Lessons from Oxford’s Holy Club
In the early eighteenth century John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield attended Oxford University where they formed what came to be know as “The Holy Club.”
It was a religious society built around extreme discipline. Together they created a great stir at Oxford as they applied rigorous standards of…
- discipline in Bible study,
- prayer, and
To be part of The Holy Club you had to…
- rise very early each morning,
- carry on rigorous devotions,
- At night you had to make notes in your journal,
- You had to fast twice a week, and
- You had to visit prisoners at the Oxford jail.
One night his colleagues looked out the window, and saw Whitefield outside kneeling in prayer with his face in the dirt. It began to rain, turning dirt to mud, but he continued to pray. These young men were, not surprisingly, ridiculed and jeered by fellow students.
John Wesley eventually organized the denomination that we today know as the Methodists. Charles Wesley, John’s younger brother, possessed a remarkable talent to write hymns, which eventually came to number nearly 8,000. Countless classics, like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” fill his portfolio of works. George Whitefield went on to become what many regard as the first true American celebrity. Whitefield’s dramatic preaching ignited the great spiritual revival in America which we know today as the Great Awakening of 1740. An estimated 80% of all American colonists heard him personally at least once.
By their own testimony, however, not one of them was converted to Christ until after leaving fabled Oxford University and The Holy Club.
It was not until two years later, as he lay ill in bed, that George Whitefield became born again.
Meanwhile, Charles and John Wesley went to Georgia from England where they tried to establish an orphanage, then tried to establish a religious colony at Savannah. They failed at both and returned to England.
John Wesley was asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?”
He replied, “I know he is the Savior of the world.”
He was asked, “But do you know he is your Savior?”
Unable to answer, he began to doubt his salvation. After leaving Georgia in failure he wrote in his Journal, “I went to America to convert the Indians, but who will convert me?”
Shortly afterwards, his brother Charles became a Christian. Three days later, while John was reading a commentary on Romans, he felt his heart “strangely warmed” and gave his life to Christ – five years after The Holy Club! Because it’s not enough to want to be good. You must be born again!
Each day, as you go to work, you rub shoulders with men who want to be good men—men who desire to be righteous. They are men like John, Charles, and George. They are not wicked. In fact, they sincerely want to do “the right things,” but they are misinformed.
As leaders, we must not call men to be righteous. We must call men to be born again. Jesus does want men to live righteous lives, but on a foundation of faith and out of the overflow of a growing love for Christ.
Together in the Battle for Men’s Souls,