What Is A “Wesleyan Evangelical”?

As some of you know, we will soon be looking for someone to head up our Discipleship ministries at Good Shepherd. After five years on staff, James-Michael Smith will be leaving us at the end of April to prepare for and then pursue his PhD.

But I’ll blog more on that and on him later.

As part of our search for a new leader in discipleship, we’re working with some volunteers from Good Shepherd who consult with companies around the world in the areas of recruiting, interviewing, and hiring. You can read about their firm here.

Anyway, as we were talking about the kind of person we’d like to hire, we moved to the subject of beliefs. What kind of theology and values do we want this person to have?

So I immediately popped up: “I want someone who is a Wesleyan evangelical.”


I realized that, even in a room full of people in the “know” in this church, I was speaking jargon. So we went through a very brief exercise to define “Wesleyan evangelical.”

Wesleyan: Candidates for this (or any) position on staff will need to embrace the notion that God gives people free will to accept or reject his offer of grace. This is as opposed to our Calvinist friends who believe that God predestines individuals either to heaven or to hell. Both views are firmly in the Christian family; it’s just that one works much better here, in what is after all a Methodist church.
When it comes to end times theology, Wesleyans by and large reject the dispensational theology made popular by the Left Behind novels and instead embrace either amillenialism or historic premillenialism. I personally lean amillenial while my good friend James-Michael is more of an historic premillenialist.

Evangelical: Calling oneself “evangelical” in the first part of the 21st Century can come with some baggage. We hope not here. When we identify ourselves as an evangelical congregation it boils down to two core beliefs: 1) that heaven and hell are real and urgent concerns; and 2) that the bible is, in a mysterious way, uniquely inspired by God.
These views are in contrast to those held by many in mainline denominations — namely, the idea of universalism (all people will ultimately be saved) and that the bible is merely a human document with no compelling authority over our lives today.

So that’s how we summarize what it means to be a Wesleyan evangelical. I hope we can have a church — and a staff — worthy of the label.