Pastor’s eNote: Methodist Approach to Self-Examination and Growth

With all the books and systems and popular culture fads available right now for self-transformation, I felt led to share what we as Wesleyan theologians have used for a couple hundred years. We all need something that is useful every day, or every week, depending on how busy the schedule, to humbly reflect on where God is working to transform us from the inside out, the resource John Wesley himself used is excellent.

John Wesley’s 22 Questions

– Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
– Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
– Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
– Can I be trusted?Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
– Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
– Did the Bible live in me today?
– Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
– Am I enjoying prayer?When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?
– Do I pray about the money I spend?
– Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
– Do I disobey God in anything? Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
– Am I defeated in any part of my life?
– Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
– How do I spend my spare time?
– Am I proud?
– Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican (tax collector)?
– Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
– Do I grumble or complain constantly?
– Is Christ real to me?

John Wesley appreciated the daily strife and challenges of the people in the community he served. Although they brought their best self to church Sunday morning, they were living in a real world with real problems. There was more need for God’s leading than a Sunday morning and one priest could fill, same is true today. He created small classes and bands, like Moravian bands, where members would meet regularly for personal accountability and learning. The connectional nature of the classes and bands brought the communities together like the Book of Acts Christians who were learning to follow Christ individually and as a congregational community, the body of Christ.

There are a lot of popular self-examination resources today. None are better than the self-examination questions Wesley used. They were meant to be convicting, but also motivating. A question we ask ourselves, honestly consider based on the last several days, and answer humbly followed by prayer thanking God for showing us our missteps and our victories. I find it useful to focus on one of the questions that is a problem for me and when I read or hear scripture that week ask what it has to say. Sometimes, it’s nothing. Sometimes, it’s a lot. Print out the questions and tuck them into your Bible or put it where you read. May God reveal new insight that strengthen your faith.

With hands to the plow,

Pastor Theresa