Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What’s in a name?

Every person has a name. Everyone has a name that they would prefer to be called by. Some of us also have names that others give to us, such as a nickname. We may or may not like the name or names people call us, but we cannot control how others refer to us.

Like people, every identifiable movement of God has a name.

The early followers of Jesus chose a name for themselves. They described themselves as followers of The Way (Acts 9:2, Acts 22:4, Acts 24:14). This is the name the believers preferred.

But the name that others gave them was first used in Antioch. Acts 11:26 says “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch”. The word Christian means "Christ followers" or "those of the household of Christ". It is used three times in the New Testament. In Acts 26:28 ‘Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”‘ Peter observes “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1Peter 4:16) For the early believers, being known as a Christian was not easy.

The Jewish religion was legally protected by Rome. Being known as Christians meant that they risked losing that protection. They were not just a sect within Judaism. They had much in common with the Jews but they appealed to non Jews as well.

It is quite possible that the name “Christian” was a term of derision when first used, but in the providence of God it was the name that stuck.

The Primitive Methodists chose their own name on Feb 13, 1812. They decided on “The Society of the Primitive Methodists”. But like the early Christians they had another name not of their own choosing.

For the pioneer Primitive Methodists their “Antioch” was the village of Belper in Derbyshire in 1814. It was there that they were first called “Ranters”. It was definitely not a name they would have chosen for themselves.

In fact the name Ranter was most often used as a term of derision, scorn and abuse. Many a young convert experienced verbal assault as their persecutors and opponents mockingly called them a Ranter.

However, there was an upside to the name. When word got round that a Ranter preacher was coming to town, a curious and sometimes hostile crowd would gather. It meant that you could not ignore the Ranters. You were either for them or against them.

Ranter preachers often faced a barrage of eggs, rotting vegetables, mud and worse as they preached in the open air. Violence and opposition was part of the package for the early pioneers.

The name Ranter was providentially used of God.

So … what’s in a name? A great deal, but it may not be the one we would choose!

Related posts

1. Why 'Primitive' Methodism?

2. How the Primitive Methodists got their name

3. What's in a name?

4. The Ranters are coming

5. Opposing the work of God is a risky business

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Persecution is part of the package

One characteristic of Christian movements throughout history seems to be that of persecution. As a general rule of thumb persecution is used by God to shape and deepen a movement. Earlier this week a group of us met to pray and as part of that we read the dramatic story in Acts 12 where Peter was imprisoned by Herod. James, the brother of John had been executed previously and Herod, thinking he was on to a good thing was preparing to put Peter on trial for his life. Earlier, Stephen had been stoned, which initiated a great persecution resulting in believers being scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.(Acts 8:1b)

It also appears that God will limit persecution when it is contrary to his divine purpose. Hence the miraculous escape of Peter from prison. As it was for the church in the New Testament, so it was for the Primitive Methodist pioneers. Their preachers faced the anger and violence of unruly mobs and injustice from magistrates. In 1818 John Wedgwood was the first in a long line of preachers to be sent to jail. Many a Primitive Methodist faced jeers and insults, not least of which was to be called a Ranter. Their motto, printed on their membership tickets was taken from Acts 28:22 - "we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect".

It may well be the experience of contemporary Christian movements to experience some form of persecution, as our Western society moves from a post-Christian outlook and becomes increasingly anti-Christian.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

John Wesley

December 14th, 2010 by Bob Logan

John Wesley

As many of you who know me are aware, one of my personal heroes is John Wesley. I love it that not only did he lead evangelistic meetings that brought thousands to Christ, but that he also created a follow-up system for the post-conversion period. In doing so, he retained a much larger share of the harvest than had he simply left his converts to their own devices after conversion.

One of the other elements of Wesley’s ministry that I appreciate so much is his reliance on lay people to carry out the important work of the ministry. I recently ran across this quote: “Give me one hundred… who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell.”

When I read that I felt an internal sense of “yes.” That’s what matters—the heart of a person, not the degree or the seminary or the training. The heart for God is what will shake the gates of hell.

This is a post from Bob Logan's Leadership blog. Used by permission and well worth following. Here is the RSS feed