I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.

This is the work which I know God has called me to; and sure I am that His blessing attends it.

Great encouragement have I, therefore, to be faithful in fulfilling the work He hath given me to do. His servant I am, and, as such, am employed according to the plain direction of His Word, ‘As I have opportunity, doing good unto all men’; and His providence clearly concurs with his Word; which has disengaged me from all things else, that I might singly attend on this very thing,’ and go about doing good.’

– John Wesley, The Journal of John Wesley, May 28, 1739.

What does Wesley mean when he says, “The world is my parish.”

On May 24, 1738, John Wesley had a life changing encounter with God. He received assurance of salvation in a momentous experience that lit a fire of evangelistic zeal in his heart that continued until his death in 1791.

But as Wesley began to live out this new understanding of God through his ministry, he discovered growing areas of conflict with the traditional church context in which he had grown up. The conflict became obvious when Wesley began to preach about his deeper relationship with God and encourage other people to also seek the same thing.

Pastors of established churches began closing their pulpits to him until Wesley was eventually forced to preach on street corners, in fields, mine pits, or wherever he could gather a crowd. Wesley became convinced ministry is not confined to a building. The world is my parish!

Wesley also discovered there is more to ministry than preaching. He became a vocal advocate for the abolition of slavery and the passing of child labour laws. Ministry does not just focus on people in the church but on people outside the church as well, extending even to people on the fringes of society. The world is my parish!

One of the most radical developments in Wesley’s thinking is that ministry is not just the work of ministers. People were shocked when Wesley began using ordinary labourers and working people as lay preachers and class leaders. Traditional thinking held that only educated clergy could do that.

Wesley believed, The world is my parish!

The poor and uneducated, immigrants and marginalized people were not welcome in many churches in Wesley’s time. God showed Wesley that ministry does not recognize boundaries. Everyone was welcome in Wesley’s church without walls.

When the world is your parish, where do you stop?

You don’t. You begin where you are – in a mine shaft, in a hay field, on board a ship. You begin where you are and you keep on going until every lost sheep is found. Ministry begins but does not end.

Kingsview Church is an intercultural and multigenerational church with a vision for ministry that begins in our neighbourhood and extends around the world. We will celebrate the 49th Anniversary of Kingsview Free Methodist Church on Sunday, November 11, 2012, with the theme, “The World is my Parish.”