You’ve probably heard about John Wesley’s comment that he “submitted to be more vile” when he took to field preaching. But did you know that combined field preaching with the organization and oversight of small bands of intentional discipleship from the very beginning? In the Journal passage that follows, notice how he considers both of these activities to be a part of the same evangelistic ministry…
April 1.—In the evening (Mr. Whitefield being gone) I began expounding our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (one pretty remarkable precedent of field-preaching, though I suppose there were churches at that time also), to a little society which was accustomed to meet once or twice a week in Nicholas Street.
Monday, 2.—At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city, to about three thousand people. The Scripture on which I spoke was this (is it possible anyone should be ignorant that it is fulfilled in every true minister of Christ?): ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’
At seven I began expounding the Acts of the Apostles, to a society meeting in Baldwin-street: and the next day, the Gospel of St. John, in the chapel at Newgate; where I also read the morning service of the church.
Wednesday 4, At Baptist Mills, (a sort of suburb or village, about half a mile from Bristol), I offered the Grace of God to about fifteen hundred persons, from these words, I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely.
In the evening, three women agreed to meet together weekly, with the same intention as those at London, viz. To confess their faults one to another, and pray one for another, that they might be healed. At eight, four young men agreed to meet, in pursuance of the same design. How dare any man deny this to be, as to the substance of it, a mean of grace, ordained by God? Unless he will affirm, with Luther in the fury of his Solifidianism, that St. James’s epistle is an epistle of straw?
[This post is part of an ongoing series that highlights important themes that emerge in the Journal that John Wesley published throughout his adult life. For other posts in the series, go here.]