Evangelicals are often defined by what they are against instead of what they are for.
I am a part of a sub-section of the larger Evangelical church that is more broadly called “Wesleyan.” This would include people like The Free Methodists, The Church of the Nazarene, The Salvation Army, more conservative United Methodists, and about a dozen other groups including my own denomination which is actually called “Wesleyan.” I think we called dibs on the best name a hundred or so years ago and everyone has been so jelly since. Perhaps we should all merge and be called “The United Free Wesleyan Army of the Nazarene.”
I think it’s time we clarify what Wesleyans are for these days, otherwise we will only be defined by what we are against. I don’t know that I can speak for all Evangelicals, and in fact, I’m pretty sure the below doesn’t speak for all Evangelicals. But I do think it speaks for Wesleyans. We Wesleyans of a dozen stripes and tribes are for something, and we’re for something important. Several somethings. At least three are really important to us:
1) Wesleyans are for life transformation.
We believe that God changes lives. We have a high view of grace, and believe that God frees us not only from the guilt of sin but also from its power in our lives. We expect lives to be transformed by the power of God. We anticipate you becoming different over time because the Holy Spirit is taking over your life. We are for this so much that we ask ourselves hard questions. We keep ourselves accountable. We take sin seriously. We confess to each other. We repent. And we see people experience victory over sin in this life. This is a good thing to be for and we are for it big-time.
2) Wesleyans are for church transformation.
We think that churches shouldn’t be dead–we think they should be alive with the Spirit’s power. We think that singing songs of God’s love should light people on fire for Jesus, and then people will come to watch that passion burn. Wesleyans are all about churches being revitalized by the Spirit. Throughout our history we have seen movements sweep across churches of all kinds, where the people called “Methodist” began to meet outside of Sunday worship and it transformed the church they attended. We are a renewal movement within the larger church–and we still are for this kind of church transformation.
3) Wesleyans are for community transformation.
We also are of the persuasion that changed lives and churches will in turn transform communities. It cannot start here. To begin with some kind of social agency mission without transformed lives and churches is to turn the kingdom of God into an impotent mockery of non-profit work. Instead, Wesleyans are for community transformation that flows from churches and lives changed from the inside out. We are for a redemptive movement that changes the landscape around the church, so that economic, educational, and ethnic barriers around the globe are broken, and oppression is stamped out. We speak out for the voiceless worldwide, and use any position we have for those that lack power, because a transformed community proves the efficacy of the gospel more than any other testimony in our world today, and points people to Jesus Christ.
Wesleyans might be for a few other things, but I’m pretty sure we’re for at least these three things. Will you join the movement? What else do you think we are for?