10 Fascinating Facts About the United Methodist Church

With the United Methodist General Conference coming up in May, and all the talk about division and splits, I thought you might be interested in some interesting, but little known, facts about the United Methodist Church. These facts help remind us where we came from.
1. John Wesley wrote one of the all-time bestselling medical texts.
Wesley was deeply convicted that God is concerned about our earthly life as well as our heavenly one. To that end, he wrote a medical text for the everyday person titled Primitive Physick. Many of Wesley’s tips on healthy living remain widely accepted, including, “drink lots of water” and “eat your biggest meal in the morning.” 
2. John Wesley coined the term “agree to disagree.”
Over the years, Wesley had serious theological differences with another popular pastor named George Whitefield. Though they both argued passionately, Wesley reflected on these differences in a memorial sermon for Whitefield by saying: “There are many doctrines of a less essential nature. … In these, we may think and let think; we may ‘agree to disagree.’”
3. John Wesley rode far enough on horseback to circle the earth 10 times.
Wesley rode 250,000 miles on horseback! He was convinced that it was important for him personally to spread the gospel through relationships and continue to grow closer to God in those relationships.
4. Wesley taught that doubt was part of faith.
Wesley believed that having questions about one’s faith should not be disparaged. Doubts are essential to making any belief system one’s own. Having questions does not mean that you don’t believe.
5. “Methodist” was originally a derogatory term.
Though the origins of the term “Methodist” are in dispute, but it is clear that it was originally used by outsiders to mock John Wesley and his early societies because of their dedication to following a “method” for growing closer to God. Wesley ended up accepting the term, considering it a positive descriptor of their movement.
6. Wesley counseled people to “eat a little less than you desire.”
Staying slim was far from Wesley’s goal, though he did weigh in around 128 pounds. This was not the result of dieting, but rather of a practice to ensure that people were not ruled by their natural desires, but exercising control over them.
7. Wesley never intended to split from the Church of England.
However, when the revolution happened in the American colonies, most of the Anglican priests returned home. Faced with the fact that none of the Methodists in the colonies could receive the sacraments, Wesley ordained ministers whom he sent to do the same in America. That act was the beginning of the separation that formed the Methodist Church in America.
8. Wesley never said this famous quote attributed to him.
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, as long as ever you can.” Though the quote is often attributed to John Wesley and is consistent with his perspective on life, many historians have confirmed there is no record of Wesley ever saying that.
9. Wesley taught you could not be a Christian on your own.
He said that we needed to be involved in “social holiness.” Though some often think this term is synonymous with “social justice,” its meaning is quite different. Wesley believed we could only grow as Christians in community.
10. Methodism grew from four to 132,000 members in Wesley’s lifetime.
The beginning of Methodism was a group of four who called themselves the “holy club” at Oxford. When Wesley died in 1791, he left behind a movement with 72,000 members in the British Isles and 60,000 in America.
If you would like to know more about the history of the United Methodist Church go to: