Class notes – John Wesley Theology for Today


JW’s two points of tension with the established church:

  • preaching of the word – issue of truth
  • gathering of faithful – issue of fellowship
  • cause of said tension
    • goal of christian experience:  holiness of heart and life
    • goal not possible without all marks of the church
  • ecclesiolae in ecclesia (small churches within the church) providing a “leaven of holiness”

JW’s ideal church

  • gathering of faithful
  • preaching of pure word
  • administering sacraments
  • out of these 3 flow >>> holiness of heart/life >>> evangelism/social concerns

Actual models of church in JW’s day

  • Church of England
    • focus – historical institution
    • concept – traditional
    • essentials practiced – admin. sacraments
    • other values – ties with early church, order of worship, BoC, order of ministry, orthodox theology (39 articles of religion)
  • Free Church
    • focus – living faith
    • concept – functional
    • essentials practiced – gathering the faithful, preaching pure word

JW’s solution for the church

  • Church of England – sacraments, theology, order
    • Methodist societies – gathering faithful, preaching word
    • JW’s view:  Ecclesiolae in Ecclesia (little churches in the church)

Question:  Was it inevitable that the Ecclesiolae would leave the Ecclesia and become their own Ecclesia?

  • JW’s concern was meeting people’s spiritual needs – where it could be done within existing churches that was fine, but where it could not then start a new church/structure.

Characteristics of the Church

  1. Unity (koinonia)
  2. Holiness
  3. Catholicity (universality)
  4. Apostolicity (succession of apostolic doctrines – not structures)

Theology of Pastoral Care (or Theology of the Christian Life)

  • intentional activity for ongoing spiritual growth (discipleship)
  • JW journal – August 1763:
    • “Thursday, 25–l was more convinced than ever that the preaching like an apostle, without joining
      together those that are awakened and training them up in the ways of God, is only begetting children
      for the murderer. How much preaching has there been for these twenty years all over Fembrokeshirel
      But no regular societies, no discipline, no order or connection; and the consequence is that nine in
      ten of the once-awakened are now faster asleep than ever.”
  • Large Group meeting – the Soceity
    • origin
    • conditions
      • avoid every kind of evil
      • do good
      • attend all the ordinances of God
  • Small Group Fellowships
    • Bands
      • Origin
      • Purpose/Conditions for membership
      • organizations and activity

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