Wesley’s Gift for Organization

WESLEY WAS A BRILLIANT ORGANIZER whose influence over his followers was so great that the historian J. H. Plumb asserted that Wesley could have successfully led a revolution if he had not been so wedded to the political status quo. What were his secrets of organization?

First, Wesley stressed practical Christianity, one that was always demonstrating itself in a person’s actions in the world. Neighbors and friends could see the attempts his followers made to live the Christian life. Since for Wesley every man could receive the grace to be good, there was really no acceptable excuse for being bad. Further, although man could not achieve the perfection of Jesus, nevertheless, he could strive towards perfection in a state of holiness by the process of sanctification. All Christians were obligated to follow the ideal pattern of grace, which was their fulfillment.

Second, Wesley formulated a practical church organization that worked on many levels, from the repentant individual to the class to the society to the conference to the church (or in the early days to Wesley himself). Wesley stressed the involvement by lay persons on each level, and he differentiated his workers according to their gifts as exhorters, lay preachers, stewards, and the like. He provided what may have been for other churches a static hierarchical structure, but for him it was dynamic in the circulation of preachers, who were always on the move and in the meetings of classes and societies, which constantly assessed, both individually and collectively, their Christian lives.

Third, Wesley provided in himself an unimpeachable example of practical Christianity and the spirit of dynamic organization without mistaking himself for the source of his power and influence, which was our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything Wesley did was for Him.

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #2 in 1983]

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