By Tyler Best AoP ’12, Religion Student University of Evansville
England may be a small country geographically, but it has a tremendous history of creative Christian witness. With that in mind I want to focus our attention on a distinguished native of England and his adventures.
It is rather natural to envision images of Mary Kay Ash, Bill Gates, Madame C.J. Walker, and Steve Jobs when we hear the word “entrepreneur.” These are honestly the names that have come to my mind, but just as these people have affected the lives of millions through their work, there is one individual who may have impacted more lives than Ash, Gates, Walker, and Jobs combined.
Whether you agree with none, some, or all of his theology, there is no denying that John Wesley had an entrepreneurial spirit that was contagious and transformative. When Wesley sought to spread the Gospel to Native Americans in an unknown place, everything did not turn out exactly the way he envisioned. In fact, it isn’t a secret that his endeavor in America was a complete catastrophe. Not only was he unsuccessful with Native Americans, he also had issues with parishioners in the community he served. His experience in America ended as he literally escaped the colony before charges could be brought against him.
Did Wesley cease his ministry endeavors after this failed attempt? Of course not! Sure, he was discouraged and unhappy from the whole experience, but it did not stop him. True entrepreneurs of the Gospel do not allow failures to hinder their eventual success.
Upon returning to England and experiencing a conversion experience on Aldersgate Street, Wesley began implementing several innovative ideas. Through obedience to God and the encouragement of people around him, he was able to effectively put these ideas in place. Chief among these was his desire to preach outdoors and reach people the Church had neglected and avoided for quite some time.
Just like any effective entrepreneur, Wesley did not build his movement alone. He also trained and sent out other lay preachers to take part in the very same activity. It did not stay in one place and become stagnant. Just as we see companies like Apple Inc. expanding into markets all throughout the world, we saw John Wesley using Gospel preachers to influence their world throughout England and eventually America. He chose people he could trust, people who captured the vision and I will acknowledge my belief that the effort has been quite successful.
It wasn’t completely acceptable to all the people around him. It is unfortunate that Wesley received opposition from leaders within the Church of England, but also close friends, that rejected his ideas. Obviously, this criticism did not hinder Wesley either.
These experiences are not relevant to John Wesley alone. Often times we allow what may be perceived as a failure (ministry related or not) to hinder our entrepreneurial and innovative side. We allow others to impede our Gospel-spreading effectiveness through negative attitudes. If you haven’t experienced a situation like this personally, you may know others that may have experienced a similar situation.
Be encouraged as you remember the determined attitude of John Wesley and help others do the same. What if he had abandoned ministry after his failure? There is no doubt that the world would be a far different place. Today Methodists number about 30 million people worldwide, but the impact goes far beyond simple numbers. All of this achievement is due to one man being obedient to God as he stepped outside his failure and used entrepreneurial skills to reach people in the name of Jesus Christ that hadn’t been reached before. As a result, many lives have been transformed and will continue to be transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“I look upon all the world as my parish.” – John Wesley
Several Christian web sites are publishing articles about the “most influential living preachers.” Here is a link to the story on Associated Baptist Press. The Christian Post also published the story from Baptist Press.
The research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, of which Baptist Press is an affiliate agency, conducted the research and published the results.
Here are “the top ten preachers who influence you”……..according to this survey of a select group of preachers: Billy Graham, Charles Swindoll, Charles Stanley, Rick Warren, John MacArthur, Barbara Brown Taylor, David Jeremiah, Max Lucado, John Piper and Andy Stanley.
What strikes you? Nine men and one woman, all white, all but 2 in the South, and 8 of the 10 are Baptists. Makes me wonder about the research not the results. I’ll bet I can pretty well describe the demographics of those interviewed: white, male, southern, Baptists!! And one other thing: all but one are or have been prominent on the television airwaves.
How different the demographics of this list from those who came to Louisville to preach at the inaugural Festival of Young Preachers: 20% female and 24% African American, and from all denominations in the United States–except Lutheran and Episcopal.
Why no Lutherans and Episcopalians, you ask? Primarily because neither denomination has a single educational institution within the radius of our original pilot project are. But we are now in touch with their leaders and professors and next year in Louisville I predict will be very different.
What will be different also is a list of “most influential” preachers for this younger generation. When I polled our leadership group on who they would like to hear preach at our first festival none of the names on the above “most influential” list even appeared! Their list was much more diverse: male and female, black and white, young and old, and full of names I had never ever heard!!
And then this: after attending the inaugural Festival of Young Preachers in January most of our young people would, I suspect, prefer hearing one of their own rather than somebody from my generation. So next year, we are going to do exactly that: we are going to select several of this year’s top young preachers and invite them back next year as plenary preachers.
Next year: January 6-8, 2011. Twice as many preachers. Twice as good preaching. Twice as much inspiration.