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A Blueprint for Revival – Lessons from the Life of John Wesley

Author: Mark Williamson
Published By: Authentic Media Limited (Authentic Media Limited)
Pages: 167
Price: £7.99
ISBN: 978 1 85078 962 8

Reviewed by Philip Joy.

If only this book were not entitled so presumptuously, it would be a good book. Warning lights go on for me whenever someone looks to the past and claims to have the key to revival, because the key never seems to be so easily transferable to the present. A ‘blueprint for leadership’ might have been a better claim. Indeed, that is what the book actually offers. Coming out of the One Rock International organization, it looks biographically at John Wesley, and draws lessons for leadership, material and spiritual, which are actually quite convincing. There is no hassle about when he was converted or whether it was actually assurance he received. Each chapter simply tells the story of his life succinctly with relevant quotes from his journals, and at the end of each, there is a useful summary section listing up to four areas of insight, each of which correspond to the four curriculum areas in the One Rock training programme: Spiritual Formation, Discerning Vision, Leadership Skills and Mission Skills.

We start with his childhood and the deeply devotional upbringing he had, and learn the value of good education, to balance passion with reason, not to get into debt and to cultivate honesty, that parents influence us and experience shapes and to prioritize mission. The zealous years in Oxford are taken as a pattern for accountability, journaling, spiritual disciplines, discussing vocation, reading the right books and the mission insight that not all chance encounters are chance. Concerning his failed missionary journey, we learn not to confuse friendship with romance, that clear decisions are needed in relationships, to treat people with dignity, to learn from failure and to clarify expectations with others. From the period of outdoor preaching, we learn the value of really experiencing God, finding a spiritual mentor, using our spiritual gifts as pointers to discerning our calling, finding in community a source of strength, seeing opposition as a means of clarifying vision, going where people are, being free to re-use material on different occasions and, what Whitefield basically failed to do – discipling converts.

As the movement spread across the UK between 1739-48, we learn the value of beginning small and not being disappointed with small growth, communicating our requirements clearly, creating a wide team, allowing members to use their gifts, treating theological disputes with grace, disciplining the unruly in the team, beinh courageous in the face of violent opposition, being expectant in evangelism and, once again, developing structures for discipleship. Immediately after this period Wesley got married. Here too Williamson draws lessons: avoid secrecy in relationships, don’t rush into marriage, marry someone who supports your ministry, invest time in your marriage, beware of deep friendships with the opposite sex after marriage (a theme here!), and interestingly, be prepared to compromise some of our plans so as to maintain a healthy marriage. The theme that comes out of the 1751-71 period is perseverance: persevere in love, continue to find time for God, keep in touch with the movement, discipline leaders as well as people for a movement is only as strong as its leaders, manage your time wisely, and love the people you are serving.

Wesley died in 1791, but lessons can be drawn regarding leaving a legacy, no less financial as well as visionary: in old age maintaining spiritual life, looking after your health, remaining humble, being passionate about mission and ensuring the survival of the movement by mentoring the next generation of leaders.

It’s clear how these insights are practical as well as spiritual, and drawn from Wesley’s mistakes as well as his successes. Certainly good leadership bears fruit, and possibly, is the key to revival. For sure, following the lessons learnt from this book – which are far more comprehensive than anything I learned from reading Wesley’s journals – cannot but lay a foundation for the transformation of God’s people. Readable, to the point and highly recommended.

Philip Joy

Specialist in Old Testament narrative and typology

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You are reading Issue 55 of Ministry Today, published in July 2012.

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