Reading though “Light the fire again” has been like looking at the lives of John and Charles Wesley through a completely different lens. I have read a number of books about the Wesleys, or about the history of the Methodist Church, but this is the first that I have read that approaches their work and ministry through a charismatic evangelical viewpoint.
Reading some of John Wesley’s journal entries and extracts from some of his sermons, it’s pretty clear that John Wesley was not a man to pull his spiritual punches! Much of what Welsey preached would seem highly radical and uncompromising in today’s more liberal, inclusive, politically correct, love-is-all, wrath-free and super-grace dominated church. I do not out it that way to be offensive, or even critical of that approach – merely to make the point that the movement birthed by Wesley is very different to my own experience of it today.
Not only are the words and the message very different, so too are the manifestations of the consequences of John Wesley’s preaching. His journals are full of stories of people convicted, of convulsions, fits, fainting, crying out, sobbing and delivery from demons. The awakening that Wesley brought to people’s hearts was intensely uncomfortable to the mainstream Anglican church in which he was raised and would, I sense, be equally uncomfortable in the Methodist Church of today.
That doesn’t mean that I would want to recreate it, of course. Wesley’s calling, and the outworking of it, was one for the time in which he lived and worked. He gave simple, uncompromising messages to a people for whom there was little hope and joy and for whom mainstream church was inaccessible.
Every generation must find its own way to meet with God and to make Him known to those who are far from Him. In the past 34 years I have experienced, and been moved by, both traditional and charismatic forms of worship – I do not believe that God has a preference as to which of these expressions of worship is the better. But I do believe that how our hearts connect with God during that worship does matter to God.
In John 4:21-24 Jesus says this to the Samaritan woman – “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Netley has, I believe, proven to be a place in which people have been able to worship in this way. As such I believe it has been place in which God has been blessed and in which he has been a blessing too. Hearts have been touched and the Spirit has moved in a place which has, at times, felt thick with His presence. This does not make it unique, of course, but it makes it a Holy place, a place of Truth, a place where Living Water flows.