About 250 years ago, John Wesley, the person most responsible for launching the Methodist movement, was concerned with helping people who were serious about following Christ find practical ways to enrich their spiritual vitality. He came up with what he called the means of grace.
Wesley did not invent them. The means of grace are spiritual disciplines that are described in Scripture and have been practised by Christians for two thousand years.
Wesley systematized them for early Methodists as works of mercy and works of piety. The works of mercy focused on “doing no harm, avoiding evil, and doing all the good one can.”
Today, works of mercy might be described as acts of compassion and acts of justice.
Works of piety focused on private and family prayer, searching the Scriptures, the Lord’s Supper, public worship of God, Christian conference, and fasting or abstinence.
The means of grace are still very helpful today. They are accelerants that enhance the work of God’s grace in the life of people who want to live close to God.
At General Conference 2011, last May, the Free Methodist Church in Canada agreed to focus on Wesley’s Means of Grace as a way to promote spiritual vitality in churches across the country. The primary purpose of Wesley’s Means of Grace was to provide a system for discipleship in the Methodist community.
This diagram helps explain how they work together. (Ctrl-click to see larger image in a new tab.)
Works of Piety focus on a Christian’s relationship with God and the People of God, while Works of Mercy focus on a person’s relationship with themself and their neighbour.
But today the Means of Grace sound kind of dated — the concepts are valid but the vocabulary is old. During a working retreat in October, denominational leaders developed an updated version called, “Living as Joyfully Obedient Disciples of Jesus.”
There are still four areas of focus but they are reorganized to include how Christians interact with creation and the environment.
- Drawing close to God and becoming like Christ
- Growing in spiritual and emotional maturity
- Showing compassion and mercy toward others
- Living in a way that respects and cares for creation
The preaching and teaching at Kingsview Church during 2012 will focus on this theme, “Living as Joyfully Obedient Disciples of Jesus”. Each of the four special focuses will be explored with a 13 week series.
We are still pursuing Wesley’s timeless ideas in a more relevant format and vocabulary. “What are the steps which the Scriptures direct us to take, in the working out of our own salvation? We willingly embrace every means of drawing near to God” (Sermon 85, “On Working Out” 1785). We believe this will be a great year!