Wesley’s favorite fruitful practice

In 1787, John Wesley recorded in his journals the outcome of a worship schedule change.

The Methodists changed the time of their prayer and preaching service to be the same time as regular church. This was undoubtedly not something that Wesley was enthusiastic about, but I suspect was urged strongly by Methodists who were not as attached to the Church of England as he was.

In his estimation, according to a note on Nov. 5, 1787, that experiment failed.

The congregation was, as usual, large and serious. But there is no increase in the society. So that we have profited nothing by having our service in the church-hours, which some imagined would have done wonders.

We can see here Wesley’s practical side, but it is more striking to me how he measures the success or failure of the move: Did it enhance the size and work of the Methodist society?

In other words, if I interpret him properly, what mattered was not bodies in pews on Sunday but disciples in formation as part of the society. In our language, what he really wanted was not more worship attendance, but larger numbers of people engaging in “intentional faith development.”

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3 thoughts on “Wesley’s favorite fruitful practice

  1. I thought “societies” was how Wesley referred to what we would call church? Small groups were the classes and bands, if I remember correctly.

    1. The societies were people who were fleeing the wrath to come and seeking to work out their salvation. They were not “churches” and Wesley was a pains to keep that distinction clear. (After he died, of course, churches would emerge within the movement.)

      Class meetings were a way that the society organized to help accomplish the work of the society, as were bands. But the whole organization existed to help people who wanted to progress in their discipleship.

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