The Evangelistic Impact of Heritage Sunday
Heritage Sunday provides a grand opportunity for all Wesleyan communions to remember and reclaim their evangelistic heritage. Wesley's "heart-warming experience" resulted from hearing Luther's preface to Romans. In the week following Heritage Sunday, the Revised Common Lectionary introduces the beginning of sixteen weeks of readings from Romans. Accordingly, Heritage Sunday provides an ideal launching pad for a sermon series on Romans.
Highlight Wesley's "Heart-Warming Experience"
On Heritage Sunday On May 24, 1738, on Aldersgate Street, John Wesley's heart awakened to embrace salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Sharing Wesley's "heart-warming experience" is a must on Heritage Sunday. What better way do we have of celebrating our heritage as Wesleyans? Share an excerpt from Wesley's May 24, 1738, Journal (see below). The excerpt does not need to be long, but it should be highlighted in some dramatic manner. Here are some creative suggestions for using the excerpt below.
Suggestions for highlighting Wesley's "Heart-Warming Experience"
Invite a person to do a dramatic reenactment of Wesley's conversion on Aldersgate Street. The person could dress like Wesley and be seated at a table writing in his journal. He could read aloud his entry while writing in his journal.
Insert the journal entry into the liturgy for the worship service. Invite the congregation to read it collectively.
Following the dramatic reenactment or the congregational reading of the excerpt, preselected individuals could be invited to share brief "heart-warming experiences" in which God touched their lives.
Close the sharing time by singing a hymn or song or chant of thanksgiving and praise such as:
"And Can It Be that I Should Gain," United Methodist Hymnal, 363
"O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing," United Methodist Hymnal, 57
"We Sing of Your Glory" ("Tuya Es la Gloria"), The Faith We Sing, 2011
"Bless the Lord" (Taizé), The Faith We Sing, 2013
Excerpt from Wesley's May 24, 1738, Journal Entry
In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
Consider the following suggestions when incorporating Wesley's conversion into your preaching or Bible study.
A personal salvation experience — "I felt my heart strangely warmed."
Wesley's "heart-warming" experience addresses both the spontaneous and gradual aspects of salvation. He spontaneously responded to the message that God works change in the heart through faith. His spontaneous response was also the culmination of years of spiritual inquiry. He participated in the Holy Club at Oxford. He failed miserably in his missionary efforts in Georgia. He engaged in long theological conversations with his Moravian friend, Peter Böhler. How intentional is your congregation in sharing its faith with spiritual inquirers? How can you encourage more of the congregation to share their faith? What are the opportunities for sharing testimonies, faith sharing instruction, or other ideas?
Saving faith through Jesus Christ — "I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation."
What do we trust in most? Where do we turn first for advice, counsel or comfort? Where is Christ in the midst of our "options" in life? How do you encourage the congregation to trust God everyday?
Assurance of salvation — "and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins."
How often is self-esteem marred by guilt or the sense of not being forgiven? Point out the liberty that comes from receiving and accepting forgiveness from Jesus Christ.
Note the words in bold below that relate to the following excerpts from Wesley's May 24 journal entry. They provide additional evangelistic preaching or teaching points. These points highlight responses to receiving salvation through faith in Jesus Christ namely: intercession for one's enemies, personal testimony, and overcoming spiritual doubt.
Wesley's immediate response to his "heart-warming experience" was intercession. "I began to pray with all my might for those who had despitefully used me and persecuted me."
Secondly, Wesley testified. "I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart."
Finally, Wesley battled spiritual doubt. "But it was not long before the enemy suggested, 'This cannot be faith, for where is thy joy?' Then was I taught that 'peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation…"