“The Spirit of Wesleyan Leadership”

One of the books we read as part of the D.Min. program at Asbury several years ago was Lovett Weems’ Leadership in the Wesleyan Spirit. I never blogged about it but I think about it from time to time.

Weems discusses the vision and practices of early American Methodists. When people in America began moving west and into rural areas, many church leaders were reluctant to follow the people. But Methodist circuit riders chose another path—they followed the people and started new churches all across the nation.

Weems notes that Methodism peaked in 1925 at 6.46% (membership percentage of the population). That was also the year the nation peaked as a rural nation with 75% living in rural areas. According to the 1990 census, the situation has reversed with 75% living in non-rural areas (cities and suburbs). (Unfortunately, however, 20th-century Methodists didn’t maintain their predecessors’ pioneering values.)

Weems writes …

The Wesleyan movement became a powerful spiritual force in America by going where the people were. The movement did not exist to serve churches. … It was a passion and urgency for all to know God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ that propelled this movement of God, against all odds, to every corner of a vast nation. (32-33)

In the book, Weems writes about the principles of leadership in the Wesleyan spirit (it begins with people, follows the people, focuses on serving people, and remembers especially the poor), practices of leadership in the Wesleyan spirit (practices multiple leadership, leads from the center and the edge, lives in a tension, seeks to include, and makes ‘connection’ happen), and the passions of leadership in the Wesleyan spirit (knows God, proclaims Christ, and seeks justice).

Weems addresses the importance of knowing God. Weems states …

Leadership and spirituality are inevitably linked. Leadership is only possible to the extent that we are able to discern a compelling and driving vision of what is good and acceptable and perfect. One cannot lead without such a vision. Such a vision can only come from closeness to God and to a community of believers. (118)

Two more quotes to close …

Those of us in the Wesleyan tradition love to talk about the warmed heart. Perhaps we have forgotten the fire that warmed it in the first place. … Surely the crisis of leadership in the life of the church is, at least in part, a crisis in the life of the spirit among our leaders, among ourselves. (120)

Finally, a note about Wesley’s legacy …

The great example of Wesley for future generations is not as a model leader. He was far from that. His lasting example is a spiritual legacy of one who spent virtually his entire lifetime on this same pilgrimage. Until his dying moments he continued to seek growth in grace, peace of soul, communion with God, and perfection in love. (146)

May we do the same!

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