Lessons from Wesley for All Churches by Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Martin E. Marty once observed that between the time of Luther and Calvin and our own time, John Wesley symbolized the genius of adaptation to modernity. In his foreword to E. Brooks Holifield’s Health and Medicine in the Methodist Tradition (1986), Marty reminds us that the Wesleyan movement was so successful that for one or two centuries it was one of the strongest movements in Western Christendom. Marty’s discussion of the reasons for Wesley’s pioneering genius suggests important lessons for churches today.

Embrace knowledge. Wesley was not afraid of modernity. He was no enemy of science, and he was a friend of medicine. Some of his medical theories seem bizarre today; yet they were not far off the mark of the best scientific efforts of his time. They also showed a passionate regard for humans in their suffering and a clear sense that his workers were to care and cure not only in the realm of the spiritual.
Emphasize social relations. Wesley knew the importance of social relations in the search for well-being. He provided classes and patterns of discipline. This practice led one scholar to argue that most of what is worthwhile in contemporary group therapy is consistent with, and in some ways flows from, Wesley’s understanding that people need the support of other people, and also that they like to provide such support.

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