Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wesley's Twelve Rules for Preachers

I believe the Holy Spirit can use just about anything to get our attention...even the universe of blogs and internet sites.  I've been "led" by my mouse more than a few times recently to sites/blogs listing John Wesley's Twelve Rules for Preachers.  Perhaps the Holy Spirit is trying to get my attention...I'm not sure.  I know some who read this blog are clergy and some aren't.  But, these rules are interesting to ponder nonetheless.  Several of them have been incorporated into the ordination vows for Elders in the United Methodist Church, so they are more than just interesting historical trivia.  Some of them are still benchmarks for ordination.  The others.....well, not so much.  I'll list them below as Father John wrote them so excuse the sexist language.  Some of them  have me confused and I'm not sure what the rule is aiming at.  Here we go...  Let me know what you think.  Just for fun, I've added some commentary in brackets.

1. Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never while away time, nor spend more time at any place than is strictly necessary.  [Can you say "Facebook"???  I wonder what Wesley would think of this new cyberworld in relation to ministry.]

2. Be serious. Let your motto be, "Holiness to the Lord."  Avoid all lightness, jesting and foolish talking.  [Wow, lighten up JW!  Even he broke this rule when one of his preachers asked him if it was permissible to bury a Baptist.  His reported response was, "By all means.  Bury as many as possible."  Our pastor evaluation forms this year had a category for "laughter."  I'm guessing that's not a category JW used in his evaluations.]

3. Converse sparingly and cautiously with women, particularly with young women.  ['Nuff said.]

4. Take no step towards marriage without solemn prayer to God and consulting with your brethren.  [He learned this one the hard way.]

5. Believe evil of no one unless fully proved; take heed how you credit it.  Put the best construction you can on everything.  You know the judge is always supposed to be on the prisoner's side.  [Great advice...not just for pastors.]

6. Speak evil of no one, else your word, especially, would eat as doth a canker; keep your thoughts within your own breast till you come to the person concerned.  [Had to look up canker...again, good advice.]

7. Tell every one what you think wrong in him, lovingly and plainly, and as soon as may be, else it will fester in your own heart.  Make all haste to cast the fire out of your bosom.  [Boy, this could be a career-ender!  I've actually done this a time or two.  Casting the fire out of one's bosom nearly always feels better to the one doing the casting than to the one receiving it.  I may stick this one in my back pocket for future reflection...]

8. Do not affect the gentleman.  A preacher of the Gospel is the servant of all.  [Is this a fancy way of saying, "Remember your place...don't go acting all high-falutin'?"  If so, I think JW was 'affecting the gentleman.'  Help me, friends, if I've totally missed this one.]

9. Be ashamed of nothing but sin; no, not of cleaning your own shoes when necessary.  [Huh?  I get the first part.  But, is "cleaning your own shoes" a euphemism for something they used to warn us about in junior high?  Again, help!]

10. Be punctual.  Do everything exactly at the time.  And do not mend our rules, but keep them, and that for conscience' sake.  [Is bending the same as mending?]

11. You have nothing to do but save souls.  Therefore spend and be spent in this work.  And go always, not only to those who want you, but to those who want you most.  [I thought the last sentence had a typo but several sources quote it that way.  Remembering this is written in the 18th century, I suspect 'want' is used in the way in which we would use 'need' today.  But, he's lost me on the first sentence.  Perhaps it should read something like....You have nothing to do but charge conference forms, statistical reports, committee meetings, task force meetings, district/conference meetings, meetings about meetings, and save souls...Or, am I the only one?]

12. Act in all things, not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel, and in union with your brethren.  As such, it is your part to employ your time as our rules direct: partly in preaching and visiting house to house, partly in reading, meditation, and prayer.  Above all, if you labour with us in our Lord's vineyard, it is needful you should do that part of the work the Conference shall advise, at those times and places which they shall judge most for his glory.  [As a bishop whose name I can't recall  told a bunch of us newly ordained pastors years ago: "You will never be appointed to the church you think you deserve.  And you will never be appointed to the church you truly deserve.  Be thankful for both."]

Happy New Year.


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