“The world is my parish”

Aldersgate SG 2019

Lecture 1: World Mission in the Methodist Spirit
23 May 2019 (Thursday), 7.30 to 9.30 p.m.

“The world is my parish” are probably John Wesley’s most famous words. They also encapsulate the essence of his understanding of mission, not just to 18th-century England but to the whole world.

This lecture will look at the historical background to and the meaning of Wesley’s well-known statement, made after his encounter with Bishop J. Butler of Bristol. His missional theology may be further expounded under five headings: the image of God, prevenient grace, salvation as healing, perfecting Christian character and the eschatological restoration of all things.

For Wesley, the Christian’s duty to preach or evangelise on home ground is no different from the call to overseas mission. As Professor Andrew Walls states, “In this view of the preacher’s task, there is no place for a special category of ‘cross-cultural’ or even ‘overseas’ mission.” Wesley’s approach to evangelism and mission is fully explicated in his sermon, “The General Spread of the Gospel.”

The lecture will also look at how Methodism and the preaching of the gospel spread rapidly to America, West Indies, Africa and Asia, even before the founding of the Wesleyan Methodist Mission Society in 1818. Those who drove this rapid missionary expansion included Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke, who primarily built on Wesley’s foundational teachings, and took the emphases further. For instance, Wesley’s concept of itinerant preaching received its greatest development under Asbury. It was the “circuit riders” under Asbury who advanced the gospel on the American frontier more effectively than any other denomination!

We will briefly explore how world mission advanced in the 19th and 20th centuries through people such as Hudson Taylor (who had a Methodist background) and David Hill in China, and E. Stanley Jones and Waskom Pickett in India.

Professor Andrew Walls asserted that “the Wesleys saw Methodism as a mission; their successors turned the mission into a church with a mission society.” This may well be the most important takeaway from this lecture.

Lecture 2: Key Challenges in World Mission in our Generation
24 May 2019 (Friday), 7.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m.

Global Christianity is faced with a number of challenges:

  • the move of the centre of gravity of the Church from the West to the Majority World;
  • the Western Church’s increasing weakness and the declining number of missionaries sent out in comparison with the growing missionary numbers from the Majority World;
  • the problem of nominal disciples almost everywhere;
  • the geopolitical implications of an increasingly multi-polar world;
  • the growing persecution of Christians around the world; and
  • the increasing demand for the gospel to demonstrate its relevance in today’s world.

In the face of these, how do we prepare the church for effective mission?

Bishop Emeritus Dr Hwa Yung served as Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia from 2004 to 2012. He is the keynote speaker at Aldersgate SG 2019. The following are synopses of the two lectures he will be delivering.

Picture by R_Tavani/