Allison Norman narrates how an old, tattered book held together by blue painter’s tape, given to her by her pastor, changed her life. That book was The Radical Wesley by Howard Snyder.
My pastor handed me a book a few months back. From the looks of its cover, his old, tattered book held together by a peeling piece of blue painters’ tape seemed like it would be a snoozer. Let me tell you folks, it was actually a game-changer.
I love stories. I’m a real nerd about them. But I’ll be honest, church history and renewal is really not my cup of tea. Normally, I stay well within the realm of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and the Chronicles of Narnia (hey, I warned you, total nerd!). Furthermore, every church book or Christian book I endeavored to read, I’ve never finished. There is a shelf of half-read books pleading for me to pick them back up, but to no avail. This book broke that mold—well, more like blew that mold up and completely redefined the genre for me.
I finished it in two days.
I flipped through pages as though they were a meal for a famished traveler returning home, tasting and savoring every word. I guzzled down the remarkable stories of how God moved through Wesley and his bootstrapped gang of outcasts and rebels, reviving the faith and transforming the social woes of the Kingdom of Great Britain. With every story and every novel detail about Wesley’s ministry, my mind raced with ideas, thoughts, and dreams of modern-day parallels. Each facet of Wesley’s work unearthed the same repeating questions within me: “What would this look like for our church?” and “What if?” What took me most by surprise, was not the whirlwind of ideas, nor the unlikely dreams that God alone could carry out, but it was that this unassuming book awoke a calling within me as well.
Months earlier, I attended a perspective student event for a seminary, not because I wanted anything to do with seminary, but because my pastor asked me to go. He said he wanted to introduce a team representing the seminary to some of the leaders of the church. I was already halfway through a graduate program for social work and ready to be done with school forever. I thought nothing of it until my pastor’s dad, Pastor Dan, planted a seed.
One day after church, he asked when I was putting in my application for seminary. Laughing at the very thought, I told him I needed to finish this degree before pursuing another – it was my way of saying, never. I have no idea if he said it jokingly or if he was serious, but I wasn’t going to ask because I didn’t want that answer. I buried the thought deep inside my head and tried to smother it, block it from all light. It didn’t matter though, Pastor Dan planted a seed – a seed that waited through the winter for the warmth of spring to bring it to life.
This book was spring for me. Throughout the book, I couldn’t shake the thought, “when are you putting in your application to seminary?” With each passing page, this call was like the opening lines of Regina Spektor’s “The Call”: It started out as a feeling/Which then grew into a hope/Which then turned into a quiet thought/Which then turned into a quiet word/And then that word grew louder and louder/’Til it was a battle cry.
And just like that an old, tattered book awoke a calling, growing a feeling into a battle cry. God is calling me to be a pastor one day and he did so through this small book.
So, you are wondering what the name of the book is, aren’t you? The Radical Wesley.