I really do have to thank my friends Hugh and Gill Stary for giving me this little book that uses John Wesley’s own “journey” as a means of reflecting on the path we should take next with the Gateway House of Prayer at Netley.
The word “reflecting” seems to be painfully appropriate because their are elements of this story that are, for me personally, like looking in a mirror and and realising that you really wanted to see something else.
Wesley had seen something in the Moravians that gave him hope for revival in the Church of his day. Zinzendorf had sent them out, in apostolic fashion, to form churches within churches for renewal. He looked at what the Moravians were doing and tried to apply it himself, but with a Wesleyan “twist” of zeal for Holiness and Perfection.
But Wesley’s hopes and the reality of daily ministry in Georgia were not one and the same. Wesley made no secret of the fact that a large part of his motivation for going there was “the hope of saving my own soul”.
We all face times in our life and ministry when things don’t go according to our own grand plans. When we realise that all of our own striving is not enough; can never be enough to save ourselves. Salvation by “works” is an exercise in futility. This is a painful but necessary lesson for us to learn.
It is faith and a personal experience of God, of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit, and, above all, the undeserved, unmerited and unlimited gift of grace that sets us free.
I know, in my heart of hearts, that my own zeal for Netley will set nobody free – least of all myself. And yet, I cannot deny how I feel. Fortunately for me, I have not had to travel through stormy seas and uprooted myself to somewhere on the other side of the world to discover this truth.
There is, though, another truth to discover from Wesley’s failed mission to Georgia… However misplaced our own strivings and motivations may be, our God goes before us and uses all things to His good.
If Netley has a future it will not be to validate my own personal mission and passion to see renewal and revival in the Church that I have come to be a part of. Neither will all the effort in the world achieve in my own life the slightest additional hope of “justification”, of personal redemption or evoke any change to my own eternal destiny. These are things that Christ has already done on the Cross.
Wesley ran away from Georgia and returned to England. It would be easy to look at that and see only failure and personal heart ache. And yet it is worth remembering that without this journey Wesley’s great work of revival in Britain may never have begun.
In spite of my frustrations, and all my personal striving, I know that God is at work; I know that in spite of my inadequacies and failings, Christ’s work on the Cross is complete; I know that His Holy Spirit is moving; and I echo the prayer at the end of this day’s reflection… “We pray for the end of one chapter and the beginning of the new. Turn the page, Lord, and do a new thing in our land!”
I would add only, for myself and each of us, “…and do a new thing in me!”