Wesleyans hold a wonderfully broad view of salvation. We understand salvation is not just a move in eternal destination but the full work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, transforming and restoring. John Wesley described it as “the entire work of God, from the first dawning of grace in the soul, till it is consummated in glory” (sermon: "The Scripture Way of Salvation").
John Wesley spoke of the movements of God's grace. Not that God's grace changes, but our spiritual location does.
God calls us to holiness of heart and life, a holiness that is only possible through grace and our response by faith. The Holy Spirit comes to us where we are to do a work in us through grace. The full work of God’s grace and our response by faith is the process of being “made new.”
How does this transformation of heart and life occur? How are people made new? Through the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, our faith response launches us on a journey of discipleship. Learning to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus, is made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit, our faithful obedience, and the community of believers. The following are Wesley Seminary students and alumni testimonials of how they have witnessed the power of grace and the response by faith, making disciples.
Discipleship Through Relationship
The first time I was discipled I didn’t even know it was happening. I placed my faith in Christ on a high school mission trip. My youth pastor, Mike, then began to disciple me. It started with relationship–we simply hung out. He began to talk about how he pursued God through prayer and reading the Bible. He showed me what it looked like to live with Christ at the center of my life and then invited me into the things that would help me live a fruitful Christian life.
I read the Bible. I jumped into a small group and had Christian fellowship. Then Mike invited me to be part of the student ministry worship team, and I began to serve and invite my friends. Years later I realized Mike had discipled me without my full knowledge, and it had been life-changing and life-giving.
- Dan Vander Wal, campus pastor at 12Stone Church, Lawrenceville, Ga.
The Kingdom of God Belongs to Such As These
Danielle was a painfully shy ten-year-old girl. If you tried to hug her, she would shrink away and cringe. Her mom was a recovering heroin addict, and Danielle had been abused and was scared of men. The first three months I could not get Danielle to talk or even look at me, so I tried to just get her to give me a high five, which she agreed to most of the time. When she attended her first vacation Bible school, she was in my class. I asked, “How many do not feel like you fit in or feel you are not loved at school or home?” Three children raised their hands, including Danielle. I explained that I would teach them about the One who loved them dearly. Over the next year my wife and I ministered to these three. We spent a lot of time with them, teaching them about Christ’s love and standing with them through their trials.
"How many do not feel like you fit in or feel you are not loved at school or home?"
The next year at VBS, I asked if any child wanted to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. Danielle gave her life to Christ. The following week Danielle’s mom and boyfriend gave their lives to Christ. Danielle became totally different and embodies 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” She smiles with eyes lit, greets people with a joyful heart, has friends, and attends church every week.
- Mark Benedict, pastor at Peace River Wesleyan Church, Port Charlotte, Fla.
Child Invites Others to be Made New
We don’t always get to hear whether our ministry is making an impact. I remember one teaching unit entitled “Becoming the super U God created you to be!” I was excited to share this teaching because it held several take-home elements involving prayer time, Bible reading, application, and follow-up. Many kids were excited and engaged. One Sunday, several kids wanted to share how God was helping them “become the super U He created them to be.” Rachel, a second grader, stood up and told how she had to write a school paper that described what she wanted to be when she grew up. Rachel very seriously declared that she wanted to be the “Super U that God created her to be.”
As I read this child's sincere love for God and wanting to be all she could for him, I was humbled by my selfish plans for my life.
She planned to work at Walmart so she had money to buy food and clothes for the homeless, and she would read to old people who were alone. Rachel’s mom showed me her paper. As I read this child’s sincere love for God and wanting to be all she could for him, I was humbled by my selfish plans for my life. Imagine my surprise when I was introduced to Rachel’s teacher, who came to church because Rachel invited her. How amazing that God was able to use Rachel’s faith in such a dramatic way! Rachel was being “made new” and inviting others to be as well.
- Pastor Nancy Buckingham, children’s pastor at Greeley Wesleyan Church, Greeley, Colo.
Prayer Partners and Discipleship
The goal of discipleship is to be made new! Whatever practices and disciplines comprise discipleship, each should be geared toward transformation into Christlikeness in our relationships with God and one another.
The practice of intergenerational prayer partnerships is having an impact in our congregation. These are relationships in which each person is mutually praying for and with the other person. The more we establish effective relationships like this, the more we grow in our understanding that our older adults are the heroes in our faith communities and the next generation is the hope!
Whatever practices and disciplines comprise discipleship, each should be geared toward transformation into Christlikeness in our relationships with God and one another.
One example is the prayer partnership between Jan and Allison. Jan is retired and Allison is a young, new mom.
Jan explained, “I had anticipated the pleasure of sharing prayer requests with a sister in Christ, but I didn't realize I would find a new friend–one who loves exploring God's Word and finding ways his truth applies in life and who also cares so much for the people around her. I've especially appreciated her views and discovering insights from the sermons that I completely missed!”
Allison shared how Jan “is a kindred spirit and lives her life seeking after God the way I want to. Every time we meet, I walk away feeling closer to the Lord. Her perspective on life and her experiences with God's faithfulness help put whatever I'm going through into the right context. I grew up in the church, but have been looking for a mentor and friend like Jan for years now. She is an answer to prayer.”
- Rev. Alex Mandura, pastor of congregational care, College Wesleyan Church, Marion, Ind.
And They Will be My Children
We are blessed to receive wonderful glimpses of the work of Christ as lives are transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit. The completed vision is revealed in Revelation 21:Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new."
(Rev. 21:1-5, NRSV).