16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 NIV)
I’ve gained a new appreciation for what we call old. For instance, our home is over 100 years old. I would consider that an old, or at least and older home. Or at least I did until our recent rip to the UK. It’s odd to visit homes that were built in the 14th or 15th century. To them, our 100 year old home would be considered a new build.
That may be why those churches that share a Wesleyan heritage can look at the New Room in Bristol, England and appreciate it with no irony. The New Room is the oldest Methodist chapel in existence, having been built in 1739. It is known as the cradle of the Methodist movement. I suppose in a country with homes that date back many centuries a chapel built in 1739 might still be considered new.
I toured the New Room a few weeks ago and couldn’t help but be caught up in the importance of that place. John Wesley stood in an preached from the pulpit. It was there that many of Charles Wesley’s hymns were first sung. Would it have been there that O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” was first lifted up with the gusto it so richly deserves? Perhaps. John Wesley would often sit in the balcony window and evaluate his young preachers. No pressure there!
But what impressed me the most about the New Room were the two statues of the Wesley brothers. As you find the New Room, and you have to look for it, it’s a bit down an alley, you are greeted in the front courtyard by a statue of Charles Wesley looking as if he is about to burst into song himself.
If you continue through the chapel and go out the back into the back courtyard, you’ll find a statue of John Wesley saddled up on his hose ready to take the gospel into the world.
In my mind, these two statues bracketing the first Methodist chapel, describe in a very poignant way what it’s supposed to mean to be a United Methodist, and sadly what at times we seem to have forgotten as a denomination.
Charles reminds us of our need for vital, life transforming worship. Early Methodists, much to John Wesley’s chagrin, were known as enthusiasts. They were enthusiastic about worship. They sang at the top of their voices, they shouted God’s praise. They lifted the name of Jesus up and they rejoiced. And God began to breathe life back into these souls as they sought to live out a Biblical orthodox faith.
But a Methodist wasn’t content to merely sit and worship. At some point they had to go out the “back door” as go forth to share the Gospel as John Wesley did,loudly proclaiming “The World is my Parish”. Evangelism, witnessing was as much a part of the vitality of their faith as was enthusiastic worship.
The statues remind us there is a rhythm to our Wesleyan faith. Its about coming and going. Worship and evangelism, a life changed offering new life to others. The Wesley’s understood there was a symbiotic relationship between the two. The more powerful one’s worship the more the Holy Spirit compels us to witness. The more we share of Jesus, the greater our times of worship.
How sad it is that many within our denomination content themselves with entering the front door and never leave. We act as is worship is all we need to do to have a vital faith. We find ourselves more than willing to argue over worship styles, types of music or worship times. Yet we remain strangely silent over any insistence that we share Jesus with the lost.
We wonder why there seems to be something missing in worship despite our best efforts to stay on the cutting edge of the newest worship trends. Perhaps true vitality and, dare I say it, enthusiasm in worship isn’t about the newest song from Hillsong, high quality cameras, moving Latin requiems, incense of bells. Perhaps what brings vitality to our worship are hearts who share the Gospel and truly believe Jesus has come to save anyone who calls on His name.
Using the front door is great. I love to worship. But let us never forget to truly be United Methodists, we have to use both doors. We are called to come. We are also called to go.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><