Unplanned Miracles

Unplanned Miracles

Author: Mark Fenstermacher
October 08, 2020

Have you ever heard someone mention "the law of unintended consequences?"

Recently, I began reading through the sermons of John Wesley. John was a short, Church of England priest and first-rate scholar who—with others— set the renewal movement known as Methodism in motion in 18th century England.

He and others began preaching out alongside the highways in England. They would stand near the coal mines and factories and preach to the working people of England in a direct, compelling, and life-changing way. John, who was called by his critics a "puny tadpole of divinity" and "a wretch guilty of 'wilful, gross and abominable untruth'" (among other things), changed the course of English history and set in motion a revival movement that not only changed saved souls but changed societies. The movement spread among the poor and the working-class citizens of England and North America while shocking the pious, the rich and the powerful.

The Methodist societies, despite John's plan to remain a part of the Church of England, eventually became a separate church. John didn't plan out so much of what became the Methodist movement, but one thing after another happened. The God-movement went in directions the early Methodist leaders never imagined.

I was reminded that often the miracles we encounter in life are often unplanned. We didn't see them coming, and yet here we are in the middle of a God thing. (For example, like retiring to go write and then ending up back in the pulpit with wonderful people and an amazing staff!)

The truth is that many people who sit in Methodist pews have little or no understanding of how we started, what was important to Methodism from the very beginning, and what God was up to in that short, English priest and his co-workers. Maybe one of the things we can do in these uncertain, challenging days is learn our family story and live out the values of Wesley and that first generation.

Here is just a little bit of what we were all about in the beginning:

  • Strong preaching, using the Bible in plain language, that called people to a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ.
  • Community and connections. John Wesley wasn't the best preacher of his day, but those who came to Christ under his leadership were formed into small groups and societies. People found these to be places where they could know others, be known themselves, pray, give, serve, and be held accountable. Methodist worship houses weren't just about people gathering for an hour or so of worship each week, but we gathered in small groups.
  • Social change. The Methodists knew—as we said last week in worship—that God cares about the poor, about housing, about the alcohol industry and how it crushes people by addiction, about medical care, about safe working conditions, about justice in the courts and halls of government. Everywhere Methodism thrived, schools were built, hospitals were planted, unsafe conditions in housing and factories were addressed, etc. This wasn't about being liberal or progressive but it was about followers of Jesus Christ.

I wonder what God has planned for us as we go forward? 

Pray about those three characteristics of early Methodism I've mentioned above, and join me in exploring the new life God may have for us as we live out vibrant and Biblical worship, community and connections, and the Gospel that makes a difference in the living conditions of all God's people.


See you Sunday in worship at 8:30 or 11!

Please continue to pray for our exciting ADAPT experience that is coming later this Fall and Winter (see Pastor Nikki and other leaders if you have questions about ADAPT.)

Grace and peace,
Pastor Mark


First United Methodist Church
1203 E. Seventh Street | Auburn, IN 46706
office@auburnumc.church | 260.925.0885