Thursday, February 25, 2010

Asking the hard questions (5)

The Primitive Methodist movement has come and gone, but what would it look like if God raised up such a movement today?

Here is the next answer to that question.

It will reach those the mainstream church is failing to reach

In the 1800s the established churches failed to reach the masses, the working-class men and women who rarely went to church, and whose lives were characterised by poverty, pain, and injustice. The Primitive Methodist movement found its constituency among this missing group of people.

In our day the church as a whole is failing to reach generations of young people, who are increasingly absent from our conventional churches. Surveys in our western culture consistently show that congregations are aging, and that the proportion of young people is falling.

A movement of God is needed to reach those missing from the Kingdom of God. Pray that God will raise up a movement that reaches these missing generations.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Asking the hard questions (4)

The Primitive Methodist movement has come and gone, but what would it look like if God raised up such a movement today?

Here is the fourth answer to that question.

It will be a missionary movement

It will be an outward focussed movement, seeking to take new territory for the Kingdom of God. It will have a mission mindset as part of the DNA of the movement. A missionary is someone who brings the gospel to those who need to hear good news.

Therefore a missionary is not just someone who goes overseas. A missionary can operate on home turf, not just overseas missions. He or she has a mission mindset, always seeking to bring lost people to Christ.

William Clowes , the leading missionary evangelist of the Primitive Methodist movement gave thanks to God that he was a "sinner saved by grace, and a missionary of the cross". Pray that God will raise up an army of missionary evangelists for our day and generation.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Asking the hard questions (3)

The Primitive Methodist movement has come and gone, but what would it look like if God raised up such a movement today?

Here is the third of my answers to that question.

It will be a courageous movement

The men and women of the movement will be courageous in the face of opposition. Persecution strengthens a movement of God. Opposition will come from all kinds of places.

    1. One area could be the equivalent of the “mob”, or those who are ignorant or simply prejudiced. The mob are unafraid to use violence, threats, intimidation, and physical force to oppose the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. People, preachers and leaders of the movement will be harassed and threatened, or even physically assaulted.

    2. A second source of opposition could be the legal system. People, preachers and leaders will be arrested, to face spurious charges, fines, and even prison. It may be the lot of many a preacher to go to jail.

    3. Other church groups and denominations will oppose the movement. The movement will be reviled, and “spoken against” by many who represent the religious status quo. The movement will be seen as breaking the religious rules.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Methodist Covenant Prayer

“I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours.

So be it. And the covenant made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

This is a repost from the armybarmy blog, written by Salvation Army officer Stephen Court. He is married to Danielle Strickland. According to Christianity magazine she spends her days in brothels ministering to prostitutes, or trawling the streets praying with drug addicts. Her uncomfortable but challenging message to the church is that it has abandoned the poor. She is social justice director for the Salvation Army's Southern Territory in Australia.

Asking the hard questions (2)

The Primitive Methodist movement has come and gone, but what would it look like if God raised up such a movement today?

Here is the second of my answers to that question.

It will be a preaching movement

Preachers will be characterised by bold, powerful, pointed and effective preaching.

  1. Preaching will be in the public space, the modern equivalent of the market-place or farmer’s field. It seems to me that our modern public space is both real and virtual (such as the Internet, or the blogosphere).

  2. Preaching will be bold, clearly proclaiming the gospel in the public space.

  3. Preaching will be powerful. Preachers preach with authority.

  4. Preaching will be pointed. The preacher will make his or her point that leaves the hearer with a challenge or choice to make.

  5. Preaching will be effective. Preaching will speak to the heart. The object of preaching is not to inform, but to transform, not to educate but to cause change in the listeners. It will result in changed lives. People will be visibly moved by the preaching of the gospel. Tears may flow, people will cry out for God, others may even fall to the ground in response.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Asking the hard questions (1)

The Primitive Methodist movement has come and gone, but what would it look like if God raised up such a movement today?

Here is the first of my answers to that question.

It will be a praying movement

Prayer will be the engine room, or the boiler room at the very heart of the movement. At the centre of all activity, there will be persistent, bold, zealous, loud and earnest prayer. The movement will be known for prayer, because prayer is part of the essential DNA.

Prayer meetings, or in our terminology, prayer gatherings, provide a training ground for new converts. In them they learn to pray, effectively and fervently. It is where the DNA of the movement is transmitted.

Dynamic prayer provides the fertile soil for the growth of a movement. Prayer ministry after a preaching time, enables those touched by the Spirit of God to bring His work to fruition.

See the following posts for more on dynamic prayer.

Dynamic prayer meetings (part one)

Dynamic prayer meetings (part two)

Dynamic prayer meetings (part three)

Dynamic prayer meetings (part four)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What would Primitive Methodism look like if it were alive today?

I have been asking the hard questions. The Primitive Methodist movement has come and gone. It began in the early 1800s and lost its distinctive identity in the Methodist Union of 1932. I have been wrestling with the following question:

What would it look like if God were to raise up such a movement today?

These are some of the answers I came up with, which I will unpack in future posts. The following list will help us to recognise God at work. Watch out for a movement with these characteristics! It would be

  • a praying movement

  • a preaching movement

  • a courageous movement

  • a missionary movement

  • a converting movement

  • a movement reaching children and young people

  • a movement that uses lay leaders effectively

  • a movement with a strong identity

  • a movement known for dynamic worship

  • an expanding and growing movement

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How the Primitive Methodists sent a missionary to Australia

In June 1840, two Primitive Methodist laymen, John Rowlands and John Wiltshire arrived in Adelaide. They quickly formed a Primitive Methodist society, and opened a chapel. In 1841, they wrote to the English Primitive Methodist circuits of Darlaston and Oswestry requesting them to send a missionary to Australia, pleading “the society is crying out for a missionary”.

Such a request was clearly beyond the means of two of England’s strongest circuits and indeed of the missionary committee of the church as a whole. They had no funds to raise the considerable amount to send a missionary to the ends of the earth. How could such an expensive request be fulfilled?

Then in 1843, the leaders of the Bottesford circuit near Nottingham suggested the money for an Australian mission could be raised by asking the 70,000 children in Primitive Methodist Sunday-schools to give or collect one penny a year. This children’s crusade was successful, and in June 1844 two ministers, Joseph Long and John Wilson, were appointed to South Australia.

One penny a year times 70,000. That’s how the first Primitive Methodist missionaries came to Australia.

Abridged from “This Side of Heaven”, by Arnold D. Hunt, pages 57-59.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Marking the start of a movement


This stone marks the spot where the first Primitive Methodist Camp Meeting began on Mow Cop. The Mow Cop "castle" is in the background. The inscription reads

Camp Meeting near
this spot on May 31st
began the
Religious Revival
led by
known as
Primitive Methodism

Friday, February 5, 2010

Reflections on Black Saturday

On February 7th, 2009, here in Victoria, Australia, out of control bushfires caused devastation and destruction on a scale we have never experienced before. We will forever refer to that significant day as “Black Saturday”.

The town of Marysville was virtually wiped out by a raging wall of fire. Communities like Kinglake and Steels Creek suffered unimaginable loss. Our friends lost their house in Buxton. As we surveyed the ruins of their property, even the glass windows had melted in the intensity of the heat.

All it takes for this to happen are the right conditions: tinder dry forests, an abundance of leaf litter, high winds, high temperatures and … one spark. When the conditions are right, one spark is all that is required. Once lit, a fire has a life of its own.

It seems to me that the conditions are right for a great move of God in our western culture. We are discovering the emptiness of consumerism and materialism. We worship our celebrities only to discover that their lives are even emptier than ours. We are confronted with the fact that financial security is an illusion thanks to the global financial crisis.

We live in world of pain. We seem to be unable to resolve our relational issues, as families break apart under the strain of the pressures of modern life. We are so busy with the activities of life that we neglect those who are most important to us. Our young people are confronted by the challenges of illicit drugs and alcohol. Our culture is overwhelmed by a tsunami of pornography freely available on the Internet. Our view of healthy sexuality is so distorted, that we don’t know what is normal anymore. And that distortion undermines healthy relationships. Sadly, our culture tends to degrade our relationships not nurture them.

Surely in this culture, the gospel is good news. That we can be freely forgiven, and experience the love and grace of God is good news. That we can confront our sin, with all the pain it causes is good news. That we can experience freedom from the chains of anger, rage, bitterness, discord, greed, alcohol addiction, pornography and sexual promiscuity is good news. That we can live in right relationship with God with no fear of condemnation is good news. That lives and society can be transformed by the Spirit of God is good news.

The conditions are right. To use a biblical metaphor, the fields are ripe for harvest. Jesus clearly taught that the limiting factor is not the availability of the harvest, but the availability of the labourers. The Holy Spirit is looking for men and women to work in the harvest field. People in pain want to hear and experience good news. Are you willing to be part of a movement that turns our world upside down?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why I am writing about Primitive Methodism (part two)

I believe that what God did two hundred years ago, he can do now. Society and culture may change but the message of the gospel and the problems of human nature do not.

A casual reading of a daily newspaper confronts us with the reality of the challenges and evils of our generation. We read of senseless carnage on our roads caused by speed and alcohol, binge drinking, domestic violence, murder, racism, uncontrolled anger, stories of theft and embezzlement motivated by greed and desperation, social problems caused by drugs, and of families torn apart by relationship breakdown, and the pain of divorce. The list is depressingly endless.

Over the centuries the underlying problems of the human heart remain. The cause, the problem of sin, is universal, in every generation and in every country and culture. It is my conviction that God is still in the business of reconciling people whose lives are broken and fractured, and bringing them into right relationship with Him.

In short, He is still in the business of changing the condition of the human heart.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Why write about the Primitive Methodists? (Part one)

What relevance has a movement that began in the 1800s make to our world? What difference can it make to us today?

The story of the Primitive Methodist Movement is a story that needs to be told. It is a remarkable story of God at work, changing lives and transforming communities, and ultimately profoundly impacting life in England and the world beyond. It is a story of ordinary men and women with a message, the gospel of Jesus Christ, who loudly and boldly proclaimed the love of God to people in towns and villages across England. In the space of a few decades from 1810 onwards almost every locality was touched by the gospel in a radical way.

Those whose lives and relationships were devastated by alcohol abuse, became sober. Men who dealt with anger by getting into fist-fights became men of peace. Broken families were restored, relationships renewed, and hatred was replaced by love. Those who wasted their hard-earned wages on gambling became prudent with money. Foul-mouthed, cursing men and women learned to speak words of truth and grace.

I profoundly believe that what God did nearly two hundred years ago, he can do now. Society and culture, circumstances and situations may change but the message of the gospel and the problems of human nature do not.