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Spiritual direction the Wesleyan-Holiness movement.

Though the term "spiritual direction" is not a common part of the vocabulary of the Wesleyan-Holiness people, the goals of spiritual direction form the core of their spiritual quest. Avoiding "direction" for fear of spiritual abuse, the Wesleyan-Holiness people seek to help each other toward Christian perfection by way of face-to-face groups, spiritual companioning, family worship, covenant groups, and faith mentoring. These specific structures and practices, along with observance of the personal spiritual disciplines and the disciplines of service, are primarily rooted in the heritage of the Wesleyan revival in 18th-century England and secondarily in the American Holiness Movement of the 19th century. Indirect indicators associated with spiritual maturity are described and comparisons between psychotherapy and spiritual guidance are made.


As the 19th-century Holiness Movement in America matured, it formed itself into four clusters of churches: Wesleyan-Holiness groups with Methodistic roots, those with a nonMethodist heritage who adopted the Wesleyan doctrine of holiness and its practice of revivalism, those who added tongues-speaking to the Wesleyan tradition, and those who embraced Keswick teachings (Tracy & Ingersol, 1998).

This writer most directly represents the Wesleyan-Holiness churches. These churches are nourished by roots that tap deep into the Wesleyan revival in 18th-century England. Their 21st-century witness can be seen in the Christian Holiness Partnership (CHP), formerly Christian Holiness Association (CHA). This is the oldest Holiness association in the world. It began in 1867 as the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness. Methodists controlled it at first, but today its membership and leadership includes representatives from many churches. The CHP member churches include the Wesleyan Church, the Free Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Salvation Army, and 19 other churches and two international mission societies. The Wesleyan Theological Society is an auxiliary of CHP and produces the Wesleyan Theological Society Journal. The Nazarene Publishing House is the largest Wesleyan-Holiness publisher.

It is hard to speak one voice about this dappled movement. But if there is one area of agreement, it is the idea that spiritual direction is not relevant. The Holiness churches vigorously seek the goals of spiritual direction, but spiritual direction per se is not a common part of their vocabulary.

For example, the 543-page Beacon Dictionary of Theology published by the Nazarene Publishing House offers no definition of spiritual direction. Two professors at Nazarene Theological Seminary who have team-taught spiritual formation for 18 years say that the only time spiritual direction comes up in their course is as a brief metaphor for pastoral ministry. These men have a new book, Living the Lord's Prayer: Design for Spiritual Formation (Weigelt & Freeborn, 2001), and the phrase "spiritual direction" is not mentioned.

I recently worked with a group of scholars and writers from Wesleyan-Holiness groups to produce the Reflecting God Bible, the Reflecting God textbook, workbook, leader's guide, and the still-to-come Reflecting God Journal. We worked under the supervision of the Christian Holiness Partnership. Though many suggestions were made, no one suggested that spiritual direction be treated in these books--and it is not.

Given the democratic, free church, Protestant, and individualistic elements in our cultural and ecclesiastical heritage, spiritual direction seems dictatorial and risky. However, if you speak of soul friends, spiritual companioning, spiritual guidance, small group ministry, and faith mentoring, we feel so at home that we may lounge in your family room, even put our feet on the coffee table.


The goal of spirituality in the Wesleyan mode is to bring the converted believer into the experience of sanctifying grace whereby inner sin is cleansed, the image of God restored, and the heart so filled with divine love that the believer can love God with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength and the neighbor as one's self. The Holiness Movement uses such terms to describe sanctification as perfect love, the deeper life, Christian perfection, holiness, and the fullness of or the baptism with the Spirit. That state of grace is, however, not static, but dynamic. The sanctified believer must continue to grow in Christ-likeness, learning the skills of both being and living like Christ. The experience of sanctification has both gradual and instantaneous aspects.

When asked to define Christian perfection, John Wesley often quoted Matthew 22:37: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.... [and] Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (KJV). In a letter to Walter Churchey, Wesley wrote, "Entire sanctification or Christian perfection is neither more nor less than pure love--love expelling sin and governing both the heart and life of a child of God. The Refiner's fire purges out all that is contrary to love" (Wesley, 1960, Vol. 5, p. 233).

Divine love conquering sinful self-centeredness is the goal of Wesleyan spirituality. The "heaven of heavens is love." There is nothing higher in religion; there is, in effect, nothing else; if you look for anything but more love you are looking wide of the mark. . . . And when you are asking others, "Have you received this or that blessing?" if you mean anything but more love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way, and putting them on a false scent. Settle it in your heart, that from the moment God has saved you from all sin, you are to aim at nothing more, but more of that love described in the thirteenth of Corinthians. You can go no higher than this. (Wesley, 1872/1978, Vol. 11, p.430)

Wesley many times referred to the Collect for the Communion Service in the Anglican liturgy (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979) as the outline of his theology and thus the goal of spirituality.

Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

by inspiration of thy Holy Spirit,

that we may perfectly love thee,

and worthily magnify thy holy name,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts is heart purity, cleansing from inner sin. By the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit cites the agency of the sanctifying Spirit, the fullness of or baptism with the Spirit. That we may perfectly love Thee salutes perfect love, perfection of intention, Christian perfection, or "Christ-mindedness." That we may worthily magnify thy holy name points to the ethical, holy living that "full salvation" produces in the sanctified believer. Through Jesus Christ our Lord signifies the truth that such spirituality can only come through the grace of God in Christ (Tracy, 1991, p. 24).

The belief that sanctifying grace purges original sin and sets the sanctified believer free from self-domination in this life makes the Wesleyan-Holiness people radical optimists. Though our Protestant forefathers taught that original sin would hang on our necks like an albatross all our lives, Holiness people teach that "you, even you, can be made inwardly pure and Christlike.... you can be freed from the inner sin nature, that fountain from which springs sinful acts and attitudes. We believe that you can be sanctified 'through and through' as 1 Thessalonians 5:23 declares" (Tracy, 1993, p. 5).

Thus the goal of spirituality--and therefore the goal of spiritual direction, spiritual friendship, and spiritual guidance--is to help the believer live the life of love, that is, the life of Christilkeness. This is in harmony with Wesley's goals for his societies, which he called "a company of men having the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other work out their salvation" (Wesley, 1872/1978, Vol. 8, p. 269).


Early in the Methodist revival, Wesley found the role of spiritual guide thrust upon him. "In every place people flock to me for direction in secular as well as spiritual affairs," Wesley wrote to a friend, "and I dare not throw...this burden off" (1960, Vol. 3, p. 216). This role Wesley willingly embraced.

Steven J. Harper (1985) observes, "people looked to him [John Wesley] for spititual guidance for exactly the same reasons as Christians across the centuries have turned to spiritual directors, i.e., he personified the life they wished for themselves" (p. 92). Harper proceeds to cite the credentials of Wesley as a spiritual guide. He traces his upbringing in a devout home, his connection to historical spirituality, his adherence to Scripture, and his spiritual writings. Wesley's 50-volume Christian library, published in 1755 and again in 1773, is a treasury of spiritual formation texts.

John Wesley's Christian Library contained translations and excerpts from 200 works. Wesley entitled the collection of 50 volumes A Christian Library Consisting of Extracts From and Abridgements of the Choicest Pieces of Practical Divinity Which Have Been Published in the English Tongue. Table 1 shows selected works from various categories included in the collection, which was first published 1749-1755. The Christian Library became required reading for student preachers.

But Wesley's work as a spiritual director or guide is best seen in his correspondences. Iris in the letters that we see his theology applied to life and the type of spiritual guidance he practiced. Wesley believed that all Christians need the support of spiritual friendship and guidance. To Frances Godfrey, whom he addressed as "My Dear Fanny," he wrote, "it is a blessed thing to have fellow travelers to the New Jerusalem. If you do not find any you must make them for none can travel this road alone" (Wesley, 1960, Vol. 8, p. 158). Even wealthy bankers like Ebenezer Blackwell needed spiritual friends. Wesley wrote to him, "I am fully persuaded if you had always one or two faithful friends near you who could speak the very truth from their heart and watch over you in love, you would swiftly advance" (Wesley, 1960, Vol. 3, pp. 94-95).

Wesley's letter to Ann Bolton, written when he was 82 years of age, shows both the need and the qualities Wesley expected in a spiritual friend.

My Dear Nancy,--It is undoubtedly expedient for you to have a friend in whom you can fully confide that can always be near you or at a small distance, and ready to be consulted on all occasions. The time was when you took me to be your friend; and (to speak freely) I have loved you with no common affection. I "have loved you"-nay, I still do; my heart warms to you while I am writing. But I am generally at too great a distance, so that you cannot converse with me when you would. I am glad, therefore, that Providence has given you one whom you can more easily see and correspond with. You may certainly trust her in every instance; and she has...understanding, piety and experience. She may therefore perform those offices of friendship which I would rejoice to perform were I neat you. But whenever you can, give me the pleasure of seeing you. (1960, Vol. 7, p. 278)

Wesley seldom used the term "direction," fearing that it put too much power in the hands of the spiritual guide. The spiritual guidance that he taught was called Christian Conference, in which people experienced mutual spiritual guidance in classes, bands, societies, families, and in "twin soul" and faith mentoring pairs. See figure 1, the diagram of Wesley's spiritual formation structures. What contemporary structure improves on this plan?

The Society

The Methodist Connexion was at first an organization within the Church of England. Societies held no meetings that would conflict with the Anglican worship schedule. Eventually the society became a sort of local congregation meeting in chapels, halls, and homes. The society had four meetings open to the whole congregation: (a) a Sunday evening service of preaching, Scripture reading, testimonies, and hymn-singing; (b) a 5 am meeting on a weekday morning; (c) a Watchnight service monthly on Saturday night; and (d) the Love Feast, a service featuring a meal of bread and water and opportunities to mend relationships.

The Class Meeting

The society was subdivided into classes of about 12 persons each. Every member of the society was required to join a class that met weekly. The class meeting was a more or less democratic forum where rich and poor, the educated and the illiterate could meet as peers. At first, "class-meetings met in homes, shops, school rooms, attics-even coal bins-wherever there was room for ten or twelve people to assemble" (Henderson, 1980, p. 140).

In the class meeting, Methodist doctrines, sermons, and practices were explained. But the class was also an arena of koinonia, love, and mutual support. After an opening hymn, typically, the class leader would share the problems and victories in his or her own spiritual life. Class members would then, on a voluntary basis, follow suit.

Wesley summarized the function of the classes in the Arminian Magazine:

The particular design of the classes is, to know who continue members of the society; to inspect their outward walking; to inquire into their inward state; to learn what are their trials; and how they fall by or conquer them; to instruct the ignorant in the principles of religion; to repeat, to explain, or enforce.. what has been said in public preaching... [to insure that] they have a clear, full, abiding conviction, that without inward, complete, universal holiness, no man shall see the Lord. (Henderson, 1980, p. 163)

When the Wesleyan revival jumped the Atlantic and came to America, the rampant revivalism and the success of the Sunday School shoved the class meeting into the background. Today the heritage of the class meeting is expressed in Sunday School classes, small group Bible studies, and membership classes.

The Bands

The bands were same-gender groups of five or six persons committed to each other and to the holy life. Only about one-third of the typical society joined, or were invited to join, the bands where they shared their spiritual journeys "without reserve and without disguise." Wesley felt that Methodism was closest to the New Testament ideal in the band meetings.

Before one could join a band, he or she was examined by 11 questions. Five of them were:

1. Have you the forgiveness of sins and peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ?

2. Have you the witness of God's Spirit with your spirit that you are a child of God?

3. Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you?

4. Do you desire to be told all your faults, and that plain and home?

5. Is it your desire and design to be, on this and on all other occasions, entirely open so as to speak everything that is in your heart without exception, without disguise, and without reserve? (Wesley, 1872/1978, Vol. 8, p.272).

Wesley wrote five starter questions to be used in each band meeting. For Wesley's wording of the questions, see The Works of John Wesley (Wesley, 1872/1978). Following are the band questions stated in contemporary style:

1. What spiritual failures have you experienced since our last meeting? What known sins, if any, have you committed?

2. What temptations have you battled with this week? Where do you feel the most vulnerable right now?

3. What temptations have you been delivered from this week? Please share with us how you won the victory.

4. Has the Lord revealed anything to you about your heart and life that makes you want us to join you in taking a second look at what might be sinful attitudes, lifestyle, or motivations?

5. Is there any spiritual problem that you have never been able to talk about-to us or even to God? (Tracy, Cockerill, Demaray, & Harper, 2000, p. 133).

What Christian could not profit from meeting weekly with trusted "soul friends" to share answers to such questions?

The revival and camp meeting emphasis in America diminished the Band Meeting in the 19th century. And with the Sunday School then charged with almost all the Christian nurture duties, the ministry of the bands faded. The genius of the band was, however, rediscovered when covenant groups surged through the religious and secular culture in the last three decades of the 20th century. The Wesleyan and Wesleyan-Holiness groups should have owned the franchise on covenant group work, but they had all but discarded the band ethos in favor of revivalism and Sunday School work, and the lust to be like the super-successful Southern Baptists. The Holiness churches had to relearn the covenant and support group ethos. Today, covenant groups blossom like wisteria on the sunny side of the barn all over the Wesleyan-Holiness Movement.

The Penitent Bands

This "backslider's band" was designed especially for sincere people who kept being recaptured by some besetting sin. They wanted to do right but had not found the strength and discipline to stay on the path to perfection. For them, the penitent band met on Saturday nights.

The Select Society

The Select Society was a small group for leaders in the Methodist Connexion. Only the most faithful and dedicated were invited. The Select Society had no rules, no set procedure, and no official leader. Any concern of the leadership team could be discussed. Wesley's first experiment with this structure aimed at helping them advance in perfection, to help them love each other more, to improve every leadership talent, and also "to have a select company, to whom I might unbosom myself on all occasions, without reserve" (Wesley, 1960, Vol. 8, p. 261). Today, church staff meetings and church board retreats do not draw on the Select Society heritage in any direct way.

Family Religion

Those who write about Wesley's face-to-face groups almost always forget the family. Family worship and study was recommended twice daily, morning and evening. In addition, Thursday night was to be given to one-on-one parent-to-child instruction. On Saturday night, the family was to review what had been learned during the week. To help with the family religion, Wesley provided A Collection of Prayers for Families, Prayers and Devotions for Every Day of the Week, Prayers for Children, Lessons for Children (200 Bible studies), and Instructions for Children (58 lessons on Christian living).

An insightful method of family worship was also provided:

Step 1: A short extemporaneous prayer.

Step 2: Psalm singing.

Step 3: Bible study. A parent was to read the scripture for the day and explain it. Then the children were to explain the Bible passage back to the parents.

Step 4: Family prayer using both written and spontaneous prayers.

Step 5: Singing of the Doxology.

Step 6: The Benediction given by a parent.

Step 7: The blessing. The parent lays his or her hand on the head of each child and blesses the child in Jesus' name. The blessing in Jesus' name, Wesley charged, was never to be omitted no matter how bad the child had behaved that day (Tracy, Freeborn, Tartaglia, &Weigelt, 1994, pp. 197-99).

Twin Souls

Scholars have given the lion's share of their attention to Wesley's classes and bands. But a study of Wesley's letters reveals a lot of one-to-one spiritual guidance. Wesley frequently introduced "twin souls" to each other for the purpose of mutual spiritual guidance "without reserve and without disguise." The principle at work is "Our Lord...has given us to each other that we may strengthen each other's hands in Him" (Wesley, 1960, Vol. 2, p. 115).

Faith Mentoring

Faith mentoring is the term I am using to describe what Wesley called the service of "spiritual fathers" and "nursing mothers." Hundreds of times, Wesley assigned a new or discouraged convert to the watch care of a seasoned saint. Serving as "God's usher," they would give whatever guidance they could. Sometimes Wesley made suggestions. Ally Eden had gone against the fervent advice of her spiritual companions and married an unbeliever. Her life fell apart at the hands of a wicked husband. To Ann Bolton, the "nursing mother" to the classes and bands around Witney, Wesley wrote, "Do not forget poor Ally Eden. She has need of comfort; so we will not reprove her" (1960, Vol. 8, p. 246).

Many in the Holiness Movement today see faith mentoring as the most viable evangelistic method for the postmodern age.


Authentic spirituality is a journey of grace. By grace you have been saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8, NIV). Though strenuous effort and vigorous discipline should be practiced in cooperation with grace, every stage of salvation is a gift of God's grace.

The saga of grace starts with atoning grace, with the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. The story moves to prevenient grace (preventing and preparatory grace) operating before one even knows it, giving persons the capacity to choose God and good in spite of sin. Saving grace (which incorporates justification, regeneration, and adoption) rescues the believer from the guilt and power of sin is next. With Christ now living in the heart, the Christian discovers how serious God is about sanctifying grace. God will go on transforming the believer all through life by way of refining or perfecting grace. Even in heaven, the grace of God will likely be at work transforming us from one degree of glory to another.

The Holiness people report experiencing the transforming grace of God in two ways. Both saving and sanctifying grace are experienced in the "twinkling of an eye." An instantaneous experience of conversion or "new birth" is the common testimony. Sanctifying grace, the Wesleyan-Holiness people believe, has both gradual and instantaneous aspects. John Wesley taught that although God makes the heart holy in an instant, there is no holiness that excludes "continual increase." The Scriptures speak of the act of sanctification (Acts 15:8-9) and the journey of sanctification (2 Cor. 3:18).

The experiences of God's people through the centuries, the Wesleyan-Holiness pilgrims say, make us expect that God will cleanse our hearts and fill us with the Holy Spirit in a "twinkling of an eye." Millions in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition claim that they did not make up a second instantaneous work of grace that cleanses from sin. They have simply observed that this is the way God generally works.

John Wesley, between 1759 and 1762, personally interviewed some 1,000 persons who had found the deeper life of holiness. He described the results of this research in the sermon "On Patience."

Every one of them was exceeding clear in their experience. Every one (after the most careful inquiry) I have nor found one exception ... has declared that his deliverance from sin [entire sanctification] was instantaneous; that the change was wrought in a moment. Had half of these, or one-third, or one in twenty declared it was gradually wrought in them, I would have believed this in regard to them, and thought that some were gradually sanctified and some instantaneously.

But as I have not found, in so long a space of time, a single person speaking thus: as all who believe they are sanctified declare with one voice that the change was wrought in a moment. I cannot but believe that sanctification is commonly, if not always, an instantaneous work. (Wesley, 1872/1978, Vol. 6, p.491)

In his classic A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, John Wesley said,

Beyond all possibility of exception... my brother and I maintained ... that this [sanctification] is received merely by faith. ..given instantaneously, in one moment.... There is a gradual work of God in the soul... generally speaking, it is a long time... before sin is destroyed. There is a gradual work both before and after that moment [of sanctification]. (Wesley, 1872/ 1978, Vol. 11, pp. 393, 423)

The saints in every age, the Wesleyan-Holiness people observe, have reported a crisic experience of God after conversion that ushered them into the deeper life.

The transformation of 2 Corinthians 3:18, on the other hand, continues throughout the long journey of faith and grace. "We ... are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory" (2 Cor. 3:18, NRSV), the Bible says. That is the process of sanctification.

It isn't as though when you experienced the transforming moment of being filled with the Spirit that you were given a lifetime supply of holiness. The Wesleyan tradition has always taught that sanctifying grace is a moment-by-moment experience. The cleansing of the Spirit goes on in the daily give and take of life. John Wesley called this spiritual breathing. As we live and breathe, the Spirit, the breath of God, cleanses and empowers.

The Spirit points out prejudices and unexamined practices and attitudes that need cleansing. As He guides us into more truth about ourselves, we learn of our lacks and lapses that need the refiner's fire. This transformation or sanctification goes on throughout life.

The cleansing and filling of the Spirit are not once and for all. John Wesley preached, "We feel the power of Christ every moment.., whereby we are enabled to continue in the spiritual life and without which, notwithstanding our present holiness, we should be devils the next moment" (1872/1978, Vol. 5, p. 167).

Moving beyond Weslcyan-Holiness soteriology, the pastor, faith mentor, or covenant group leader would look for evidences of Christlikeness as indications of authentic transformation. For the Holiness people, Christlikeness means love. Loving relationships and loving deeds are indications of spiritual transformation. Love is the fruit of the Spirit from which the others-peace, gentleness, joy, temperance--spring (Gal. 5:22-23).

Wesleyan-Holiness theologian H. Ray Dunning (1988) speaks of sanctification providing four freedoms: (a) Freedom for God (restoration of right relation and fuller restoration of the imago dei), (b) Freedom for others (self-sacrificing service), (c) Freedom from the earth (restored balance with the creation and with "worldly things" such as wealth and possessions), and (d) Freedom from self-domination (pp. 485-98).


In a post-Christian and postmodern culture, faith mentoring emerges as the most promising method of passing the Light along to the next generation. We can no longer assume that Christian faith or values form the common ideals. To the Wesleyan-Holiness people, that means spending more time with fewer people and teaching the faith by example, counsel, coaching, and modeling.

In times much like our own, St. Paul urged Timothy, his son in the faith, "The things that you have heard me say... entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2, NW). Christians established in prayer and the Scriptures, who are guided by the Spirit, known for holiness of life, patience, understanding, discernment, vulnerability, and the ability to listen, will be our best evangelists and spiritual guides as they engage in one-on-one mentoring relationships (Tracy, 1988, p. 148).


The faith mentor is like a trail guide who has hiked this mountain before. He or she knows the hazards, challenges, and happy surprises that lie ahead. The guide acts as God's usher, escorting the mentee into the Lord's presence in the various arenas of life.


A model is, according to Sondra Matthaei (1986) a respected person who journeys with us, a living example of spirituality, lifestyle, values, sharing life experiences, vocation, intimacy, femininity/masculinity, and honesty" (p. 9). Laurent Dabs (1987) notes that as we observe our models, we do not slavishly try to "become like them, but ... more fully ourselves through them" (p. 231).


The mentor-coach instructs on how to play the game. He or she then makes us watch the spiritual game films--in painful slow motion-and shows us how to do better next time. Paul tells the Thessalonians that he wants to coach them face-to-face so that he can "perfect that which is lacking in your faith" (1 Thess. 3:10, KJV).

In sports, it is often the coach who will not let us give up when the going gets tough. When Jane Hilton, a new convert, was devastated by a withering temptation, John Wesley wrote to her, "Christ is yours; and He is wiser and stronger than all the powers of hell. Hang upon Him ... lean on Him with the whole weight of your sod" (Wesley, 1960, Vol. 5, p. 87). Her spiritual coach would not let her give up.


As a spiritual friend, the mentor offers support and affirmation for the mentee's honest search for identity and meaning even when friends, family, or the pastor may not understand.


Some churches appoint sponsors for youth. The sponsor-mentor is to be guide, friend, co-learner, and the one who leads the juvenile into full participation in the church.


Youth and young adults need "guarantors" who incarnate Christian adulthood in ways that encourage young people to grow Thus they guarantee that adulthood is a good place to be. The faith mentor communicates to the observing youth that authentic faith in God makes the future worthwhile.


One of the basic Protestant principles is the "priesthood of all believers." That means that ordinary Christians can become priests to one another.

A faith mentor can mediate love, grace, self-knowledge, and discernment of the will of God as well as acceptance, assurance, and a sense of direction in life. A faith mentor can also mediate between a painful past and a promise-filled future (Tracy et al., 2000, p. 168). The faith mentor as mediator brings the menree's personal story into contact with the Bible, the Christian tradition, and the church (Tracy et al., 1994, p. 187).

Faith mentoring, as the term is used here, is primarily a "journeyman-apprentice" relationship. A faith mentor may fill any or all of the seven aforementioned roles and functions. The nature and gifts of the mentor and mentee and the life situation in which the relationship develops more or less shapes the opportunities to serve as coach, guarantor, mediator, etc. Beyond the "nursing mother," "spiritual father" relationship of faith mentoring, the mutual spiritual guidance of "twin souls" (to use Wesley's term) produces situations in which mature Christians also can serve each other in the seven roles and functions cited above.


The ideal spirituality is characterized, in the Wesleyan-Holiness vision, by Christlikeness in relationship to God, neighbor, and creation. Perilous it is to judge that in others. But a pastor might look for balance among several indirect indicators.

Practice of the Personal Spiritual Disciplines

Prayer is an essential discipline. In Wesleyan circles, a day without prayer is a boast against God. In The Wesleyan-Holiness Way to Spiritual Formation (Tracy, in press) the practice of prayer includes adoration, praise, thanksgiving, confession, intercession, and petition (lessons 11 and 12).

Bible study is a core constituent of Wesleyan-Holiness spirituality. "The Scripture, . . . the Old and New Testament is a most solid and precious system of divine truth... . It is the fountain of heavenly wisdom, which they who are able to taste, prefer to all the writings of men, however wise, or learned, or holy" (Wesley, n.d./ 1981, preface, par. 10).

Fasting and the disciplines of abstinence. The Wesleyan-Holiness Way to Spiritual Formation (Tracy, in press) cites these disciplines of abstinence: (a) fasting food for the body in order to prepare a feast for the soul; (b) chastity, refraining from sexual excess or from sexual expression even in marriage to elevate the spiritual over the physical; (c) solitude-fasting convivial company in order to be alone is costly, for to be alone means saying no to a spouse, a child, a parishioner, or a friend; (d) silence goes beyond solitude and is a time for listening and not filling the quiet with our chatter; (e) simplicity requires that we "disentangle ourselves from too many commitments, relieve ourselves of debts and obligations that keep us anxious and burdened" (Steele, 1990, p. 93); and (f) the discipline of secrecy is refraining from making our good deeds and qualities known (Willard, 1988, p. 172).

Journaling as a spiritual discipline. One reason we know so much about the spirituality of the Wesleyan movement is that John Wesley taught his people to keep a regular journal. The Reflecting God Journal (Tracy, in press) states that a regular rime "to reflect and write can help bring integration to the flashing forces that fragment thought, befuddle hearts, clutter agendas, and reduce you and me to flustered ineffectiveness."

The Spiritual Disciplines of Community

Formative Christian worship. Nothing in the Wesleyan-Holiness vision, certainly no private spiritual discipline, takes the place of corporate worship. Worship is nor about primarily you or your bundle of felt needs, wishes, desires, good intentions, and the desire to escape the dull or threatening realities of life through a swooning spiritual experience. Worship is about God. We worship God because of who He is.

"Worship is not about performance! The worship leaders are nor there to keep us amused and entertained; they are not performers fishing for double encores. They are to guide us in offering a sacrifice of worship to God" (Tracy, in press, lesson 15).

The sacraments as means of grace. Though preaching-the sacrament of the Word--takes precedence over the sacrament of the Table, both the Lord's Supper and baptism are important in Wesleyan spirituality. Wesleyans celebrate two sacraments: baptism, the sacrament of initiation, and the Lord's Supper, the sacrament of sanctificarion. Proper practice of these sacraments would be an indirect indication of mature spirituality.

Face-to-face groups contribute much to Wesleyan-Holiness spirituality. Avoidance of classes, prayer groups, Bible studies, and the like would not be seen as a healthy sign. Wesleyans agree with Luciano de Crescenzo, who said, "We are, each of us, angels with only one wing, and we can only fly embracing each other" (Tracy et al., 2000, P. 127). George Whitefield, the famous evangelist who preached to more throngs than John Wesley, looked back dolefully on his career. "Brother Wesley acted wisely," he said. "The souls that were awakened under his ministry he joined in class, and thus preserved the fruits of his labor. This I neglected, and my people are a rope of sand" (Tracy et al., 1994, p. 139).

Faith mentoring and spiritual friendships. One of the problems with evangelical spirituality is that Christians have no one to talk to. This makes the Wesleyan tradition of soul friends and faith mentors a precious resource. Wesleyan spirituality is not made for hermits, monks, or ascetics. Not only was it designed to avoid such spiritual systems, it was designed in defiance of them. Wesley taught that the sanctified coal miner was every bit as holy as the ascetic fighting demons in the desert.

The Spiritual Disciplines of Service

Some traditions publish spiritual manuals with hardly a hint at service as a spiritual discipline. But in the Wesleyan tradition, service is as much a spiritual discipline as prayer. Maxie Dunnam put it this way in Alive in Christ (1982): "A spirituality that does not lead to active ministry becomes an indulgent preoccupation with self, and therefore grieves the Holy Spirit and violates the presence of the indwelling Christ" (p. 55). He was echoing the words of John Wesley: "We do not acknowledge him to have one grain of faith, who is not continually doing good, who is nor willing to 'spend and be spent' in doing all good. . . to all men" (1872/1978, Vol. 8, p. 271).


Freudian and Neo-Freudian reliance on insight counseling, that is, digging into one's past to see "what made us the way we are" so that this insight can set one free from the power the past holds over us, is a less than satisfactory approach. Wesleyan thought accents self-examination and honest confession, but this will not bring wholeness or holiness apart from divine grace.

Further, many psychological theories regard sin as a meaningless non sequitur. Wesleyan thought sees sin as the number one problem in the human predicament. More than insight, more than resolve, is required to solve this problem.

Wesleyan spirituality finds itself in opposition to the principle notions of much existential psychology and to the purveyors of popular postmodern spirituality. According to Reflecting God, a Wesleyan spiritual theology (Tracy et al., 2000), postmodern gurus, rebelling against vacuous secularism, seem to teach four doctrines. First, salvation will come from within you-not from some God or Savior "up there." Books like the Celestine Prophecy, films like The Color Purple, and songs like Mariah Carey's Hero teach this. Wesleyanism grants that God has endowed the person with many internal gifts-including the imago dei-but salvation comes from God alone. Second, God is in everything and everything in the universe is connected and thus good. This means that children, roses, and sunsets are all a part of God, and thus good, but so are rats and snakes and deadly bacteria. Wesleyanism claims that the Bible clearly teaches distinct differences between the Creator and the created. Third, we are virtual gods, evolving f rom homo sapien to homo divinus. Wesleyan-Holiness people appeal to the transcendence of God. Fourth, our destiny is to escape conscious personhood. We will rise above the strife and suffering of this life only when we lose personal consciousness and get absorbed into Nirvana, the great impersonal Over-soul of the universe. Then our personal identity will get lost like a drop of water flicked into the ocean. Wesleyans, on the other hand, believe that distinct personhood is part of the imago dei and thus is to be enhanced, nor muted or destroyed.

Wesleyan thought has much in common with psychology. For example, the belief in human freedom. Persons are--by prevenient grace-free and responsible. Further, along with Carl Rogers and others, Wesleyan thought says that there is something deep within the human personality that can be counted on to work toward health and wholeness. This is the image of God within. Wesley taught that there are some remains of the image of God in the worst of men. As Wesleyan thought has developed, it has become much more positive than the Anselmic notion that depravity has destroyed the image of God in humankind. Wesleyans teach the marred, but not destroyed image.


In Wesleyan-Holiness circles, pastors are regularly trained to refer parishioners or counselees to mental health professionals--Christian ones if available--when they see that the counselee has problems beyond the typical pastor's ability to solve. If, for example, the counselee seems on the brink of violence toward self or family, or exhibits extreme schizoid or paranoid behavior, or if the pastor thinks the disorder may spring from chemical imbalance, the pastor usually does not hesitate to refer to a mental health professional. Most pastors have a list at hand. Few have time for repeated and lengthy counseling schedules.

The hectic schedule of pastors often shoves them toward referring a counselee to the mental health professional too quickly. In doing this, the pastor forfeits a valuable tool for healing and wholeness that the clinical practitioner does not have--the church. The resources of worship, nurture, fellowship, face-to-face groups, faith mentors, soul friends-all these help make the church a healing community.

In the Wesleyan world view the threshold to the deeper spiritual life, to holiness, to Christlikeness for the born again believer is entire consecration, that is, complete and loving submission to God. That being the case, perhaps it is fitting to close with this prayer transcribed by Steven Harper (1981, Vol. 2, p. 355) from John Wesley's personal handwritten prayer journal.
 O Lord Jesus,
 I give thee my body,
 my soul,
 my substance,
 my fame,
 my friends,
 my liberty, and my life:
 dispose of me and all that is mine
 as it seems best to thee.
 I am now not mine, but thine:
 therefore claim me as thy right,
keep me as thy charge, and love me as thy child.
 Fight for me when I am assaulted,
 heal me when I am wounded,
 and revive me when I am destroyed.


Additional Reading


Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest. This book is the best devotional treatment of the sanctified life available today. First published in 1935, it has gone through many editions. One of the most recent, though not dated, is published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., Urichsville, OH.

Smith, H. W (1888). The Christian's Secret of a happy life. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company.

Wesley,J. (1978). A plain account of Christian perfection. In T. Jackson (Ed.), The works of John Wesley (3rd ed., Vol. 11, pp. 366445). Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press. (Original work published 1872)

Contemporary Works

(The "Reflecting God" materials are intended to be a comprehensive set of spiritual formation resources in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. These items are published by the Nazarene Publishing House/Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City under the auspices of the Christian Holiness Partnership.)

Reflecting God study Bible. (1999). Kansas City: Nazarene Publishing House/Beacon Hill Press.

Tracy, W. (2000). Reflecting God journal. Kansas City: Nazarene Publishing House/Beacon Hill Press.

Tracy, W. (2000). Reflecting God leader's guide. Kansas City: Nazarene Publishing House/Beacon Hill Press.

Tracy, W. (2000). Reflecting God workbook. Kansas City: Nazarene Publishing House/Beacon Hill Press.

Tracy, W., Cockerill, G., Demaray, D., & Harper, S. (2000). Reflecting God textbook. Kansas City: Nazarene Publishing House/Beacon Hill Press.

Tracy, W, Weigelt, M. A., Freeborn, E. D., & Tartaglia, J. (1994). The upward call: Spiritual formation and the holy life. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press. (Spanish and English editions available. This book gives more direct attention to matters relating to spiritual direction and guidance than the Reflecting God books.)

Weigelt, M. A., & Freeborn, E. D. (2001). Living the Lord's Prayer: Design for spiritual formation. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press. (This book is the fruit of 18 years of team teaching spiritual formation at Nazarene Theological Seminary by the authors.)


Exploring Christian holiness (Vols. 1-3). Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press.

Volume 1: The biblical foundations, W. T. Purkiser.

Volume 2: The historical development, P. M. Bassett & W M. Greathouse.

Volume 3: The theological formulation, R. S. Taylor.

Great holiness classics (Vols. 1-6). Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press. (Various dates and editors; Volume titles: Holiness teaching--New Testament times to Wesley, The Wesley century, Leading Wesleyan thinkers, The 19th-century holiness movement, Holiness preachers and preaching, and Holiness teaching today.)
Table 1

John Wesley's Christian Library

 Clement of Rome. Epistle to the Corinthians.
 Ignatius of Antioch. St. Ignatius's Epistles. (Six are included.)
 Macarius the Egyptian. Homilies. (Twentythree are included.)
 Saint Polycarp. Epistle to the Philip pians.

 Don Juan D'Avila. Spiritual letters.
 Miguel de Molinos. The spiritual guide which leads the soul to the
 fruition of inward peace.
 John Wesley. The life of Gregory Lopez.

 Anthoniette Bourignon. Solid Virtue.
 Jean Duvergier de Hauranne. Christian instructions.
 Jacques Joseph Duguet. Letters on morality and piety.
 Francois Fenelon. Explications of the maxims of the saints regarding
 the interior life.
 John Wesley. An extract of the life of Monsieur De Renty.
 John Wesley. Conversations with Brother Lawrence.

 Isaac Ambrose. The practice of sanctification.
 Richard Baxter. The saint's everlasting rest.
 Robert Bolton. A discourse on true happiness.
 Thomas Goodwin. A child of God walking in darkness.
 John Owen. Of communion with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy
 Henry Scougal. The life of God in the soul of man.
 Richard Sibs. The fountain opened, or the mystery of godliness revealed

 Thomas A'Kempis. The imitation of Christ.
 John Arndt. True Christianity.
 August H. Francke. Nicodemus or a treatise on the fear of man.

 Jonathan Edwards. Distinguishing marks of a work of the Spirit of God.
 Jonathan Edwards. The life of David Brainerd.
 Jonathan Edwards. Treatise on religious affections.

 William Law. A serious call to a devout and holy life.

Table 2

Spiritual Direction and Traditional Psychotherapy

 Dimension Spiritual Direction

Presenting Problem Sense of sin, alienation, guilt,
 shame, anomie,

Goals Transformation by the grace
 of God in Christ, wholeness,
 holiness, Christlikeness.

Procedure Guidance toward confession,
 repentance, and encounter
 with the transforming
 moments of saving and
 sanctifying grace. Guidance
 for the life-long transforming
 journey of spiritual formation.

Resources Personal Spiritual
 Disciplines: prayer, Bible
 study. Spiritual Disciplines of
 Community: worship,
 sacraments, face-to-face
 groups, fellowship, and
 service. Inner resource of the
 imago dei. Wisdom of the
 spiritual guide. Guidance of
 the Spirit.

 Dimension Psychotherapy

Presenting Problem Anxiety, fear, aimlessness,
 low self-esteem, alienation,
 depression, anti-social
 behavior, addiction

Goals Integration, becoming fully
 human, self-acceptance, self-

Procedure One-on-one counseling
 sessions exploring past and
 present problems.

 Group therapy.

Resources Insights, experience,
 education, and skill of the
 Inner resources of the human
 Insights from the counselee's
 past and present experiences.


The book of common prayer. (1979). New York: Church Hymnal Corporation.

Dunnam, M. (1982). Alive in Christ: The dynamic process of spiritual formation. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Dunning, H. R. (1988). Grace, faith and holiness: A Wesleyan systematic theology. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

Harper, S. (1985). John Wesley: Spiritual guide. Wesleyan Theological Journal, 20, 91-96.

Henderson, D. M. (1980). John Wesley's instructional groups. University Microfilms International, UMI No.8029228.

Matthaei, S. H. (1991). Faith-mentoring in the faith community. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Claremont School of Theology.

Steele, L. L. (1990). On the way: A practical theology of Christian formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Tracy, W D. (1988). John Wesley, spiritual director: Spiritual guidance in Wesley's letters. Wesleyan Theological Journal, 23, 148-162.

Tracy, W D. (1991). John Wesley: Preacher of holiness. Herald of Holiness, 80, 24-25, 32.

Tracy, W. D. (1993). The Nazarenes: Those radical optimists. Herald of Holiness, 82, 4-6.

Tracy, W D. (in press). The reflecting God journal. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

Tracy, W. D., Coeketill, G., Demaray, D., & Harper, S. (2000). Reflecting God. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City/Christian Holiness Partnership.

Tracy, W. D., Freeborn, E. D., Tartaglia, J., & Weigelt, M. A. (1994). The upward call: Spiritual formation and the holy life. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

Tracy,W D., & Ingersol, S. (1998). Here we stand. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

Weigelt, M. A., & Freeborn, E. D. (2001). Living the Lord's prayer: Design for spiritual formation. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

Wesley, J. (1960). The letters of the Rev. John Wesley, A. M. (Vols. 2-3, 5-8). (J. Telford, Ed.). London: Epworth Press.

Wesley,J. (1872/1978). The works of John Wesley, 3rd ed. (Vols. 5-6, 8, 11). (T. Jackson, Ed.). Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

Wesley, J. (n.d./1981). Expository notes on the New Testament (Vol. 1). Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

Willard, D. (1988). The spirit of the disciplines: Understanding how God changes lives. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.


TRACY, WESLEY 0. Address: 240 E. 129th Terrace, Kansas City, MO 64145. Degrees: BA, Southern Nazarene University; MA, University of Missouri at Kansas City; MDiv, Nazarene Theological Seminary; DMin, San Francisco Theological Seminary; STD, San Francisco Theological Seminary. Specializations: Writing on Christian adult education, preaching.

Correspondence regarding this arricle should be addressed ro Wesley D. Tracy, 240 E. 129th Terraee, Kansas City, MO 64145. E-mail:
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Author:Tracy, Wesley D.
Publication:Journal of Psychology and Theology
Date:Dec 22, 2002
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