gave up the attempt, but, unnervingly, many Christians actually do their personal evangelism like this.

I’m not going to preface this with many scriptures. Just one:
Paul writes, ‘Pray that I may proclaim [the gospel] clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.’ (Col 4:4-6 NIV)

Our goal should be to graciously seek to make the most of every opportunity to share our faith with others. Obviously the application of wisdom will help us determine what and how much we should share. If we are with folks we regularly see we are clearly not to exasperate them with constant mini-sermons, but if we are with folk briefly, say on a plane, or purchasing something at a check out, there may be a moment to bring encouragement or to leave a Personal Tract.

Wesley’s Experiment
‘For these two days, I had made an experiment which I had been so often and earnestly pressed to do: speaking to none concerning the things of God, unless my heart was free to it.

‘And what was the event?
Why, 1. That I spoke to none at all for fourscore miles together: no, not even to him that travelled with me in the [carriage], unless a few words at first setting out.

‘2. That I had no cross either to bear or to take up, and commonly in an hour or two fell fast asleep.

‘3. That I had much respect shown me wherever I came; everyone behaving to me, as to a civil, good-natured gentleman.

‘O how pleasing is all this to flesh and blood!’ (JW Journals, Vol 1, Baker edition, p.313)

Why pick on the Charismatics?
Well, the phrase ‘unless my heart was free to it’ is equivalent to ‘unless the Spirit prompts me’ nowadays, and you tend to hear Charismatics use that kind of language more often, and particularly with regard to evangelism.

But maybe I’m wrong. After all, those urging his change in behaviour may have been merely embarrassed by his boldness: ‘I had been so often and earnestly pressed to do’ this, he says.

In other words, John Wesley’s default position was that he was always on a mission, and every appropriate opportunity should be taken to help others understand the gospel and maybe come closer to Christ.

This was something he was ‘often and earnestly pressed’ to abandon in favour of more particular promptings. Maybe that’s not just a ‘charismatic’ weakness but affects most evangelicals who are either nervous of getting things wrong or who are fearful and would be helped by being filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:8).

Either way, we can be thankful that Wesley gave up the wretched experiment. May God give you and I grace to likewise give it up and ‘make the most of every opportunity.’

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Advertisements

One thought on “Wesley Attempts and Rejects ‘Charismatic’ Personal Evangelism

  1. Richard October 24, 2009 / 5:00 am

    Amen! Let us make the most of every opportunity!
    Sure we should listen to the Spirit when we go out, but I have found that He always wants us to share Him. The Spirit will teach us and show us how it is done with each individual. I am certainly not a fan of “canned evangelism” IE, using the same “method” on each and every person. Sorry, Jesus didn’t use the “Law” on every person.
    Thanks for the encouraging post!
    Richard

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s