Our Pastor, a kind and loving man but one more in tune with the Wesley circuit riding tradition than the modernists, told us a beautiful story of the foundation of the Methodist movement which led up to the discussion of the sad situation we find ourselves in today. He told of how John Wesley believed, even though still an Anglican priest, that to gather the flock for Christ meant he must go out and preach to those in need, not wait for them to come to the church, and the basis of that preaching was the Word. This was quite different from his Anglican brothers who were much more staid and conservative in their approach, preaching from the formal pulpit in a place that so many of those who needed the message would never go. It was here that Wesley began his street preaching, a precursor to the beginning of the circuit rider tradition which became a principal thrust of his preaching. It was a tough job, one fraught with many dangers, including weather and the bands of highwaymen who roamed at will seeking easy targets of prey, such as a man of the cloth out in the wilderness alone. Wesley himself is said to have ridden horses nearly a quarter of a million miles preaching sometimes as many as five sermons in a day to people in outposts where no minister was present. This very tradition carried over to the Colonies and later the new United States as tough, single ministers weathered rain, snow, wind and hail on horseback going to outposts where wild animals and lawless men also saw them an easy mark. It was for this reason that Methodism wanted only unmarried men in that role due to the long absences from loved ones and the dangers the job brought. Yet they did it as their duty to God who provided for them on their travels just as the Apostle Paul had lived. The result was that Methodism thrived in rural communities and for a time the Methodist Church became the largest denomination in the United States and people who might have otherwise not had the opportunity were given the joy of hearing the Word of God.
As the Pastor continued his words, he told of a question asked of Wesley in his latter years. He was asked if he thought his movement, would survive. Wesley's response showed his clear insight, for he replied that the movement by name would likely survive but it would likely turn into something unidentifiable to what it had been created to do. And that is where as he spoke, the Ppastor, with his fifty years as a Methodist minister, shed a tear or two. He said that what Wesley feared was what was happening today as the Church will address a break-up of the church during this year's annual conference, a break-up that will divide the traditionalists, those who cherish the Word of God as presented as the Truth, and the modernists, the liberal element of the church which believes that man today knows better what God meant by the Bible than what God stated through those inspired by the power of the Holy Spirit to write it. And I must admit that I, too, shed a few tears as I realized fully that another institution important to our nation's beliefs and reliance on God was being dealt a mortal wound. Our church has become just another victim of the concept of evolving us into something that God never wanted us to be, a people of a watered down belief structure that no longer values the concepts of right versus wrong and instead surrenders to moral relativism.
It's a tough time for many of us these days as we wrestle with issues that we know are clearly not consistent with our moral beliefs. One way to cope with that is to surrender, but when we surrender, we give up hope and fail to stand for what we know to be right. Another way is just to ignore it and think it will go away which it will not. Finally, the only other way is to stand for what we know to be truth. With it comes ridicule, false charges and other difficulties, yet we also know that God will never give us more than what we can handle, but He does often test our resolve. We should take comfort in that. After all, on the continuum of eternity, earthly life is just an ink spot on a line that has no beginning or no ending. Just think, when we stand with Him, our very existence moves to the never ending line with eternal life forever. It's sad what is happening, yes, but it is in reality only an earthly matter and will be meaningless in the Kingdom. Choose eternal life and live forever.