O thou who camest from above
The pure celestial
Kindle a flame of sacred love
On the mean altar
of my heart!
Jesu, confirm my heart's desire
To work, and speak,
and think for thee;
Still let me guard the holy fire,
And still stir up
thy gift in me. . .
- Hymns, Charles Wesley, 1762
The Evangelical Impulse
Missionaries are easier to understand than we often imagine. Today's
world is full of women, men and children with an evangelical impulse. You
are likely one of them. Consider for a moment your aspiration and hope for
a troubled friend, a member of your family or for those who struggle with
poverty, disease, prejudice and war. How do you imagine relieving the pain
of such circumstances? What is it that organizations and governments might
do? What "good news" can you imagine bringing in the
midst of struggle? The desire to bring some "good news" is your evangelical impulse and the "good news" you bring is your
Modern liberal democratic societies are perhaps the most evangelical
societies known in human history. A small set of ultimate values informs
liberal democratic societies wherever we find them. Each of these values
is understood to be of great benefit to anyone and everyone who adopts it.
Many of these values exist: democracy empowers the whole of the community
and frees people from the bondage of tyrants; universal human rights
ensure the dignity of minorities and put an end to
discrimination based on ethnicity, race, religion, language, gender and sexual
preferences; capitalism and socialism stop state or corporate tyranny.
However, the one value
that is most broadly shared is that of universal education, as it is
considered to be the pathway to a successful life. Democracy, human rights, capitalism and
socialism, and universal education are the gospels of our age because they
are seen as an antidote to the ills of the human family.
In the history of religions, the evangelical impulse is central to
Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Within Christianity, the Methodists (both as
a movement and as a church), hold the evangelical impulse close to its
heart. This impulse has shaped Methodism throughout its 300-year