The Bible was central to John Wesley’s faith and the Christian movement he founded. In Scripture and the Wesleyan Way, you will discover a Wesleyan approach to the Bible and the Christian life through a Bible study using Wesley’s own words.
In this study, authors Scott and Arthur Jones use John Wesley’s sermons to illuminate the Bible passages at the heart of Wesley’s understanding of what it means to be a real Christian. Each chapter explores a key Scripture text and one of Wesley’s sermons on it. Through their insightful and engaging study, Bishop Jones and his son Arthur show how the teachings of Wesley address questions that many of us in the twenty-first century still struggle with today.
The Leader Guide contains everything needed to guide a group through the eight-week study including session plans, activities, and discussion questions, as well as multiple format options.
About the Author
Scott J. Jones is the Resident Bishop of the Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church and served as Bishop of the Great Plains area of The United Methodist Church. He was formerly the McCreless Associate Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology, where he taught courses in evangelism and Wesley studies. Previous books include The Wesleyan Way, The Evangelistic Love of God & Neighbor, Staying at the Table, and Wesley and the Quadrilateral, all published by Abingdon Press. of the United Methodist Church and served as Bishop of the Great Plains area of The United Methodist Church.
Arthur Jones is the senior associate pastor and preaching pastor at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas. His passions involve preaching a real and practical faith, engaging people with the Bible and current issues that affect day-to-day life, and providing leadership and vision for the next phases of church life. Arthur is a fifth-generation Methodist preacher who grew up in churches across North Texas. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas and Duke Divinity School, and the co-author of Ask: Faith Questions in a Skeptical Age. Arthur is married to Becky (a Houston native), and they have recently had their first child Sam.
Read an Excerpt
What Is the Bible's Message?
In the introduction to Scripture and the Wesleyan Way, the authors express their conviction that John Wesley's approach to Scripture can help us read the Bible faithfully and renew the church. In each of the chapters of this book, the authors present a spiritual question and explore its importance for us today. They look at biblical texts related to these questions and at a sermon by John Wesley in which he did the same thing.
Chapter 1 focuses on the question "What is the Bible's message?" Scott and Arthur Jones present two truths about the Bible — that it is important and that it is complicated — and explore four Wesleyan principles for acknowledging these truths and discerning the Bible's message. The authors propose that one of the most important messages in the Bible is about the kingdom of God. Wesley's sermon "The Way to the Kingdom" provides us with a vision of what that kingdom is and isn't and affirms the ways the individual believer can experience a true "religion of the heart" through trusting God's life-changing love revealed in Jesus Christ. Charles Wesley's famous hymn "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" describes how that love can change our hearts.
On a large sheet of paper, write the following incomplete sentence: "The Bible's primary message is ..." Place the sheet in a prominent location in the meeting area that is accessible to participants. Alternatively, write these words on a portion of a whiteboard.
On another large sheet of paper (or another section of the whiteboard) write the words of Romans 14:17 in the translation used in the book (KJV): "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Post another large sheet of paper (or reserve a third section of whiteboard) for the exercise titled "Understanding the Religion of the Heart."
Have Bibles available for group members who may not bring their own.
Provide markers of varied colors, pencils, pens, and blank paper for use during the session.
Since this is the first session, have name tags available if the participants do not know one another.
As persons enter, ask them to make a name tag and put it on. Then, invite them to choose a marker and complete the incomplete sentence on the sheet you placed on the wall before the class began ("The Bible's primary message is ..."), writing their responses below the heading.
Once everyone has arrived, introduce yourself to the group and say that you are going to begin with an exercise to help persons get to know each other a little better. Ask each participant to find a partner, preferably someone they don't know very well. Once they are together, ask them to share their names with each other and then choose which of the pair will go first in the following exercise.
Explain that you are going to ask them to talk about a topic for sixty seconds (you will need to time them). During those sixty seconds, the first person will speak and the other person will listen silently. Then, at your cue, they will switch roles and the second person will talk for sixty seconds on the same subject. When everyone is ready, give the following prompt:
For sixty seconds, talk about a book, TV show, or movie and why you liked it.
After both persons have shared, have them do the exercise again with a new prompt:
For sixty seconds, tell a story about a favorite Bible in your house.
Now have each person introduce their partner to the whole group, sharing one thing they learned from listening to them.
Read the following introduction to this first session of the study, or use one of your own:
Welcome to this study of the book Scripture and the Wesleyan Way by Scott Jones and Arthur Jones. Each time we gather, we are going to be looking at an important spiritual question that you may have wondered about at some point during your life. Using the Bible, the book, and the video segments, we are going to look at those questions and how John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist movement, answered them. Our hope is that we will grow closer to God and to one another through this study. Our question for this session is "What Is the Bible's Message?"
Bible Study and Discussion
[This Bible Study may be used at this point or following the exercise titled "Share Experiences with the Bible" in the Book Study and Discussion section.]
One of the key ways that Jesus talks about the kingdom of God in the Gospels is through the use of parables. In the following exercise you will have a chance to look at some of those parables and what they tell us about the nature of the Kingdom.
Divide into four groups, giving each group one of the following Scripture passages to read:
Matthew 13:31-33: the parables of the mustard seed and yeast
Mark 4:26-29: the parable of the seed growing in the ground
Matthew 13:44-46: the parables of the treasure in the field and the pearl
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23: the parable of the sower
Ask each group to use the following questions to explore their assigned passage:
To what is the kingdom of God being compared?
How might this image upset our expectations of what a kingdom is?
What do you believe Jesus is trying to say about the nature of God's kingdom?]
After some time of discussion in the small group, gather with the larger group to share observations.
Now read together Romans 14:17 from the paper you prepared and posted on the wall before the group arrived. Say to the group:
The authors of this study make the point that the kingdom of God is a central message of Jesus' ministry and of the Bible. This verse from Romans is one of the main Bible texts of John Wesley's sermon "The Way to the Kingdom."
Ask the group to reflect on the following questions together:
What does Romans 14:17 tell us that the kingdom of God is not? What does that mean?
What does it say that the kingdom of God is?
How do righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit help us understand Jesus' images of the Kingdom in the parables?
Video Study and Discussion
Play the video for Session 1.
After viewing the video segment, choose some of the following questions to explore with the group:
The video talks about how Scott Jones helped Arthur learn the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. If you have memorized a part of the Bible, what is it? How did you learn it?
What does it mean to read, as Wesley did, for the "general tenor" of Scripture?
What is the Wesleyan way of reading Scripture?
How can the same Scripture speak to us differently in different seasons of our lives?
Where do the authors suggest starting to read the Bible? Why?
Book Study and Discussion
Discuss the Wesleys
Say the following to the group:
In the introduction to the book, the authors point out that people in the Wesleyan tradition look to John and Charles Wesley, not as perfect models, but as reliable guides to a faithful way of taking the Scriptures seriously and renewing the church. In the first chapter, the authors say that John Wesley's main concern in interpreting the Bible is "how a person can be saved from sin and for salvation."
Discuss with the group the following questions:
Why are the concerns of the Wesleys still relevant to us today?
What is salvation as you understand it?
How does sin injure our relationship with God?
Share Experiences with the Bible Invite three volunteers to share briefly a time when reading the Bible was important to them.
What made it meaningful?
Now ask the group:
Why do Christians feel that the Bible is important?
Invite three more volunteers to share briefly a time when the Bible has seemed difficult to them.
What made it so?
Ask the group:
What frustrations do we have in understanding the Bible?
Share that the focus of the first chapter is on the following spiritual question: "The Bible is both important and complicated. So what is its message?"
Turn to the sheet posted on the wall on which you asked participants to complete the incomplete sentence ["The Bible's primary message is ..."]. Read the responses that are written and invite participants to clarify where they wish. Ask:
What do you observe about the responses we gave?
What do they have in common, and how do they differ from one another?
What do they say about what we believe about the Bible?
How would John Wesley complete this sentence?
Read the first two sentences of the section of the chapter titled "Wesley's Answer" on page 18 to remind group members of Wesley's emphasis on the kingdom of God. [You may want to move into the Bible Study following this exercise if you did not do it earlier.]
Explore the Four Wesleyan Principles
The authors of this book outline four principles that John Wesley used in determining the message of the Bible. We're going to explore them in this next exercise.
Divide into four groups. Assign each group one of the four principles found near the beginning of chapter 1 in the study book (see pages 11–15). Ask them to read the section related to their assigned principle and prepare to present it to the whole group. To organize the presentation, the small groups should assume that they are speaking to people who have not read the book.
After some time for reading and preparation, have each group present to the total group briefly.
As a total group, discuss the following questions:
What is helpful about this way of reading the Bible?
Which of these principles seems challenging to you?
Understanding the Religion of the Heart
As the authors point out, John Wesley felt that Christianity is "a religion of the heart," and that human beings need to have a transformative experience of God. In the section on Wesley's answer to the question of what the Bible's message is, the authors explain how Wesley understood "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit"— the three characteristics of the kingdom of God in Romans 14:17.
For each of the three characteristics — righteousness, peace, and joy — ask group members to find definitions from their reading of the study book in the section "Wesley's Answer." Write the definitions on a large piece of paper posted on the wall.
After completing this exercise, ask:
How do these definitions differ from what you would expect?
How do we still long for these today?
Close the Session
Invite Someone to Read a Wesley Sermon (optional)
The leader helps at the beginning of this Leader Guide include a note under "Optional Activities" about where Wesley's sermons can be found (page 12). As a way of giving participants an immersion experience in Wesley, ask for a volunteer each session to read the sermon for the following session and bring back a brief report on it. Tell them that you will be asking them to share their impressions of Wesley's central point and highlights of the sermon that they noted. Advise the volunteers that Wesley's eighteenth-century language may be a little difficult. The sermon for the next session is "The Scripture Way of Salvation."
Do a Self-Inventory
John Wesley's sermon on the "The Way to the Kingdom" begins with Jesus' message in Mark 1:15. Wesley points out two key commandments in this verse: repent and believe. When we do an honest inventory of ourselves, we discover that there are many places where we desire to turn around and seek God's forgiveness.
Distribute pieces of paper to participants and ask them to begin a self-inventory of areas in their lives where they would like to turn around and seek forgiveness. Assure them that they will not have to share this inventory with anyone and that they can take the paper with them and continue the exercise in their prayer time during the week.
Allow a few minutes for this exercise, with participants working individually, and then move to the closing prayer.
Close with a Prayer
The previous exercise invited us to focus on repentance. The second command from Mark 1:15 is to believe, which is to trust in God. We will conclude this session by reading together a hymn of Charles Wesley in which he refers to the God we can trust as Love Divine.
Read together the words of Charles Wesley's hymn "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" from the study book.CHAPTER 2
How Can I Be Saved?
In this session, the authors explore what salvation means, acknowledging that when someone asks "Are you saved?" what seems a simple question can lead to some complex reflection. The Bible teaches that salvation is why God became incarnate in Jesus Christ and reveals four aspects of salvation that each help illuminate its meaning: reconciliation with God, restoration, healing, and resurrection. The apostles and the early church recognized that there was a tension within the notion of salvation regarding the necessity of faith and good works.
In his sermon "The Scripture Way of Salvation," John Wesley emphasized that both faith and good works are important for salvation. For Wesley there were two main dimensions of salvation: justification, which offers pardon and a change in our relationship with God, and sanctification, which is a process that leads to a real change in us. Faith alone is required in both of these dimensions, but good works are also necessary to continue in the journey of sanctification. Texts from Ephesians and Philippians reveal that salvation is a gift of grace and a life-long journey. Charles Wesley's hymn "And Can It Be that I Should Gain" closes the session.
Post a large sheet of paper or a whiteboard in a visible location for the Bible study exercise on salvation.
Post another large sheet of paper with the following words printed on it (or write on a section of the whiteboard): reconciliation with God, restoration of broken relationships, healing, and resurrection to eternal life.
Have available paper and drawing materials such as crayons and markers for the "Draw a House" exercise.
Have Bibles available for group members who may not bring their own.
Discuss What It Means to Be Saved
After everyone has arrived, say the following to the group:
In this session we are going to be talking about what salvation means and how we can be saved. The answer to those questions is both simple and complex. To begin we are going to use our imaginations.
Ask group members to imagine that you are a stranger meeting them on the street. You are asking them a simple question: "Are you saved?" Invite volunteers from the group to share what more they would want to know before answering the question. (For example, someone might want to know whether the questioner assumes there was a special moment when that salvation happened.)
After some time for sharing, ask volunteers to answer the following question in the way they would like:
How would you tell the story of your salvation?
Emphasize that the responses should be brief. (These are deep questions and could spawn a long discussion!)
Begin with a Prayer
Offer the following prayer or one of your own:
God of life, We are people who often wonder, "What will happen to me?" We know that there are broken places in our lives And we wonder how we can be saved. As we meet together and search your word Help us hear your good news in Jesus Christ Who came to be and is our Savior. Amen.
Bible Study and Discussion
In discussing four aspects of salvation, the authors use illustrations from the Gospels where those aspects are made clear.
Begin by discussing the following question as a total group:
What does salvation mean to you?
Write responses on a large sheet of paper or a whiteboard posted in a visible location.
Divide into four groups. Give each group one of the following passages to study:
Luke 7:36-50: the woman anointing Jesus' feet
Luke 19:1-10: Jesus and Zacchaeus
Luke 18:35-43: the healing of a blind man
John 3:16-17: "God so loved the world"
Say to the groups:
Read your passage aloud and look for what it says about salvation. Some translations may use a word other than save or salvation, but it should be clear what kind of change the passage is talking about. Use the following questions to guide your discussion:
* What is another word for the kind of salvation being talked about in this passage?
* How does this change your understanding of what salvation is?
Come back together as a whole group. Point out the four aspects of salvation that the authors talk about, which you posted on the wall before class began: reconciliation with God, restoration of broken relationships, healing, and resurrection to eternal life. Say:
The authors believe that the different ways that Jesus talked about salvation point to his concern for the whole person. How are these aspects still concerns for us today? What happens when we limit our understanding of salvation only to an afterlife?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Scripture and the Wesleyan Way Leader Guide"
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Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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Table of Contents
To the Group Leader,
Chapter 1. What Is the Bible's Message?,
Chapter 2. How Can I Be Saved?,
Chapter 3. Am I a Real Christian?,
Chapter 4. Do I Have to Obey the Law?,
Chapter 5. Am I a Sinner?,
Chapter 6. How Can I Connect with God?,
Chapter 7. Why Is the Christian Life So Hard?,
Chapter 8. What About My Money?,
Sermons of John Wesley,