The Wesleyan Way

December 1st, 2013

[I]n the spring of 1978, I had finally resolved my spiritual search and had become a Christian. I had even started seminary, because I sensed that the church was a good thing and I wanted to help people find God. But I didn’t know where it was all going or how it would work out.

My first-semester classes were more challenging and confusing than helpful. But then I enrolled in a course called “Wesley and the Wesleyan Tradition,” taught by Dr. Albert Outler. Through a series of lectures, assigned readings, and one-on-one conversations, Dr. Outler helped me understand the way of salvation taught by the Bible, as understood by John Wesley and his brother Charles, evangelical reformers who lived and taught in the eighteenth century. In the process, I was shocked and surprised to learn that Wesley’s understanding of Christianity was the official teaching of my own church! I was the son, grandson, and great-grandson of United Methodist pastors, and somehow I had never learned the Wesleyan Way of salvation.

I don’t want that to happen to you. I want you to see what God has in store for you, so you’ll have a more complete picture of the Christian life and how it might work for you, your family, your friends, and everyone else with whom you come into contact.

When I first started learning the Wesleyan Way, it gave me a framework to resolve some of the biggest and most important questions of my life. When I hear criticisms of Christianity, I often think, They are not talking about the Wesleyan Way. When I read about people’s struggles with deep questions of faith, I think, If only I could share the Wesleyan Way with them...

When Christians were first identified as a separate group, they were called people who belonged to “the Way” (Acts 9:2). Christianity was understood to include a relationship to the risen Jesus, participation in a community, and a journey to salvation. When Paul described his whole life, he said, “I . . . have finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7). The author of Hebrews exhorted people to a journey: “Let’s also run the race that is set before us . . . and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Following Jesus is a lifelong journey that can be described as a race, a pilgrimage, a way toward the Promised Land.

Of course, it’s possible to make that journey without a map. A map is an indispensable tool to use in planning your journey and making decisions along the way. It’s helpful to know where you are and where you are going!

The Bible is our map, but it’s old enough and complex enough that Christians have developed ways of reading it to guide believers on the journey. The Wesleyan Way of Christianity has its approach to understanding Scripture, and this study is in part a summary and exploration of that understanding.

I developed this study to help you find your life’s goal. I believe God wants you to be saved from sin and delivered to a happy and whole life as one of Christ’s disciples. That journey is so much easier if you open yourself to the Bible’s teaching, if you listen to the wisdom of Christians who have traveled before you, and if you do it in community—with a group of fellow seekers or disciples who will support you, encourage you, and challenge you along the way. Ideally that community of sisters and brothers and friends will hold you accountable for becoming your best self. Our efforts to become the people we want to be are often done in groups, whether Alcoholics Anonymous, Weight Watchers, Walk to Emmaus, a women’s Bible study, a men’s group, or a Sunday school class. We need each other.

However, no book, no group, no church has all the answers. When you finish this study, you still will have questions and you still will be seeking to understand fully the amazing grace of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the deep joys of following Jesus.

I hope and pray that, along with a group of others who want to follow Jesus more fully, you will discover the Christian journey to be full of deep joy and meaning. That has been my experience—that following the Wesleyan Way has been an incredible blessing. I hope that you, too, are blessed by what you experience in this study.

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