“Milestones or Tombstones: What will become of our church in the next 135 years?” These were the soul-searching words on the cover of February’s Wesley TIDINGS, a special bumper edition to commemorate the 135th Anniversary of Wesley Methodist Church (MC).
It’s a serious question not just for Wesley MC members, but for all Methodists, to ponder on as we also celebrate the 135th Anniversary of Methodism in Singapore. Will we as a Church—or as a Methodist movement—scale greater heights and record more milestones in the years ahead? Or will we, like many churches in European countries, unwittingly end up as tombstones?
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the Doctrine, Spirit, and Discipline with which they first set out.”
This “Doctrine, Spirit and Discipline” that we are to hold fast to is basically to reform the nation, particularly the Church, and to spread scriptural holiness over the land. Holiness of heart and life, centred on love for God and neighbour, was the orienting goal of the mission.
In the opinion of the Rev Stanley Chua, pastor-in-charge of Wesley MC: “Many Methodists and not just our Wesleyans are not aware of their Methodist roots and rich history. As a denomination, I think we have not held fast to John Wesley’s ‘doctrine, spirit and discipline’.
“In a nutshell, if one really were to study John Wesley’s theology seriously, one would find that Wesley’s teachings reflect classical consensual Christianity—orthodoxy that emerged out of consensual reflection on Jewish and Christian Scripture in the first four centuries. Our distinctives, such as Witness of the Holy Spirit, Entire Sanctification, and the Class Meeting, among others, are still very relevant today but may be somewhat lacking.”
Visitors to Wesley MC would have noticed the mission statement of our church on the atrium wall: “To seek to glorify God in Jesus Christ by loving Him, by loving one another and by loving our neighbours as ourselves.”
In recent years, Wesley MC has tried to fulfil this Mission statement, and to spread Scriptural Holiness over the land, through our Directions 2020:
- Growing in Christ (2017)
- Building Community (2018)
- Impacting the World (2019 and 2020).
Although each year has a different focus, the three strategies are meant to be carried out concurrently throughout all four years. For Impacting the World, we seek to practise the General Rules of The Methodist Church—Do no harm; Do good; and Attend upon the ordinances of God. We embarked on several Acts of Kindness projects to bless others; organised the churchwide Jonah campaign; and encouraged every Small Group to go on at least one mission trip in 2019–20.
We also organised the four-day Christmas at The Fort in December 2019, which saw close to 2,000 Wesleyans signing up as volunteers—the biggest event in our church history—and attracted 13,000 visitors over the four days despite the uncertain weather. This year, we launched 2020 Alpha, at 11-week course to which we hope to draw 2020 participants, both seekers and new Christians.
Growing in Christ in 2017 was the practice of Personal Holiness through John Wesley’s Means of Grace—Public Worship, Reading Scripture, Prayer, The Lord’s Supper and Fasting. The church leadership encouraged various spiritual disciplines such as daily Bible reading and reflections, Devotion in Groups, and the 40-day Prayer & Fasting. The Discipleship & Nurture Committee also launched the Wesley Discipleship Model—a blueprint to guide Wesleyans to grow in Christ and become disciples of Jesus. It even produced in-house a three-year Bible Reading Plan.
In Building Community (2018), we tried to cultivate Social Holiness through activities such as the Authentic Relationships Bible Study, Friendship Nights, Wesley Food and Fun Carnival, and the Grace at Work Marketplace Conference.
It’s a work in progress. Growing in Christ, Building Community and Impacting the World are a continuing journey till eternity. Going forward Pastor Stanley hopes to encourage our Small Groups to practise the Class and Band Meetings of the early Methodists, which emphasise genuine community and accountable discipleship.
“If you look at the Methodist Churches in European countries that are losing their influence, many have lost their Wesleyan doctrine, spirit and practice. Is it a wonder that they are dying?” said the Rev Stanley.
Milestones or Tombstones? The answer lies in our Methodist roots. Blessed 135th Anniversary, Wesley Methodist Church! And thanks be to God!
Alvin Tay is the Communications Chairperson at Wesley Methodist Church
Photos courtesy of Wesley Methodist Church