John Wesley was the co-founder of Methodism along with his brother, Charles. John rode thousands and thousands of miles around England on horseback in order to spread the Good News to the common people.
John was born in Epworth, England on June 28, 1703 and was the 15th child out of 19. His father was the pastor of an Anglican Church, and as such they lived in the rectory next to the church. Susanna, the mother of John was the spiritual leader of the house. She taught the children to walk in the ways of Christ. One night when John was six years old, there was a fire at the rectory; John was stuck on the second floor of the house. His father came up on a ladder and saved John from the fire. After this, he was known by his mother as “a burning stick snatched from the fire.” John’s mom knew God had a special purpose for this boy who was rescued from the fire.
Christ Church College
After being taught by his mother and attending primary school, John entered Christ Church College. There he studied to be a minister. After graduating, he was a fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford. In 1729, after graduating, John started the Holy Club. The point of the Holy Club was to get close to God through different methods such as fasting, intense Bible reading, piety, etc. The students made fun of the group and called them Methodists for the way everything was methodical.
Pastor and Missionary
In 1728, John was ordained as an Anglican priest. In 1735, John and his brother Charles, sailed off to the state of Georgia as missionaries. They faced several storms which scared them. Meanwhile the Moravians who were on board, were singing hymns on the bottom of the ship. John was confused on how they could be so joyful and confident in their salvation in spite of the storm.
When John got to Georgia, it was nothing like he expected. He wanted to reach the Native Americans with the Good News, yet there were not receptive to it because of the cultural differences. John also had a congregation in Savannah. He became attached to one young girl, Sophia, who John was tutoring in French. He decided not to propose to her at the advice of some of his superiors. Sophia fell in love with another man and got married to him in another state. John was upset with this, because it was his duty to perform wedding ceremonies in Savannah. John denied Sophia Holy Communion for not notifying him she desired to take Holy Communion the previous day and not repenting of her sins. For this action, John was sued by a powerful family in Savannah and John ran away back to England.
After returning back to England, John was disillusioned and disappointed by the lack of fruit in his ministry. A Moravian he met in England invited him to a Bible study. At the Bible study, they were reading through Luther’s Preface of the Epistles to the Romans. From that point on, John knew in his heart that he was saved by faith alone. He started preaching again in the Church of England. John’s message about being saved by faith alone was unpopular among the Pastors and he got kicked out of multiple Parishes.
The World His Parish
George Whitefield, a former student from Lincoln College and priest, invited John to preach among the miners, who were among the lowest class of society. At first John did not want to go, but he decided to. From that time on, John traveled thousands of miles each year around the British Isles to share the Good News and in his lifetime, 250,000 miles. At first, lay ministers were not allowed to give Communion or perform Baptism because of their ties to the Anglican Church (no Bishop would ordain a lay minister). Finally, the Methodists split from the Anglican Church because of the lay minister controversy. After the split, John decided that it was Biblical for lay ministers to disperse the Sacraments. As some went to America as missionaries, the first Methodist churches started in America.
John died on March 2, 1791 in London. He was 88 years old. Millions of people have joined the Methodist Church since it’s humble beginnings as the Holy Club around the world. They continue to follow his teaching of being saved by faith alone in Jesus. They also continue to practice methods to get closer to God, including piety, acts of service and holy living.
- “Biography of John Wesley.”
- Daryl, Aaron. The 40 Most Influential Christians who Shaped what we Believe Today. “John Wesley.”
- “Biography of John Wesley.”
- BBC. “John Wesley at Epworth.”