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Friday, October 30, 2009

A Practical View of Real Christianity

“[It is] impossible to tell from a typical sermon whether the preacher [is] a follower of Confucius, Muhammad, or Jesus Christ.”

Sir William Blackstone made this statement over 200 years ago “after visiting the churches of every major clergyman in London,” reports Chuck Stetson in his 2007 foreword to the reprint of William Wilberforce’s A Practical View of Real Christianity.

What led to Blackstone’s comment? For one thing, in 1661, punitive and vicious anti-Puritan legislation was passed by the British Parliament. As a result, priests who were Puritans (1/5th of all British clergy) were expelled from the Church of England.

By the time Blackstone toured London's churches in the 1700s, he “did not hear a single discourse which had more Christianity in it than the writings of Cicero,” writes Stetson.

But in 1739, John Wesley (1703-1791), his heart having been “strangely warmed” by the Holy Spirit, began to preach a different message in open-air meetings. Over the next fifty years, Wesley commissioned many preachers who were not ordained or licensed by the Church of England.

At the same time, Wesley encouraged small groups of believers to meet for the strengthening of their faith. Wesley’s new small group “method” of discipleship became a hallmark of “Methodism.” Sometimes persecution produces wonderful things, as was the case in early 20th Century Korea, when the Japanese imprisoned Korean believers who would not bow the knee to the Emperor.

Forty-seven years later, in 1786, when the "Methodist" movement was in high gear, William Wilberforce experienced his own personal spiritual awakening, just five years before Wesley passed on. Wilberforce called this his “great change.”

I wonder if William Wilberforce’s conversion would have occurred at all, apart from the spiritual awakening of 18th Century England in which John Wesley played such a significant role. I also wonder if Wilberforce’s “Clapham Circle” would have become a reality had it not been for Wesley's small group “method” whereby believers received encouragement in the practice of “real” Christianity," which they were not learning about in church.

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  1. This is getting closer to the conviction that has grown on me concerning the real function of the church. Programs, Performance, and Pulpit are an adoption of secular worldly ways of doing things corporately. Sermons do not help people to grow, because Jesus desires to manifest himself through a Body where the members do the ministering to one another, such as in Wesley's small groups.

  2. Chuck in Mill CreekOctober 31, 2009 at 5:49 PM

    Chris, I am enjoying your thoughts and sharings. Thank you.

    True to the summary of Blacksone's observation(s),

    sticking to/holding to inductive whole-counsel Bible, proclaiming (and not backing down) on Jesus, are foundational to (any simialance) of a healthy people-healthy church (healthy Chuck, too - my corrected typo). I don't always like, am not always comfortable with, what the Bible says and has me do, but it is always 'good'-correct.

    Take away solid Bible teaching, etc, and I can PROMOTE/justify/magnify all my, and others', garbage - kill kids, molest, malign, murder, make up false rumors, and WAY more. "Merry Old England" here we come-even surpass.

    On another note,

    also true to the summary of Blackstone's observation(s),

    where would I be without any of those before me obeying/coming to the Lord -- no children pupet evangelist, no Maxwellton VBS, no YFC rallies, no SPU, no Intervarsity, no ....., and MY no-walk-with-God. I would probably be a molested, molesting druggy, found dead in a back alley, years ago.

    God is so awesome for keeping from my garbage, and any garbage I would be in. Jesus coming, dying on that cross, being raised by the Father (and His built-in laws/promises), Holy Spirit working in/working on/empowering, ----- WOW!!!!! There's practical on the positive side - our only hope.

    Chuck in Mill Creek