Stalking the Ghost Of John Wesley

Five weeks ago I wrote a blog from the Incheon Airport on the spiritual condition of South Korea. I am back here again on the way home and this time I want to talk about John Wesley, the greatest Englishman of the 18th Century, and who was a significant influence on the current state of play here in South Korea.

I have always been a fan of this man as I grew up in the Uniting Church, an Australian amalgamation of the Methodist and Prysberterian denominations. Methodism was Wesley’s creation. It changed world history, but more on that later.

Three years ago, while visiting the USA I had the privilege of visiting both Wesley’s landing site in Brunswick Georgia (now a museum to his legacy) and the site of his former home while he lived as an Anglican missionary in Savannah Georgia.

Which brings me back to my recent four weeks in England. John Wesley grew up in what is now the City of London. He was educated at Charterhouse School, a site I stumbled across on a walk around the City. His name was on the wall as one of its greatest graduates. I was able to inform the museum attendant that this man changed world history and explained how. She had no idea how huge his global influence had been over three centuries.

While wandering the streets between Brick Lane and Liverpool St Station early in our visit to London I came across a plaque on an innocuous building stating that it started life as a church for Houganot refugees from France and the John Wesley had preached there once.

Later, when visiting the City of London Museum I stopped to read a large and unusual plaque outside the front entrance. It was a two metre high page from Wesley’s diary talking of the day his heart was “strangely warmed”, the day he met Jesus.

When travelling through the Cotswolds I likewise came across another plaque on a high street building stating that Wesley had been here, twice preaching.

Back in London and we came across another plaque on a street building in Aldersgate St, just across the road from the above mentioned museum. It was the actual sight where Wesley’s heart was “strangely warmed” and he came to know the reality of a personal relationship with His creator, Jesus.

It seems his presence is everywhere in England. Indeed it is global. But why?

When Wesley was on his way to America, full of youthful Anglican zeal to win over the Indians, the ship was caught in a violent storm. He was in great fear for his life and truly terrified. But one group of passengers were strangely calm, and in prayer. They were Moravian Christians. These people had a personal faith in Jesus that astonished Wesley. He couldn’t work out why they had such faith and trust.

Three years later, and an utter failure in his quest to win the Indians, indeed anyone, to Anglicanism, Wesley headed back to England a failure. On arrival he immediately sought out the Moravians as he knew they had the something he was lacking. It was at one of their meetings that his heart was “strangely warmed”.

The rest, they say, is history. He spent the best part of his life on horseback criss-crossing England preaching a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He stayed long enough in each place to train leaders and start house churches that stuck and grew. He slowly but surely transformed a stale dead Protestant England into a spiritual powerhouse that sent missionaries to the ends of the earth, and evangelical emigrants to its colonies. The Methodist Church which evolved from his evangelism then transformed the USA in to the most evangelical Christian nation in history. From American Methodism and its tarrying meetings came the pentecostal movement, which has now transformed global Christianity and is on record as fastest growing religious movement of all time, from a standing start under a century ago to some 600 million today.

It is this evangelical and pentecostal Christianity that has transformed South Korea.

History is still being written. But if current trends are to continue, The spiritual grandchildren of John Wesley will become some 12% of the global population by 2050, and 20% by 2100.

“Your Kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”

Kevin Davis

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