Embracing Something New

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was born and raised a proper Anglican. Wesley believed that God has a prescribed way of living life and practicing faith—one does things in the right way at the right time and in the right place. Nowhere was this concept of propriety more important to Wesley than in the church. He found, however, that because his sermons were evangelical, the doors of the churches in England were closed to his ministry. He pondered and prayed about what to do.

Wesley’s friend, George Whitefield, encouraged him to change his strategy. Whitefield had had great success preaching out of doors and was challenging Wesley to do the same. Wesley was in a spiritual quandary: he wanted to preach the Gospel of Christ, but everything in his training and experience fought against such a crude practice as Whitefield was suggesting. Eventually, Wesley stepped out in faith and his ministry in the fields, city squares, marketplaces and along the roads became the most productive means of bringing people to Christ.

Wesley wrote in his journal: “I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; I had been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.” And a couple of days later: “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.”

Scholars are convinced that the Methodist movement would never have known the blessings it did had Wesley refused this new, uncomfortable and difficult step of faith.

God continually calls us to openness about our journey with him. This kind of openness is difficult for us…it always has been. This is the point that Jesus makes in Matthew 11 when he praises the Father that “these things” have been hidden from the learned and wise but revealed to little children. Children, who are inherently open and willing to try new things, are commended by Jesus as the very model of how all of His followers ought to live.

Remember when the disciples try to push the children away, Jesus says, “Unless you humble yourself like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” Children are typically considered insignificant by most of the world, but Jesus calls them models to be followed in the kingdom: they are free from false preconceptions and are open to new light, new things; they are readily dependent and trusting and have little problem acknowledging that without their parents they are in grave danger. This is our calling.

Of course, this openness and willingness to take steps of faith is rooted in our need for God and our belief that we can step out safely because we trust ourselves into the arms of our loving heavenly Father.

Jesus is talking about a spirit of openness to God that is going to be the difference between being ready for God to work and missing what God desires to do.

Jesus reminds us that the Father loves to pour out the Holy Spirit upon those who ask Him, and we rejoice in this promise. But are we asking with no strings attached? Are we asking in a spirit of openness to any way God chooses to work? Are we ready for God to bring about change? Or are we holding back because we’re afraid of change, afraid of what the Spirit may want to do in us, or what the Spirit may want to do with us?

This openness to God might well mean a willingness to experience God in ways that stretch us beyond what we like to do and how we like to do it. Even when we feel apprehensive, is our desire for God to do something new and miraculous and powerful greater than our fear or apprehension at trying something new? It’s imperative to remember that openness to God in small things leads to openness to God in larger things. But it also works the other way: refusing to be open to God in the small things leads to refusal to be open to God in the larger things.