When I was attending my first Synod Meeting last September after I arrived in England, it was a sad moment for me. Never in my life have I needed to make such a decision, that is: whether to lift up my hand or not to agree to cease worship for one of the Methodist churches. Before I came to England last year, I had read a report saying that churches had been closed down or been put on sale to individuals or organisations for other purposes in England and other European countries. How sad this message was to me?
The homeland of John Wesley, John Wycliffe and William Tyndale, and I might say England, was once a thriving center of Christian thoughts. Besides, this land was experiencing a spiritual revival and had commissioned so many missionaries to unreached people groups. It is so difficult for me to understand and accept. Today, secularism and Islam are growing influences among the populations in England. Freedom of speech and religion are limited. An estimated 59% of the population claims the Christian faith, but that number is decreasing annually. England is in desperate need of a spiritual revival and the only one who can lift the weight of hopelessness and despondency in this land is Christ.
When I looked back, with the darkness in moral standards of the 18th century British society, Wesleyan revival broke out. As the flames of revival broke out in what was once darkness, historians marvel at how the movement of revival was sustained for decades. Why? To Wesley, a True Christian was marked by two inseparable qualities: holiness and happiness. I might say this has become an essential reason why spiritual revival takes place.
John Wesley wanted the followers of Jesus to have a disciplined life, to live in holiness. Once, John Wesley was visiting one of the churches. He expelled sixty four church members. The reason why John Wesley was doing that was: two selling liquor, two said bad words, seventeen drunkenness, twenty nine lightness and carelessness, three quarrelling, four swearing, three habitual lying, two sabbath-breaking, one laziness and with one count of wife beating.
In order to live a transforming life, Wesley's followers first met in private homes "societies." When these societies became too large for members to care for one another, Wesley organized "classes," each with eleven members and a leader. Classes met weekly to pray, read the Bible, discuss their spiritual lives, and to collect money for charity. These societies and classes provided continual pulses of revival power which ultimately changed a nation. During this prolonged period of cultural transformation, a thought provoking question was consistently asked of participants. That question, which might be asked a thousand times upon one’s participation in a Methodist society over a lifetime. Each time when these questions were asked in groups they held each other accountable.
What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
What temptations have you met with?
How were you delivered?
What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?
After the questions and sharing, it was followed by a question “Do you desire to flee from the wrath of God to come, and to be saved from your sins?” I am thinking shall we have these questions to be asked in our worship together, bible study or prayer meeting?
For many today, notions of “the wrath of God” may seem outdated, questionable, or even backward. Nonetheless, the theme of God’s wrath permeates all of Scripture and was a central theme in the DNA of the Wesleyan revival. Should we also consider the reality of God’s wrath as we seek to make disciples in the 21st century? John Wesley thought it so important that he and others framed an important question around this theme for every participant in the Methodist movement.
This is a new time; a time to seek holiness, a time of mercy and a time of shaking. It is the time that EMC and CCEMC respond to God’s calling. To humbly come before God, seek His face; turn from our wicked ways and to pray. Now is the time to persevere, continue to live as true followers of Jesus Christ although others have declined. Now is the time for us together, as God's people across our UK nations, to pray in unity for God to fulfil His purposes for our nations, just like what John Wesley had emphasized, to have holiness and happiness.