On July 5th our minister Trevor Dixon led worship at Wesley Chapel. He had brought the video of the new President of Conference, the Rev. Steve Wild at the annual Methodist Conference this year in Southport giving his sermon about his challenge to the Methodist Church for Steve’s year in office, as the Leader of the Methodist Church. We sang, ‘God whose almighty word chaos and darkness heard,’ before Trevor led the confession from the Methodist Worship Book. We then heard the readings from Ezekiel 2v1-5 and 2 Corinthians 12v2-10 before we sang, ‘Father hear the prayer we offer’. Then we heard the gospel from Mark 5v1-13.
Steve was enthusiastic in his sermon. He began by thanking the reader who he had known and God; he being a fallible human being stands as one who had been forgiven and redeemed. For him God is first then his wife Laura and his three daughters. He was wearing the expensive pair of shoes his father had bought him for his ordination for £100, having had them re-heeled so he could wear them for his year as President of the Methodist Church. Apparently he had kept those shoes in his wardrobe for special occasions; this year was such a momentous occasion being the President of the Methodist Church. Steve thanked the Methodist Church for their support and prayers. He especially thanked the District of Cornwall, of which he is the Chair, and the Bishop of Truro with whom he works. Steve said that his Spiritual home was Lancashire. He thanked his colleagues in the Methodist Connexion. He was thrilled to be serving alongside Dr Jill Barber who is the Vice President of the Methodist Church.
It was apparently the 200th anniversary of the smallest group of Methodists in Cornwall, the Bible Christians. Steve came originally from Rochdale and met Jesus as his Saviour at Cliff College. He began to do mission at the age of 14. Incidentally he signed the pledge to be a teetotaller, which he has kept all his life. He came as a raw student to Cliff College with one O level and benefitted from the tuition of a retired teacher. He also paid tribute to his tutors for the ministry at Wesley College at Bristol; he thanked his former circuit colleagues in his ministry and evangelicals who have now passed on who influenced him like Donald English and Rob Frost. Like in the letter to the Hebrews he could continue to list those people who had had a beneficial influence on his faith journey. He felt called to seek and win the lost for Christ and revive the church.
After the Christians were scattered with the martyrdom of Stephen, Philip preached to the Samaritans normally outlawed by the Jews. Philip went to them as they needed him most. John Wesley too felt the call to those who needed him most. The Eunuch said to Philip, ‘How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?’ Philip was the only one called an evangelist; he brought God’s message to the Eunuch, so he believed in Jesus and was baptised. We know that Philip brought that Eunuch to Christ. Every single person is important to God.
We as Christians are all called to share the love of Jesus with another person. Steve wants each church to aim to win one person of Christ. Christ’s love pours out for everyone but people have a choice. A couple who became Christians through the ministry of Steve suddenly stopped coming and wanted Steve to take the Bible; it was too hard to follow Christ. On one occasion in December Steve was due to have a circuit leadership team meeting in a small village chapel. A steward had lit a fire in the chapel and left mince pies for the meeting leaving the door on the latch; another person thought it was a mistake so switched off the fire and locked the door. When they arrived for the meeting the church was locked so they went to the pub to ask if they could have their meeting there. There were four people in the pub so Steve went to greet them; one man said that a woman, who was sitting on her own, needed the church. Steve went up and found out that she needed Jesus and he prayed for her. That was one occasion when Steve experienced prevenient Grace; Christ went before him into that pub and the woman got the prayer she needed.
John Wesley wrote in his journal about how he offered Christ again and again to people when he was shut out of the church. As we commit all we do to God through the Holy Spirit He goes before us. Mission grows from Christ being already there waiting our arrival. Surprising things happen when we pray through the Holy Spirit. Steve found his experience with the World Church in Portugal encouraging when he saw God encountering people on the streets. Travelling in an almost empty railway carriage Steve met a man, recently released from prison, wearing a yellow and green cross made of 2 dishcloths, who said he wasn’t a Christian. However he had felt the presence of Christ in prison so he had made the cross. Steve told him that the cross was the most theologically correct as it was made out of dishcloths, which are used to clean up mess and the cross cleans up the mess we make in our lives. Then Steve led the man to Christ. Christ goes before us in our mission to serve a needy world.
The challenge he brings to us as a church is to increase our membership by one person at a time. Most churches have a number of outside groups meeting in them which gives us as churches the opportunities to meet people outside our fellowship. We can pray for the people in our local community. All growth in a church is one at a time; we all need to bring someone to faith. Steve’s faith was renewed when Colin Morris preached as President in 1976 and he decided to take God seriously. Steve’s challenge to the church is to bring people to faith by sharing the unconditional love of Jesus with them. John Wesley earned £30,000 in his lifetime and gave it all away. When he died he had 10 guineas left, 4 guineas to pay the men who carried his coffin. The poorest preachers received the remaining 6 guineas. Steve drew his message to a conclusion by encouraging us to be drawn to the power of the cross and lead others to God.
Our worship leader Christine led the prayers of intercession before we sang ‘Lord of all hopefulness.’ Trevor then prepared us for and led the Communion Service. Our worship concluded when we sang ‘Captain of Israel’s host and guide.’