The “Moon Shot” Calling of the Wesleyan Movement in the 21st Century

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

I am indebted to J. D. Walt, Jr., our Sower-in-Chief at Asbury who both envisioned and heads up our Seedbed operation who reminded me recently of the need for a “moon shot” initiative. What he was alluding to was that electrifying moment on October 25, 1961 when J. F. Kennedy stood before Congress and said, “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” The technology was not yet there to do it. There were hundreds of naysayers who said it would be impossible. But, we did it. It was done because everyone understood the goal and it lit the flame of determination to overcome every obstacle and to see a dream become a reality.

What is our “moon shot” goal? As Wesleyans we must remember that our goal is nothing less than the renewal and growth of a global Wesleyan movement, resulting in a sustained Great Awakening, stimulating dozens of new Christian movements in the 21st century and beyond. That’s what we are aiming for. That is what Asbury Theological Seminary is committed to. I believe that Asbury is uniquely positioned with the people, the resources, and the national and global footprint to foster such a grand vision. There are many others, of course, who will stand with us and with whom we will stand if this is to become a reality. Many of us saw a glimpse of this at the recent “New Room” Conference, as this article in First Things so beautifully declares.

What we must not do is to forget what we are fighting for. Our goal is not to simply get the church to agree to an historic Christian position on marriage. Even if the church makes a dramatic turn from its present trajectory and re-affirms its historic position or if some new Wesleyan movement emerges, it cannot be about this one issue. If a newly emerged “orthodox Methodist” or “Conservative Methodist” (or whatever name one might call it) does arise and it is only the existing United Methodist church with those few disputed lines in the Discipline re-affirmed, it would avail the world very little. What we need is a completely re-energized, Spirit-filled, gospel preaching, holy living, disciple making, Wesleyan movement which will set the world on fire once again! We represent the movement which has reminded the church that justification is not enough. Indeed, “the rest of the gospel is the best of the gospel.”

Right now we are in such a demoralized state we can barely lift our head and look to the moon and think that we can make it “there and back again.” We settle for tiny advances in our local church or we just try to block out all the clamor so we can remember the historic faith in our own hearts and pray for a day when God will raise up better hearers of his word. But, what if we dared to dream that God just might do something greater than we could possibly imagine? What if God opened our eyes to see that He was going to renew the Wesleyan message in our day? What if we had the courage to ask God for the Wesleyan version of the “moon shot?”

I’m choosing to believe that we are going to live to see the complete renewal of a global Wesleyan movement. Asbury has our first cohort of 20 Wesleyan church planters. We will have trained 400 by 2023. Asbury is training hundreds of Spirit-filled ministers who love God who preach his Word and weep for the lost and broken in this world. Asbury is helping hundreds of churches to get re-missionized and re-discover what it means to be the church. These are just a few seeds for the harvest. Many others in our movement are also sowing for this great awakening. Let’s go to the moon, shall we?


  • Gary Bebop says:

    The “moon shot” analogy is a fabulous way to think of a Wesleyan revitalization, but only if the movement is not divided in its aims, with half aiming for the moon and the other half insisting on Mars.

  • Aybido says:

    What was Wesley aiming for?

    • Betsy says:

      Wesley was aiming for individuals to “flee the wrath to come”. He guided individuals into living a holy life centered in God each and every day of their lives regardless of/in spite of their worldly circumstances. That was his primary goal and passion. And that is how The United Methodist Church can most effectively change the world today. Methodism is not about addressing social justice issues; it is about bringing one person at a time into a right relationship with a triune God of holy love who is most definitely way more verb than noun; an unfathomable God of mystery who is determined to love us more than we can ever think about loving ourselves. Along the way, we have to acknowledge that we are a rebellious lot because we are control freaks who believe we know more about ourselves than the God who created us.

      • Aybido says:

        Thanks, Betsy. I was hoping someone would say just what you articulate so powerfully here. Wesley also wanted to spread “scriptural holiness,” characterized by Spirit-given love of God and neighbor. His burden was for souls gathered in cells of accountability, growth, and service. What became the Methodist movement was a by product, not a goal. Wesley and his preachers were not welcome in the C of E of his day. Would they be any more welcome in even the most evangelical UMCs today? Theirs was an itinerant revival, home-based, unpaid, and mostly lay-led. I don’t think even a revitalized UMC will launch a movement, though if something like a Wesleyan revival does emerge, perhaps some UMCs can be salvaged.

  • Author says:

    Hmmm a continuum that includes everyone with the central core able to walk both lines. Sounds Weslayan. Part of a study with Adam Hamilton book Revival. Page Wesley in despair grabs on to the Morovian missionary idea of Peter Boehler. “Preach faith till you have it, and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” Combined with “provoke one another to love and good deeds” Hebrews 10:24 Wesley aimed for GRACE. The visible symbol of that inward practice became the Methodist Church. Maybe we need another dose of Morovian wisdom. It seems to fuel the movement or is there something similar out there that can do a variation of what Wesley did that speaks to the younger generations. 🙂 Good article that makes you think .Hmmm moon, mars, and star

  • The last time our Congress made any sense is when Newt Gingrich set ten goals for them… he didn’t make them all, but without them, he wouldn’t have made any of them!

    What are ATS ten goals for the future? And how can we, as alumni, help?