I really like John Wesley. I am so inspired by the movement his ministry sparked, and for the astonishing spread of renewal he and “the Methodists” spawned.
He isn’t as quotable as some church leaders have been, but he does have some great ones. (And of course some quotes are attributed to him that we don’t know he really said, although we don’t know he didn’t say them for sure either–some may have been recorded from oral tradition.)
Regardless, Wesley is attributed as saying, “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace,” and also “We should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others.” Love that one!
He spoke on the subject of leadership, passion, and movements in the following way:
- “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.”
- “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
- “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.”
He admonished his ministers, saying, “You have one business on earth – to save souls” and though he himself read much, he tempered our temptation to bookishness by reminding: “Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.”
He spoke on money with particular clarity, saying, ““Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can” and also: “Not, how much of my money will I give to God, but, how much of God’s money will I keep for myself?”
I love a good John Wesley quote! I hope you tweet out or share quotes like that. I do!
However, I must admit that there is one quote from John Wesley that I really dislike. I consider it the worst Wesley quote, even though people quote it all the time. Here it is:
“God grant that I may never live to be useless!”
Now, I know what Wesley was trying to say here. He valued so deeply the idea of personal “industry” — being a faithful, hard-working person was a big deal to Wesley. And he was such a “useful” person to God, indeed. But here’s the problem I have with that quote:
Those that some consider “useless” are still made in the image of God, and must never be considered useless in the Kingdom of God. Yes, in our very productive middle-aged days where we are “doing so much” for God we might hope we are never useless. We might dream about dying before we are incapacitated. We might pray that we never face an illness or disease or something that makes us feel useless. That’s human.
But it’s inhuman to dehumanize those who seem useless.
You have a purpose in life even when you don’t “do” anything in life.
The Altzheimer patient, the mentally handicapped, the dying widow, the crippled man, the unborn fetus: these persons do not seem to have “use” in the sense of actually doing something in this world to “contribute” to it. In fact, other people sometimes “feel useless” in our world: the person who lost their job, the wife who lost her husband, the man whose wife left him for another, the young person who cannot get into college, the recently retired man, the long lonely young woman. These are peolpe that can oft feel “useless” and without purpose.
But they have value. They aren’t useless to God. They are God’s child every bit as much as me or Wesley.
So, I pray a different prayer than Wesley. I instead pray:
“God grant that I never live to see anyone as useless.”
Okay, enough ragging on Wesley. He likely would agree with me on all the above. No one quite prized human beings more than Wesley: the poor, the marginalized, the lost, the broken. So except for this one quote, Wesley is awesome, and this post is in honor of the unveiling of my good friend, Mark Gorveatte’s book, called Lead Like Wesley.
HIs is an excellent book on Wesley and his amazing leadership insights that I highly commend to you. I read early chapters of Lead Like Wesley when Mark was just starting out–and I could tell he was onto something special. I hope you’ll check it out, if you’re into Wesley at all, or even just a leader looking for some practical and insightful stuff.