Church History: Methodist Church

By Aude McKee


I. Thus far we have studied in detail the origin of the following denominations:

A. Catholic Church, 606 A.D. – Rome, Italy.

B. Greek Orthodox Church, 1054 – Constantinople I (Istanbul, Turkey).

C. Lutheran Church (First Protestant Denomination), 1521 – Whittenburg, Germany.

D. Church of England (Episcopal Church in America), 1534 – England.

E. Presbyterian Church, 1540 – Geneva, Switzerland.

F. Baptist Church, 1608 – Amsterdam, Holland.

II. As churches multiply, the religious confusion becomes greater.

A. Eph. 4:4 states plainly that there is “one body” and that one body is the church (Eph. 1:22-23).

B. The church, the only church, the right church is the one revealed on the pages of the New Testament and the one to which obedient believers are added by the Lord (Acts 2:36-47).

C. The only answer to religious confusion is back to the Bible. Study the Bible, believe the Bible, obey the Bible – pay no respect to the doctrines of men (Matt. 15:9) – and each one will be exactly what God intends.

III. In this article we study the origin of another major Protestant body – the Methodist Church.


I. Origin of the Methodist Church.

A. During the years 1717-1719, two brothers, John and Charles Wesley, were studying at Oxford University.

1. They were the sons of a Church of England clergyman.

2. John was ordained a priest in the Church of England.

3. These young men, along with George Whitefield, began to meet together and formed a religious club.

4. They had no intention of starting a new denomination, but they were protesting the formality, coldness, indifference and ungodliness in the Church of England.

B. This group was given nicknames by other students: “Bible Moths, ” “Bible Bigots, ” and the “Holy Club.”

1. Because the members adopted strict methods of study, diet, exercise, etc., they were also dubbed “Methodists.”

2. This is the name that eventually was chosen as their official name.

C. Some historians give 1729 as the beginning. Others give 1737-1740.

1. Historical Statement, Methodist Discipline, (1908, p. 15): “In 1729, two young men in England, reading the Bible saw they could not be saved without holiness, followed after it, and incited others so to do. In 1737, they saw, likewise, that men are justified before they are sanctified; but still holiness was their object. God then thrust them out to raise a holy people. This was the rise of Methodism, as given in the words of its founders, John and Charles Wesley, of Oxford University, and Presbyters of the Church of England.”

2. “The Methodist Church is young, barely two hundred years old. It was born in 1738 when John Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed at Aldersgate, in London, England” (From a Methodist tract, The Methodist Church, by James S. Chubb).

D. In 1736, the Wesleys came to Georgia; Charles as a secretary to Gen. Oglethorpe and John as a missionary to the Indians.

1. This mission was largely unsuccessful, but on the ship John met a group of Moravians who inspired him by their piety.

2. Upon returning to London two years later he attended a Moravian service in Aldersgate St., London. Here he heard Luther’s preface to the book of Romans read.

3. Wesley said, “I felt my heart strangely warmed; I felt that I did trust in Christ, in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

4. With this experience, Wesley was ready to propagate the doctrine of “faith only.”

E. As these men went out to preach, they found the pulpits of the Church of England closed to them.

1. They preached on the streets, in homes, barns, mining pits.

2. Converts to their doctrines came thick and fast.

3. In 1740, an old abandoned government building known as “the foundry” became the headquarters for the movement.

F. Prior to the Revolutionary War, the Organization invaded the colonies.

1. Methodism “Americanized” quickly and grew during the war.

2. Today the Methodist Church is divided into perhaps 15 to 20 groups, with a total membership exceeding 11,000,000 in the U.S.

II. Organization.

A. Local congregations called charges.

1. Trustees manage property interests; stewards handle finances and guide in spiritual affairs.

2. The Pastor is appointed by the Bishop at the annual conference.

B. Government invested in conference.

1. Quarterly – meets in local charge. Fixes salary of pastor; elects, church officers; sets budget; sends delegates to annual conference.

2. District – meets annually if authorized by the annual conference. Inquires into the spiritual condition, work, etc., of each charge.

3. Annual – covers a deemed geographical area. Ordains preachers; supervises pensions and relief Every 4th year elects delegates to the General Conference.

4. Jurisdictional – meets every four years. Main function, elect bishops.

5. General – meets every four years. Law making body of the Church.

III. Doctrines.

A. In 1784, the Methodist Church adopted its discipline.

1. It was an abridgement of the Episcopalian Prayer Book.

2. In the 1908 edition, p. 3, this statement is made: “Dearly beloved brethren: it is our privilege and duty to recommend most earnestly this volume to you, which contains the Doctrines and Discipline of our Church, which we believe are agreeable to the Word of God, which is the only and the sufficient rule of faith and practice. Yet the Church, in the liberty given to it by the Lord, and taught by the experience of many years, and by the study of ancient and modem Churches, has from time to time modified its Discipline in order to secure the end for which it was founded.”

3. Then on page 4: “During the period in which this work has been extending, the Church has revised and enlarged its legislation to meet the demands created by its own success.”

4. Note: If the discipline and the New Testament taught the same, the discipline could not be modified (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19; Gal. 1:9-9)!

5. An illustration of the changes in the Methodist Discipline:

a. “Dearly beloved, forasmuch as all men are conceived and born in sin. (M.D., 1908, p. 349).

b. “Dearly beloved, forasmuch as all men are heirs of life eternal. . . ” (M.D., 1948, p. 349). Note: Up until 1910, babies were born in sin and would go to hell if they died that way. Since 1910, they are bom in Christ and will go to heaven. Babies began to be born differently in 1910, according to the Methodists.

B. Baptism.

1. Three “modes,” “Let every adult person, and the parents of every child to be baptized, have the choice of either sprinkling, pouring, or immersion” (M.D., 1908, p. 349). (Read Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:4; see the meaning of the word “baptism” in the Greek.)

2. Infant baptism. “It (the Methodist Church) baptizes them (babies) in anticipation of their joining the church” (from The Beliefs of a Methodist Christian, by Clinton M. Cherry, p. 67).

a. Not a single person was ever baptized in the New Testament who did not first believe, repent, and confess faith in Christ. (See every example of conversion in the book of Acts.) b. Actually, Methodists do not know why they baptize babies since they discarded Calvin’s doctrine of inherited total depravity in 1910! c. Baptism is non-essential in Methodist doctrine. “No baptism is valid,. regardless of its mode or the ritualistic words used, unless there is repentance, forgiveness, and a new life in God for the believer” (Ibid., p. 68). (See Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal. 3:27; 1 Pet. 3:21.)

C. Salvation by faith only.

1. “Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort” (M.D., 1908, Art. IX).

2. James says (2:24) that justification is “not by faith only.” Which will you believe, James or the Methodist Discipline?

D. Instrumental music.

1. At the dedication of an organ in worship, the minister is to say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we dedicate this organ to the praise of Almighty God” (M.D., 1948, p. 550).

2. “In the name of” means “by the authority of.” Where in the Word of God does the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit authorize the organ (or any kind of musical instrument) in the worship of the New Testament church?

3. The New Testament teaching concerning “music” is in the following verses: Matt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26; Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12; Jas. 5:13.

E. Jew died to reconcile God to man.

1. “Jesus truly suffered, was crucified, dead and buried, to reconcile his Father to us” (M.D., Art. II).

2. Read 2 Cor. 5:18-21. The Bible and man-made creeds always contradict.

F. Members wear the name “Methodists.

1. No such name is authorized by Christ (see Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16).

2. Any name but Christ’s is inferior. There is salvation in no other name but Christ’s (see Acts 4:11-12; Phil. 2:9-11).

IV. Observe A Few of the Contrasts Between the Methodist Church and the Chareb of the New Testament:

Methodist Church Church of Christ
1. Origin: England 1. Origin: Jerusalem (Acts 2)
2. Date: 1729 2. Date: 33 A.D.
3. Founder: John Wesley 3. Founder: Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:18)
4. Name: Methodists 4. Name: Christians (Acts 11:26)
5. Baptism: Sprinkling and pouring 5. Baptism: burial (Col. 2:12)
6. Baptism: Infants and adults 6. Baptism: believers who have repented (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38)
7. Baptism: Non-essential 7. Baptism: Necessary to be in Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).
8. Authority: Methodist Discipline 8. Authority: God’s Word (1 Pet. 4:11)
9. Salvation: Faith only 9. Salvation: Obedience to the gospel (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:17-18; Heb. 5:8-9)
10. Organization: One bishop ruling many churches 10. Organization: Each church had plurality of bishops (Acts 14:23; 20:27; Tit. 1:5)
11. Worship: Instrumental music 11. Worship: Singing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)


1. As the Methodist Church is compared with Bible teaching, but one conclusion can be logically and faithfully reached -. the Methodist Church is not the church the Lord established. Since there is only one way to heaven (Matt. 7:13-29), and since we only have one soul and only one opportunity to prepare here on earth for eternity, our prayer is that you will determine to study the Bible, obey its truths, and be nothing more than nor less than the Word of God will make of you.

2. “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:6-9).

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 22, pp. 678-679, 694
November 17, 1988