Wesley Chapel – United Kingdom

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Wesley’s Chapel is a Methodist church in London that was built by John Wesley. He was the founder of the Methodist movement. It remains a place of worship and visitor attraction, incorporating the Museum of Methodism and John Wesley’s House next to the chapel. The chapel opened in 1778 to replace an earlier fellowship building known as the “Foundry.” 

John Wesley (June 28, 1703 to March 2, 1791) was one of the most influential preachers to have ever lived. He was a primary mover behind the revival that took place in Britain during the 18th Century. An Anglican cleric, Wesley adopted unconventional practices (such as open-air preaching) to reach the masses. Given the Industrial Revolution was about to kick off, this connected with a population largely coming out of rural villages. 

Did You Know?

John Wesley, along with his brother Charles and fellow cleric George Whitefield, is credited with founding Methodism. There is also some connection with his work and what would become Pentecostalism. 

Wesley had previously attended Oxford and was eventually ordained. He then served as a kind of junior pastor in his father’s parish where he eventually led the “Holy Club.” This was a society that his brother Charles had founded. The goal of the club was to study God’s Word and pursue a devout Christian life. This is where he also developed ties with George Whitfield. It was Whitfield who would eventually be a key mover behind America’s own revival later in the century.

Georgia was the one of the last of the Thirteen Colonies to be established in America. James Oglethorpe helped found Georgia in an effort to help those who had fallen on hard times to get a new start. In 1735, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel sent out both Wesley brothers as missionaries to Georgia. Charles Wesley was also to serve as secretary to Governor Oglethorpe.

On board the Wesley brothers’ ship to America were some German Moravians. It was their hymn singing that particularly made an impression on them. Charles became ill and only stayed in Georgia four months; John stayed another year. In 1737 in Savannah, John printed a collection of Psalms and Hymns for use in his congregations. Many of the songs selected, had been written by Isaac Watts. Some in the community were angry that he was using songs that had not been approved by the Church of England. He left and returned to England as a result.

John and Charles Wesley came from a Christian family; both their father Samuel, who was an Anglican minister, and their mother Susannah had a strong, godly influence on the boys. Charles was educated at Westminster School and entered Christ Church at Oxford at the time when his older brother John was leaving to help in his father’s church. At Oxford Charles organized a Holy Club, where members met each evening to read the Bible and pray. Charles Wesley and his friends sought a disciplined method of spiritual improvement; some ridiculed the group and called them “Methodists” for their methodical ways. John later returned to Oxford and became the leader of the Holy Club Charles had organized.


After Charles’s return from Georgia, he went back to Oxford. It was during this time that Charles would later say that he came face to face with the claims of Christ. He recognized his previous religious commitments lacked the simple faith that He himself needed to put in Christ, which marks a true profession of faith. May 21, 1738 marks the date of Charles’ conversion, and on that date, he opened his Bible to:

He hath put a new song in my mouth; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.

Psalm 40: 3

Charles had indeed received a new song, and the next day he started his first hymn, probably “And Can It Be?” It is a powerful, wondrous rejoicing in the freedom to be found in Christ:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused the quickening ray –
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Over the course of his lifetime, Charles Wesley wrote at least 6,500 hymns. Charles Wesley, like Martin Luther, believed hymns were a means of teaching theology. He composed an average of three hymns a week. They covered every area of theology as well as every season of the liturgical year. His works number among some of the most famous hymns of all time, including:

  • And Can It Be That I Should Gain
  • Christ the Lord is Risen Today
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

John Wesley’s conversion followed but a few days later on May 24th. Both brothers became zealous preachers. They were determined that the unreached masses would hear the Gospel, so they preached everywhere–in the open fields, prisons, to coal miners at the pit heads. This kind of thing just wasn’t done in respectable church circles then in England. But the message and the music of the Wesleys reached the desperate, downtrodden, and often gin-besotted underclass in England and some historians speculate that the ministry of the Wesleys brought such far-reaching changes that it may have enabled England to avoid a bloody revolution such as occurred in France in that same century.

Like Whitefield, John Wesley traveled extensively and preached in the open-air. A big divergence between Wesley and Whitfield had to do with Calvinism. Wesley was more closely aligned with the idea that man had free-will and could freely accept or reject the claims of Christ. Wesley was more closely aligned with Calvinism. 

Wesley believed very strongly that people did not need to be ordained in order to preach the Gospel and teach God’s Word. He also emphasized the importance of local gatherings of believers and the need to make your faith a personal relationship with God. Under Wesley’s direction, Methodists became leaders in prison reform and the abolition of slavery. Throughout his life, Wesley remained within the established Anglican Church. He viewed Methodism as a movement within the broader Church of England. 

Following Wesley’s death, the Methodist movement became a separate group, with its own ordained ministers. It has been referred to as the “Nonconformist Church” because it does not conform to the rules of the Church of England.

Methodists believe in doctrines such as:

  • Christian perfection (i.e., reaching a state without sin in this life)
  • Eternal Security
  • Priesthood of all believers
  • Centrality of Scripture

Methodism generally holds to the truth that “Christ died for all of humanity, not just for a limited group, and thus everyone is entitled to God’s grace and protection; in theology, this view is known as Arminianism. It denies that God has pre-ordained an elect number of people to eternal bliss while others are passed over for salvation and judged according to their sins. The doctrine of election generally holds that salvation is monergistic rather than synergistic, meaning the process is reliant on God’s grace and mercy alone, rather than some credible input from the sinner as well as God. However, Whitefield and several others were considered Calvinistic Methodists.”

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methodism

Methodism also places a heavy emphasis on social works – as a result, Methodists have been leaders in establishing hospitals, universities, orphanages, homeless shelters, and schools.