Wesleyan leaders are pursuing creative missional work with the purpose of reaching those who are missing from Christ and his church. More and more are taking discipleship and multiplication seriously. New leaders, lay and clergy, have felt called to initiate and guide ministry that doesn’t look and act like the majority of modern church structures. This season invites The Wesleyan Church to clarify what is most essential in our ecclesiology (theology of the church) in order to allow for expanding discipleship and multiplication movements.

We want to give guidance to three essential questions that are behind the question “What’s a church?”:

Question 1: What is the church in the biblical and historical sense?

Question 2: What is counted as a church according to The Wesleyan Church?

Question 3: What are the best practices of a healthy Wesleyan church?

Question 1: What is the church in the biblical and historical sense?

The Wesleyan Church has defined the church as “the entire body of believers in Jesus Christ, who is the founder and only Head of the Church.”1 The church, then, “…includes both those believers who have gone to be with the Lord and those who remain on the earth.” Wesleyans summarize simply the tasks of the church on earth as follows: “…to preach the pure Word of God, properly administer the sacraments according to Christ’s instructions, and live in obedience to all that Christ commands.”2

Question 2: What is counted as a church according to The Wesleyan Church?

This next question really deals with the organization of churches into bodies that are a part of our denomination. The answer to our first question clarifies that something may be a church in the eyes of God and our doctrine, yet not qualify as an organized “local church” for Wesleyans.

Helpfully, the qualifications are not overburdensome, as The Wesleyan Church defines for us in just 20 words that a local church is considered to be “a body of believers formally organized on gospel principles, meeting regularly for the purposes of evangelism, nurture, fellowship, and worship.”3

The function of local churches for Wesleyans are as follows:

  1. a body of Christian believers who hold the faith set forth in the Articles of Religion
  2. who have been duly received as members of The Wesleyan Church
  3. formally organized according to its Discipline
  4. acknowledge the ecclesiastical authority of The Wesleyan Church
  5. support its worldwide mission
  6. meet together regularly for the purposes of evangelism, nurture, fellowship and worship

These local churches can be structured in a variety of ways as approved by a district board, the authority over the formal organization of a church noted in No. 3 and No. 4 above. There is a good amount of freedom to be creative and innovate within these bounds. It should be noted here that a church can form as a developing church even prior to receiving members, for instance, so even No. 2 above has freedom built into it.

Question 3: What are the best practices of a healthy Wesleyan church?

While the first two questions deal with what might be most critical to the formation of a church in a variety of forms, many churches will want to know what best practices exist that make a Wesleyan Church healthy. When the answers to the previous questions are things like “evangelism, nurture, fellowship, and worship” one might ask, “what do those four things look like?”

What follows, then, might be a helpful place to start. They are arranged each as questions to ask yourself as a leader about your church. If the answer is yes, then it is a good sign of health. If the answer is no, then it is an area to give attention to in the development of your church.

Questions which lead to the best practices of a healthy Wesleyan church:

  • Are the disciples being equipped to make disciples?4
  • Are the believers set apart as holy and equipped to use their spiritual gifts?5
  • Are there people committing to follow Christ and being baptized among us?6
  • Are we an intentional witness in communities nearby and around the globe?7
  • Do we have regular gatherings so believers might learn to apply the Bible to their lives?8
  • Is there united fellowship in the presence of God: Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?9
  • Do gatherings include regular prayer, the Lord’s Supper and teaching of the gospel?10
  • Is there intentional progress toward sending out leaders and multiplying new churches?11
  • Is there accountability to ensure proper governance and doctrinal clarity?12


Sited sources:

  1. See The Discipline 240
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Matthew 28:19-20; also see this resource for clarifying questions on discipleship
  5. Ephesians 4:11-16; Romans 12:6-8; The Discipline 518.5
  6. Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 1:16, 6:1-4, 10:14; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 2 Peter 3:8-10; The Discipline 518.2
  7. Micah 6:8; Matthew 5:16; Acts 1:8; The Discipline 518.3
  8.  Acts 2:42; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 6:33; Hebrews 10:25; 2 Timothy 3:16; Luke 22:14-23
  9. Matthew 28:19-20; 210; The Discipline, Article of Religion 1
  10. Acts 2:42; Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 2:5; 1 John 4:11-12
  11. Acts 1:8
  12. Matthew 18:15-20; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 2:1-22; The Discipline 518.5