‘In Your Name’
By Rev John Salmon
Methodism began as mission. The early Methodist movement under John Wesley sought to meet the needs of people who ceased to be served by the Church.
The 18th century was a time of huge social disruption. Growing industrialisation forced many to the cities. The old rural communities were no longer the centres of society, and little yet replaced them.
For many, the experience was of separation from their roots, social marginalisation, and poverty. Wesley was determined to ensure the gospel message got to these people.
This meant breaking old ways of doing things. It meant going to where people were. It meant re-thinking aspects of Church organisation and thinking.
Wesley’s emphasis was what we might call today “inclusive relevance”.
He came to believe that all people – whatever their social status or condition – both needed to be saved and could be saved. God’s love extended to everybody. This is unremarkable to us, but in the socially-divided society of the day, and with views of predestination widely held (only some were to be saved), it was radical in its social and theological inclusiveness.
Even those on society’s margins were loved by God, and deserved to hear God’s good news and to have the opportunity to respond.
Wesley saw that if preaching the gospel was to be relevant to the lives of people, it had to take place in touch with their needs. That meant meeting with people in their own settings, so their situation could be identified and their issues addressed. Evangelism and mission were tightly linked, as aspects of each other.
And that approach has continued in the Methodist movements till today.
It has not always been easy to hold together Wesley’s stress on evangelism and mission, on spirituality and action, on communal worship and personal lifestyle. So various groups of Methodists have emphasised different aspects of the original movement.
Yet two core components keep showing themselves. One is the spirituality and action or ‘word and deed’ emphasis. The other is recognition of the need to relate what we say and do to the context in which we are set.
Methodist missions in Aotearoa-New Zealand continue to work with these, and to act them out in and with communities today. WesleyCom’s Cycles of Hope project is a contemporary expression of John Wesley’s core theology.
Cycles of Hope continues the core emphases of Breaking the Cycle, but with an emphasis on bringing hope to people damaged and diminished by the kind of world we live in. It represents a way of acting out the hope-filled message of the gospel – where people are. It is contextual in seeking a journey from ka mate (death in the midst of life) to ka ora (life in the midst of death.
This acted message is being picked up by social service ministries through Methodist Missions, agencies, Parishes, and through local community groups. These mission-ministries aim to work with people in their needs and relating to their goals, as an extension of the ministry of Jesus the Christ: they are done “in his name”.
You can participate in mission as Methodist today through your support of the activities of WesleyCom. Support them through your donations or bequests. And support them by keeping up to date with their programmes and their thinking, and with what is happening near you. Support them by becoming a volunteer, or being involved with Methodist mission activities in your region.
Methodism continues in mission: be part of it here.