A Strong Recommendation: The Absolute Basics of the Wesleyan Way ©

I recently finished reading Phil Tallon and Justus Hunter’s new book The Absolute Basics of the Wesleyan Way. My zeal for this marvelous little book causes me to pause and write this blog post and a direct email to the pastors and lay leaders of the Central Texas Conference and eagerly recommend The Absolute Basics of the Wesleyan Way to all – especially for use by Sunday School classes and other small group studies. I also believe that it would make an excellent resource for a sermon series based on the core of what it means to be a Wesleyan Christian. Please allow me to explain and, with enthusiasm, advocate.
A few years ago, on a wonderful Educational Opportunities trip that followed a part of the Apostle Paul’s fourth missionary journey, we were in Rome with the leadership of the White’s Chapel Choir (along with many other participants from around the Conference). As part of our visit in and around Rome, the Central Texas Conference “Whites Chapel plus” music team sang for worship at the Vatican. In the parlance of our day, it was a “God moment” full of joy and wonder. I was also able to meet with the Roman Catholic Bishop who served as Secretary to the Pontifical Council on Christian Unity (with a special thanks to Bishop Michael Olson of the Fort Worth diocese of the Catholic Church for introducing me). It was a stimulating, thought-provoking, time together, which I would call holy. 
During the conversation, the bishop shared his conviction that every branch of the larger Christian family had something special to offer to the rest of the Christian community. His gracious ecumenical spirit was refreshing! He then went on to comment about how Methodism brought to the wider Christian family an understanding of holiness. (The words are my summary, but I believe I have accurately captured the essence of his sharing.)
I have found myself repeatedly going back to his reflections. I agree that the various denominational groups have something special to offer the wider Christian family. I am also increasingly convinced that we lack a full understanding of what the Wesleyan movement brings to the larger Christian movement. Which brings us back to my avidity for The Absolute Basics of the Wesleyan Way. I love this relatively short (78 pages plus Wesley’s sermon “The Scripture Way of Salvation,” and an additional 10 pages of notes for geeks like me who wish to follow up) pungent summary of the Wesleyan Way. Each chapter is followed by some excellent questions for discussions. It is broken down in three major units.
  • Unit 1  Who was John Wesley?
  • Unit 2  What did Wesley Teach? With chapters on…
    1. the goal of the Christian life,
    2. repentance,
    3. Justification and new birth,
    4. sanctification,
    5. entire sanctification
  • Unit 3  What do Wesleyans Do? (With chapters on…
    1. the sacraments,
    2. class & band meetings, and
    3. “what happened after Wesley?”
Consider the following nuggets of insight and instruction:
  • “…what was Wesley’s preaching that attracted so many? We can sum it up in two words: go further.  God wants you to go further.” (p. 31)
  • “When you get away with sin, the only ting you get away from is God.  When you lie to God, you lie to yourself.  You break off your relationship to God, and so you break yourself off from the only one that can heal you from the sickness of sin.” (p.40)
  • “The key point here is that God calls His people to be different. Different from the world and different from the way we were when God first saved us. The way God makes us different is by sharing His own holiness with us.” (p.51)
  • “Sanctification is the twofold process of dying to sin and growing in grace.” (p. 51)
  • “The means of grace aren’t only like a sign on the interstate telling you about a place you could go. They’re more like the interstate itself, taking you there.” (p. 66)
  • “When Methodism started out, it wasn’t a new church. It was a group of church-going Christians seeking to grow closer to God through fellowship.” (p. 69)
This is foundation building stuff. For the pastor who took a course on the History, Doctrine and Polity [church governance] of The United Methodist Church (as is required for ordination), this will not be new material. What it will be is an excellent summary that calls us back collectively to our core Wesleyan distinctives. For someone new to The United Methodist Church, it will be an superb anchoring in the Wesleyan way of being Christian!