At some point we must ask, "What was the message of the early Methodist preachers?"

What was it that caused Methodism to spread and take hold so well?

I believe that there were two key things, and that these sprang out of one vital root.

Firstly, they preached salvation by faith. They preached an uncompromising message of conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ, and not a message of 'Come to Church' or of doing good works. They made it clear that such things have their place, but conversion to Christ and salvation by faith alone was their main theme.

Secondly, they practiced a prayer life which puts many modern churches to shame. Time and again, at many stages in Methodist history, the Methodist societies would meet for a day of prayer. This was characteristic of early Wesleyan societies. This was the dynamic of the start of Primitive Methodism. I have heard that the Rewlach church held a day of prayer sometime about 1900 for a childless couple in their membership. This couple subsequently had 5 or 6 children.

Their preaching and their prayer life sprang out of a relationship with God. They had found the New Birth for themselves, and could not but proclaim the Gospel.

"My heart is full of Christ, and longs
Its glorious message to declare."

Herein lies the challenge for our times. Faced with decline and closure, only reliance upon the same unchanginng God and the same unchanging Gospel can meet the need.

I have preached in one Methodist Chapel which has in its notices a 7 a.m. prayer meeting every week, Monday to Friday. That is a church which is going to know God's blessing. Indeed, there are already signs of blessing there.

RJH September 2000

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First draft September 2000