Dealing with the Flaws of Our Forefathers in the Faith

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How do we deal with flaws done by people in the past that we look up to? Whether it’s Spurgeon’s smoking cigar, Luther’s anti-Semitism, Thomas Cranmer’s recanting his Protestant belief (and recanting his recantations before going to the stake) or Bonheoffer‘s involvement to assassinate Hitler, these flaws tainted the respect we hold so dear to them (or has it?). We don’t want those “just human” or “no one is perfect” responses. Those excuses will sweep the issue under the rug. What we do want is something that will confront those flaws head on with godly wisdom that will benefit us.

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The Tipping Point of John Wesley

In his book Tipping Point, author Malcom Gladwell sites John Wesley, founder of the Methodist denomination on how he organizes the movement in a way that it spread like wildfire. He mentioned Wesley’s method because of his book tackles how an “epidemic” (craze, trend or fad) spread and succeed to be accepted by the people. Gladwell looks at the Wesley’s way of spreading Methodism a good example of such epidemic:

“In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, for example, the Methodist movement became epidemic in England and North America, tipping from 20,000 to 90,000 followers in the U.S. in the space of five or six years in the 1780s.” (pg. 172)


The book goes to say about the influential preacher secret:

“But Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, was by no means the most charismatic preacher of his era….His genius was organizational.” Wesley would travel around England and North America delivering open-air sermons to thousands of people. But he didn’t just preach. He also stayed long enough in each town to form the most enthusiastic of his converts into religious societies, which in turn he subdivided into smaller classes of a dozen or so people. Converts were required to attend weekly meetings and to adhere to a strict code of conduct. If they failed to live up to Methodist standards, they were expelled from the group.This was a group, in other words, that stood for something. Over the course of his life, Wesley traveled ceaselessly among these groups, covering as much as four thousand miles a year by horseback, reinforcing the tenets of Methodist belief. He was a classic Connector. He was a super Paul Revere. The difference is, though, that he wasn’t one person with ties to many other people. He was one person with ties to many groups, which is a small but critical distinction. Wesley realized that if you wanted to bring about a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior, a change that would persist and serve as an example to others, you needed to create a community around them, where those new beliefs could be practiced and expressed and nurtured.” (pp. 172-173)


Gladwell’s observations on John Wesley’s method in his book was a good one.  Very commendable. But the truth is, it’s more than that. Let me point out two things:

  1. We can easily dismiss that a church rapid growth is by the leader’s initiative or his assets. The world simply put it that way and eventually a rapid developing church, movement, or a group can be line up on company, latest fashion trends or business success. Sometimes you can’t spot the differences. The reality is God used John Wesley to spread the gospel and built His church. That’s the secret.
  2.  Church and corporate entities are both under the sovereignty of God. But the church has a special part in God’s heart. The church is God’s bride. The church or the body of Christ composed of saved sinners, comes together to worship God and find nourishment on God’s Word the Bible. We interact with fellow believers and participate for the Great Commission. We also are to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as the unbelievers in the hope to bring them to Christ. Our business affiliation or work places are to be considered our mission field. We carry orders from the church. It’s in the church we learn the lesson but our practical application of it is in secular organization whether we work or study there.

John Wesley as well as every preachers God called throughout the centuries to produce revivals has a sort of tipping point. God being full of grace and mercy gave different gifts to these men to win people to the gospel. If you’re a Christian tell God in what area will you be useful to Him. Let us be totally dependent to Him in every ministry we have. And only by Him and through Him your ministry might be the next tipping point.