Dear Methodist Church,
In my freshman year of college, my roommate Wes introduced me to the Avett Brothers, who would quickly become my favorite band. North Carolina born and bred, these alt-country rockers melded their punk-rock days as a garage-band with their love of country and bluegrass music, creating a unique and incendiary sound that spread its flames wildly from North Carolina across the country. Their concerts were raw, real portrayals of the brothers’ lives of love, dreams, and struggles. An audience member couldn’t attend and not be moved; not feel something. Then they reached acclaimed success. They won a Grammy, and shared a stage with Bob Dylan.
By all appearances, the Avett Brothers new sound should have been about to transform the American musical landscape. But the next album, produced by Rick Rubin (of U2, Metallica, Johnny Cash, and Neil Diamond to name a few), took a different tone, and something sacred was lost. When asked how Rick Rubin influenced the process of the new album, members shared that “he helped us calm down a bit in the studio...[before] awareness of key and pitch and singing has been something...I didn’t pay any attention to at all. All I wanted to do it to get on stage and move and make an impact – surprise people, or scare people, or excite people, or make people angry or happy or whatever.” I was shocked to find the new Avett Brothers album for sale at Starbucks. I bought it excitedly, but only listened to it once. I called my old roommate Wes, and he let me know he stopped listening to them a year ago. “They’ve lost their roots” he said.
I wonder if this isn’t the story of the Methodist church. As Hempton puts it, “Methodism was restless and energetic, introspective and expansionist, emotional and earnest. It was an unsettling movement led by unsettled people,” and as was the case with the Avett Brothers, “With respectability and cultural acceptance came an inevitable decline in the otherworldly zeal of its earlier manifestations.” Where Rolling Stone magazine and Hillary Clinton may know the name of the Avett Brothers and Methodism, does the average ‘Wes’ know the Avett Brothers anymore, or the modern-version of the downtrodden coal-miner know Methodism as they once did? By tracing the loss of the miraculous in the Methodist church, a correlation can be drawn to the decline of the denomination and shed light on the impact this change has caused in the global church, both inside and outside the Methodist Church.
In order to move forward, it is important to first define what is being called “miraculous.” Wesley explains the miraculous as follows: “In the common course of nature, God does act by general laws, but he has never precluded himself from making exceptions to them, whensoever he pleases...by suspending that law in favor of those that love him. ‘What! You expect miracles then?’ Certainly I do, if I believe the Bible: For the Bible teaches me, that God hears and answers prayer: But every answer to prayer is, properly, a miracle.” The miraculous is then anytime God interrupts the established order, or as Wesley puts it “suspending [the] law.” These occurrences are referred to using a myriad of phrases containing nuanced connotations and meanings, including “extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost”, “the power of God”, “manifestations”, “demonstrations of the Spirit”, “miracles”, and the most negatively charged term, “enthusiasm." These words and phrases will be used in quotes henceforth, but all will land under the umbrella of the term this author will most often use, “miraculous”, more due to clarity than any theological or doctrinal reason.
It will also be valuable to establish a context for a discussion on the miraculous in the history of Methodism. What is the history of the miraculous in the church that led to its prevalence in the Methodist movement? What led to its waxing and waning throughout generations of the church? The miraculous has had a rough history, particularly due to those who have told its story in history books and sermons. Arguments have existed against the continuing of miraculous activity since early in the church, and often people on both sides of the debate reference Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD). Dr. Frank H. Billman, wrote in his book “The Supernatural Thread in Methodism”, that early in Augustine’s life, he reasoned that the miracles of Jesus were done to prove His authority and who He was…[thinking that] now that we have the full New Testament, we don’t need that miraculous evidence - it’s in the book.” This theological view has come to be known as cessationism, which holds that the miraculous seen in Biblical times is no longer at play. But Billman continues that “six years before his death, Augustine rejected cessationism…due to a dramatic healing that he witnessed himself…In 426, Augustine wrote, “I realized how many miracles were occurring in our own day and which were so like the miracles of old.”
Luther is another whose position on the miraculous is quoted by both sides of the discussion on supernatural activity in the modern church. The Roman Church’s abuse of the “miraculous,” with miracle-working relics, saints with supernatural origin stories of questionable merit, and leaders hoarding the power and any “miraculous gifts” for themselves, warranted heavy criticism at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. Protestantism, to some degree, “built itself by attacking the miracles of Catholicism.” Though Luther believed in exorcism, prayer for healing, and “special revelations of the Spirit," when Luther was asked to prove his authority by miracles to the Catholic higher-ups, he said that miracles were “particularly suited to the apostolic age and were no longer necessary to vindicate the authority of one who stands on the side of Scripture.” This was said as a reaction to the abuses of the Catholics regarding the miraculous, but his statements were “taken out of context and codified into a legal system” resulting in a legacy of Reformed and Lutheran churches that embraced a cessationism they believed that Luther founded, Calvin extended, and one in which B.B. Warfield ultimately put the final nail in the coffin of when he published Counterfeit Miracles in 1918. “Warfield declared that the Lord had not performed a single miracle on earth since the death of the original twelve apostles and those directly associated with them.”
The near purging of the miraculous from the midst of the Protestant church is a typical reactionary pendulum swing seen in power struggles. Where a dangerous extreme is reached on one side of the spectrum, a reactionary party comes in and takes power, vowing to swing the emphasis to the entirely opposite side. This is the same reason why a certain political party rarely keeps one of their candidates in office for more than two terms. The pendulum swings, and the opposite party is voted in again. The Protestants most likely fell prey to this common mishap of throwing the baby out with the bathwater; while “endeavoring to pull up the tares of false Roman miracle, they have…pulled up the root of faith in miracles, and the great spiritual heritage of the Church with it." Despite this, there rises up occasionally the individual, or the movement, that can grab the strong elements of both sides, and bravely hold them together as one. Remembering that, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” the question becomes, when the next spring of supernatural activity would arise, would there appear this man or movement that could walk the tightrope? Who could bear the task of not being carried away with spiritual extremism, but also not dousing out the Spirit’s flames at first flicker?
John Wesley and the Methodists proved to be one of these rare gems of history. Refusing to succumb to the extremes of either side, Wesley leaned heavily toward the side of believing in the miraculous, while keeping a strong hand on reason that was most likely informed (subconsciously or not) by the Enlightenment that was happening all around him. A map of his position on the miraculous might look like this, with his position in bold:
Cessationism ‘Everyday’ Miracles Reasonable Enthusiasm Enthusiasm
Wesley strongly opposed the idea of what we now call cessationism, stating clearly “I do not recollect any Scripture wherein we are taught that miracles were to be confined within the limits either of the apostolic age…or any period of time, longer or shorter, even till the restitution of all things.” Another explanation for a lack of supernatural activity in the church is a population that believes simply in ‘everyday’ miracles; this is a popular view today for those whose denominations do not encourage or intentionally teach on any demonstrative activity of the Holy Spirit, but also do not have a theology (i.e. cessationism) that opposes the miraculous. These proponents might cite the ‘miracle’ of baby being born, or the ‘miracle’ of your car making it to the gas station when you are out of gas; perhaps coupling them with platitudes like “God winked at you.” Where these might indeed be miracles of a sort, Wesley had a different definition (as stated above) for what constituted the miraculous, and a higher standard for what should be expected in the life of a believer. On the other side, Wesley was also fighting against some religious extremism that led to extra-biblical behavior within his own movement. This topic will be addressed in full later, but for now it is worth noting the genius in how Wesley positioned himself, and consistently so, in the midst of all these factions:
Wesley was not willing to label all manifestations as being completely of God. He said that sometimes they were, sometimes it was a mixture of God and the person, and sometimes it might be the devil. He said, “Perhaps the danger is, to regard [the manifestations] too little, to condemn them altogether; to imagine they had nothing of God in them, and were an hindrance to his work…This should not make us either deny or undervalue the real work of the Spirit. The shadow is no disparagement of the substance, nor the counterfeit of the real diamond.”
Wesley would learn the lesson from history, judging as Jesus says will be done in His final judgement, to “let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, 'Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn'” (Matthew 13:30). The result of Wesley’s decision to walk this narrow road would indeed prove to reveal real diamonds: thousands of genuine encounters with the living God.
The early days of Methodism were a hotbed of miraculous activity, beginning with Wesley and his associates. In 1738, Wesley had been praying diligently for the assurance of his salvation, a component that would mark the First Great Awakening. While reluctantly attending a meeting on Aldersgate street where a Moravian was sharing from Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, Wesley wrote “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."
This is a story many Methodists are familiar with, but what would follow that same year is seldom spoken of. Wesley recalls, “About three in the morning, as we were continuing in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground." George Whitefield, the great preacher of the awakening, was also there, and added of the experience, “it was Pentecostal season indeed…We were filled as with new wine…overwhelmed with the Divine Presence.” Whitefield’s assessment may be the best to explain this peculiar activity, as when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in the upper room, “others mocking said, 'They are filled with new wine.'” What about the disciples would cause the others to describe them as being drunk? Perhaps this same behavior being seen by Wesley.
As Wesley stepped into a new season of ministry filled with power, these occurrences of people being “overwhelmed” to the point of “cry[ing] out” and “falling to the ground” would come to consistently accompany his preaching. Wesley shares that while he was “preaching at Newgate...Immediately one and another, and another sunk to the earth: They dropped on every side as thunderstruck.” This became such a clear sign of the Lord moving on the hearts of the people, that when “no one was reacting, he would pray “Lord! Where are thy tokens and signs?” and many would be seized and would scream out.” These miraculous movements of the Spirit on people were not the only supernatural activity that Wesley pursued in his Ministry, he would also engage in the prophetic, affirm the gift of tongues, and pray for healing. Wesley tells of an evening when he “called upon Ann Calcut. She had been speechless for some time; but almost as soon as we began to pray, God restored her speech…from that hour the fever left her; and in a few days she arose and walked glorifying God.” All of this laid a supernatural foundation for a Methodism that would be built into what Hempton calls an “empire of the Spirit," which from his research he determined defines the movement so succinctly that he named his most recent book on Methodism the same.
Interpreting the nature of historical Methodism is like only hearing one side of a telephone conversation, you can hear the initiation of questions and information, but not the response. “Too often,” Hempton shares, “the Methodist message is reduced to its theology and entered the world through learned discourse with printed texts, but that is not what made the movement fizz.” Because of the incredible structural and doctrinal feats accomplished in Methodism to enable such an immense movement to be organized and shepherded well, many may focus on graphs, theology, and social impact, missing what really made Methodism tick. It was, for the most part, an oral movement led by ordinary people, so most of our history based on written texts miss key elements: “Itinerants preached, exhorters exhorted, class members confessed, hymns were sung, prayers were spoken, testimonies were delivered, and revival meetings throbbed with exclamatory noise.” It is most likely into these cracks that the miraculous nature of Methodism has fallen. These were not just pockets of the Methodist movement; everywhere Methodism placed its foot, the miraculous followed. Methodists “believed that God was with them, not in a general theological sense, but in a set of encounters, which supposedly obeyed no other explanation than that of a proactive divine presence.” Dreams, visions, prophetic words of knowledge, electric encounters and other “special providences” of the living God were expectations for the everyday life of a Methodist. Even those outside of the church noted the supernatural as nearly synonymous with Methodism. The Victorian author George Eliot writes in her first classic novel Adam Bede in 1859, “I cannot pretend that Seth and Dinah were anything else but Methodists...They believe in present miracles, in instantaneous conversions, in revelations by dreams and visions."
Seeing that Methodism could be coupled with the miraculous from the beginning, it can also be said that offense at these supernatural claims were also present from the start. How did Wesley respond to these allegations of God’s work being reduced to emotionalism, imagination, and what became the token derogatory term for the activity: “enthusiasm.” Understanding his and other leader’s reactions will do much to inform our modern day posture within conflict and criticism. Wesley, rife with accusations of leading a movement of enthusiasm, labored much to define the term, assuage the hostility of those concerned, while standing firm in his conviction that what was taking place was indeed of God. Often, he would see those who began on the offensive have their hearts “strangely warmed” in a way as well. At one point a physician who was offended by the crying out of those attending the meetings, fearing it all to be phony, then witnessed a girl’s body healed first hand accompanied by the same commotion, and he gave credit to God. Wesley’s biggest attestation to the validity of these “outward signs,” was the “inward work” that God had done within the individuals who had been affected. Wesley called these people his “living arguments.” How else could you explain some of the most wretched traits, woven deep into the fabric of a soul, to be exchanged in an instant for a life filled with the fruits of the Spirit? Equally important in Wesley’s defensive rhetoric was his concession to the reality of counterfeits. An important distinction was made, as stated earlier, that just because all “miracles” were certainly not miracles, did not mean that the game was over. Wesley was not “unaware of [Satan’s] schemes” that he might “outwit” them, but keenly observed that “satan likewise mimicked this work of God in order to discredit the whole work” (2 Cor. 2:11). Wesley opposed any supposed supernatural revelations that did not line up with Scripture, and made sure to “test the spirits” and see if they were of God. Often those that Wesley disciplined were giving “millenarian predictions” or “fanciful revelations of special authority” (1 John 4:1). Still, the debates persisted, and at long last a war of attrition waged by those concerned won, aided significantly by some key leaders.
Giving a stern warning to those who criticized the Methodist miracles, Asbury resolves with a familiar axiom, “the friends of order may allow a guilty mortal to tremble at God’s Word…and the saints to cry and should when the Holy One of Israel is in the midst of them. To be hasty in plucking up the tares is to endanger the wheat.” This is the same explanation Wesley gave as to what happened to miracles in the Protestant Reformation mentioned earlier. It seems history was not learned, and therefore would be repeated. Four characters entered the storyline of Methodism at a decisive point that would be the tipping point into a Methodism weary and distant from miracles. These characters represent a few key ideas reacting to miracles that led to their dissolution from the denomination.
James Buckley, the editor of the Methodist journal The Christian Advocate “wrote a two-volume history of methodism that highlighted the development of its legal and ecclesiastical institutions and all but ignored Methodism’s beginnings as a denomination of supernatural religious experiences.” Buckley was responding to the Faith-Cure movement and the Pentecostal revival that broke out within his time as the editor of the journal, and his case is one of the classic pendulum-swing mentioned previously. An extreme version of the miraculous was taking place, and Methodism had to take a stance on it; the easiest being to discount it altogether and run the other way. Buckley explained away miracles with naturalistic explanations, sharing the cessationist conviction that these supernatural phenomena only happened in biblical times.
The second figure to arise was Borden Parker Bowne, a professor at Boston University, a key early Methodist training center. Bowne began a wave of liberal theology that attempted to accommodate the Enlightenment era’s scientific discoveries of the human psyche, sociology, and Scripture into religious education. At its zenith, humanism reigned supreme as Arthur McGiffert, president of Union Theological Seminary declared that "religious education…should be such to convince everybody that things can be controlled and molded by the power of man.” In short, "God’s presence was not to be sought in unusual experiences or unexpected or extraordinary events.”
The final railroad switch on the tracks was John Fanning Watson, a Methodist writer from Philadelphia, who pushed back on enthusiasm in hopes to give Methodism a more respectable name, especially in higher classes. Watson “started writing vigorously and systematically against ecstasy in the 1810s….[and] Over time Watson’s viewpoint gained ground. Higher economic levels, increased education for preachers, and a growing desire for social respectability all contributed to diminishing the extent of exuberance and ecstasy among American Methodists.” The result was that the supernatural spirituality of former years was at first marginalized, then branched off altogether from the “main trunk.” Watson’s aim was to give Methodism a better name in civilized culture, insisting that the “excesses of the few were firmly identified with the poor…illiterate [and] blacks.” It is should not be a shock then, that not long after the effects of this sunk in that “the poor were abandoning Methodism in droves.” With the trade in of the miraculous for social respectability and a humanistic theology, a change was coming for Methodism that they were not expecting: increased influence and decreased recruitment; a pattern that is obviously unsustainable over the long haul.
When Jesus is preparing the disciples for his departure, he tells them to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Jesus had given them the task of spreading the gospel, but demanded they not go forth without the Spirit. Again he directs them in Acts 1:8, saying “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The command was strictly to not grow the church apart from the leadership of the Spirit. At Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon those in the upper room, Peter preached and three-thousand believed that day. As mentioned previously, the seemingly drunken nature of the disciples led to some grumbling and questions of authenticity in that day, but the fire was not quenched, rather the preaching of the gospel continued to go forth coupled with the power of God displayed with these signs. As Paul says later to the Corinthians, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom....my message [was] not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). The Methodist church toward the end of the nineteenth century adopted a gospel preached void of the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” that it once had, the result which was the start of a slow decline of growth in the Methodist church. Ultimately, the final recorded year of growth was 1968, and the stats for the modern church seem detrimental: “In the United States during the period 1991-96 the United Methodist Church closed 1,025 churches and opened only 210, a ratio of five to one.” Out of all the explanations for what has happened and what should happen now, one thing is blatantly obvious, business as usual isn’t going to cut it anymore.
So what is a viable solution? We must start with identifying some of the crucial missteps identified so far. But first, it must be noted, as Hempton does, that there are some aspects of decline that are exogenic, and which the Methodist church had little control over. For instance, the Methodist movement dovetailed nicely with the American Revolution, and in many ways rode the waves of the democracy that offered individuals empowerment and liberation. Democracy puts the power in the hands of the masses: the poor and the oppressed; so does Christianity. Methodism especially was a movement of the downtrodden and marginalized: women, blacks, and the poor. Revolution and the settling of America encouraged risk: moving to the west, and starting over, perhaps if only to lose everything. Yet this all changed at the industrial revolution of America between 1820 and 1840, where cultural values shifted rather to mass production, consistency, and security, signaling a cultural change that influenced an adolescent Methodism.
Primary schools were originally developed to prepare industrial workers, therefore, risk was eliminated from the equation. This system has principally remained the same and now tests are taken still today where the grading system is based on knowing facts, and decreasing the margin of error. It is as if in the Olympics for the high beam, a gold medal was handed out to the one who grasped on to the beam tightest with all his or her limbs for the duration of the performance. Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Perhaps these can lend us some insight into a developmental problem in Methodism. Buckley, Bowne, and Watson seemed to have observed the Methodist church, and deemed it was time for it to “grow up”; time to put away foolish whimsical ideas about the supernatural, stop embarrassing yourself with risky expectations and behaviors, and move on to a more mature Methodism. The problem with this is, of course, Jesus commands in Matthew 18:3 that “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The mishap for the Methodists here was in discerning the difference between “childlike and childish.” Certainly there were people who were leading the church in a childish manner, many of whom Wesley disciplined himself, but much of the beauty and power of the Methodist church came from its childlike nature.
By the 1850s, there were as many Methodist churches and ministers as there were post offices and postal workers. How did this happen? Methodism was a church for the people, run by the people. It thrived on a bottom up strategy, with quick and easy on-ramps for the common man to not only interact with God, his Word, and the church, but also to become actual ministers. Asbury had no education like many other circuit riders who evangelized America. Peter Cartwright, a famous circuit rider, wrote in his autobiography that:
“Many times…the itinerant had to camp out, without fire or food for man or beast. Our pocket Bible, Hymn Book, and Discipline constituted or library. It is true we could not, many of us, conjugate a verb or parse a sentence, and murdered the king’s English almost every lick. but there was a Divine unction attended the word preached, and thousands fell under the mighty hand of God, and thus the Methodist Episcopal Church was planted firmly in this Western wilderness, and many glorious signs have followed, and will follow, to the end of time.”
The Methodists would cast their homespun nets out and reap the reward of a grassroots revival. Methodist pastors got their hands dirty with the people, and spoke from a place that they could understand, since many of the ministers worked other jobs to survive, and some were purely volunteers. One minister of a Congregational Church commented that "they are constantly mingling with the people, and enter into all their feelings, wishes, and wants; and their discourses are on the level with the capacity of their hearers...The ignorant, the drunken, the profane listen.”
It is worth noting as an aside that music did much to accomplish this task. Methodism was truly a “worldwide singing movement.” The Wesley’s hymns were for the common man, meeting them where they are and compelling them to a personal revolution. The lyrics are full of “personal pronouns, active verbs, and intense struggles.” The Wesleys would adapt new lyrics to popular melodies, avoiding “sophisticated anthems or singing in parts, preferring tunes that were singable, teachable, memorable, functional and accessible to all…They transmitted complex theological ideas in accessible language." Music is a vehicle for faith that is specially set aside in Scripture to hone in the hearts of believers on God, magnifying their love for him with both their mind, in comprehending the concepts being sung, and also in the spirit, as their relational adoration increases as these realities set in.
One of the greatest challenges of an adult’s life is to steward the maturation of their child. Is it possible to raise a child to maintain their childlikeness while growing out of their childishness? Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he told his disciples “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). The Methodist church did not afford such a stewardship, and has suffered the loss. Methodism lost in its striving for institutional stability, investing in more security, and compromising for decreased conflict. By increasing the requirements for elders and deacons, the common man was factored out. Hymns that were once remarkably apt to communicate the gospel to the uneducated were institutionalized due to their effectiveness, yet now are no more relevant or comprehensible to some than Chaucer is to a child. Traditions are important, but manmade traditions that are tested and don’t bear fruit, must be tossed out, as Jesus made clear (Mark:7-9).
The leaders of Methodism seem to have sought for a solution to the problem in seminaries (“maybe it is a theological issue?”), in society (“maybe it is an ethical issue?”), and in structure (“maybe it is in an organizational issue?”), and where all three of these concerns are most likely valid, what if we are looking for the ends without the true means? What if the problem is a spiritual issue, and from working out this kink living waters might flow and inform the other problems provided? It seems that the time is nigh for Methodism to embrace its heart religion again. To take a risk. To believe in the impossible. To grow up, yet grow young. To unlearn some human wisdom gained through the years, and make room for the wisdom and power of God again. This will fly in the face of those who have come to respect the Methodist church for its great stability. Rarely do we hear of scandals in the Methodist church or of money laundering. To that I would say that it is much easier and tidy to mow a field where weeds are found, than to let the weeds and crop grow up together, and steward the crop's protection throughout. I am by no means encouraging scandals, but the door very well must be opened to them to make way for the real thing, just as the front porch light that illuminates the dark also attracts bugs. It cannot be forgotten that regarding opposition, “Methodism at its heart and center had always been a profoundly countercultural movement. It drew energy and personal commitment from…its challenge to accepted norms in religion and society. It thrived on opposition, but it could not long survive equipoise.”
One might say this position is dramatic, that it looks too much like Pentecostalism or something like it, but we might need to go no further than Wesley himself and the foundations upon which the denomination lays to find that this would not be a new thing, but a revival in the truest sense of the word: a recovery of what was lost; a resurrection of what has died; a resurgence of what has faded. The stakes have never been higher, as the statistics show. What would a child do? Hold on tighter, or make the big jump? The truth is, Methodism “is not a religious movement that can survive for very long on institutional consolidation alone. For Methodism to thrive it required energy, change, mobility, and flux.” For the Methodist church to grow again, it needs to begin recruiting again; to begin recruitment, it needs to embrace the Great Commission again; and to make progress in the Great Commission, the Methodist church needs the Holy Spirit, just like the disciples did.
What would happen if at the next United Methodist General Conference, before voting on the important issues at stake, responding to problems, or discussing strategies for moving the church forward, the leaders stood up and declared “we are going to join ‘together constantly in prayer’ until we ‘have been clothed with power from on high?’” (Acts 1:14, Luke 24:49). What would ensue probably wouldn’t be what the world or even the leaders expected, it may not even look exactly as it did before, but my bet, based on our history, is that there would be a growth the worldwide church hasn’t seen since Wesley and Whitefield took to the podiums. And of course it may get messy, and there would be many who mocked, but would that make us any less Methodist?
With a loving, graceful, and hopeful heart for the Methodist Church,
K. W. Harrell, "Songwriting Session - The Avett Brothers @ MerleFest," Evolution of a Fan, https://evolutionofafan.com/2013/05/03/songwr iting-session-the-avett-brothers-merlefest/.
Dr. Frank H. Billman, The Supernatural Thread in Methodism.
Hempton, David. Methodism: Empire of the Spirit. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.
Mark Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys.
George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense.
Wesley, John. "The New Birth." The Wesley Center Online. 1999. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/john-wesley-the-methodist/chapter-vii-the-new-birth/.