A crack in the sidewalk

By B.J. Funk

I have been a United Methodist all of my life. However, 30 years ago I began taking a harder look at my denomination. I sensed an overall apathy spreading through our church. At that point, I had a renewed love for Jesus along with a desire to allow the Holy Spirit to completely claim my life. I felt a fire inside me, and the words in the Bible became personal. I connected with this wonderful Lord who claimed me, and every day I could not praise him enough.

I wanted to be where worshipers were free to say “Amen” out loud, to raise their hands without worrying over what others thought, and where preachers spit out “hallelujah” with every other breath!

In order to find that, I felt I had to leave The United Methodist Church. I began to grieve inwardly, but there did not seem to be another answer.

Then, God gave me the other answer. He dropped two words into my heart with such a thud that his voice was unmistakable! John Wesley.

John Wesley? Of course I knew who he was. But did I really? What did God want me learn about a man born almost three hundred years earlier, credited with starting a denomination that was clearly losing in the race for souls? I read every book I could find on him. I sailed with him on the voyage to America. I observed the Moravians on the boat and longed for the inner strength and peace they had. I sat beside him at the meeting at Aldersgate, where his heart was “strangely warmed.” I stood by his side as he preached his first sermon on the doctrine of personal salvation by faith. My heart warmed as I drank in every word of Wesley’s teaching on the free grace of God.

I cried inside when I read that his radical message of love, grace, accountability and justification by faith was not accepted, and that Wesley was turned away from most churches. Field preaching became an effective way for him to reach lost souls, and for 50 years, he preached wherever an assembly could be brought together. He pursued a rigidly methodical life, studied the Scriptures, and began to seek after holiness of heart and life.

I began to really know John Wesley. I loved his heart for God, his brilliant mind, and his belief that he was commissioned by God to bring about revival in the church. Although I still love a good “hallelujah,” I began looking, instead, for depth in Methodist lives and Methodist sermons. I found it.

Since then, I have never wanted to leave our church again. Methodism glides through my veins with each beat of my heart. So profoundly was I touched by this man’s teachings that I later sensed the clear calling to make my own contribution to continue what he started. My heart has been warmed, and my soul is content. Just try to get rid of me. You cannot.

Would God lead Wesley to start a revival destined to die? I don’t think so. However, there is a crack in the sidewalk of Methodism. A weed of dissension threatens to choke all that Wesley started and all that we try to continue. Is it possible to get back to our roots? Your answer to the next question will either make you run away or compel you to stay.

Three hundred years ago, Wesley was not allowed to preach in most churches. If Wesley were to come back today, would you allow him to preach in your United Methodist Church?