There were no strangers in Wesley’s Methodism.

This entry is part 42 of 118 in the series Diagnosis, Dialogue, Decision: A DMin Project

Traditional Prairie DNA presumes that people know each other prior to church involvement. Robert Putnam’s research indicates that American networks of engagement are breaking down and that this loss of “social capital” is the primary cause of many serious social problems.[1] As the church is the primary builder of social networks, the decrease in social capital is both a cause and a result of the decline of church participation in America.[2] The church is failing in the work of building and maintaining the bridges of God between people.

            There were no strangers in Wesley’s Methodism. Wesley’s followers performed acts of mercy toward their neighbors and included them in lifelong small groups for ongoing support and encouragement. Today’s churches seek to attract strangers to worship where they come to know God but never come to know the person in the next pew. Members are encouraged to invite strangers to worship. Today’s churches prefer to perform acts of mercy to strangers whom they will never see again. The same act of kindness in the context of an ongoing relationship is far more influential and loving.





[1] The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through

[2][3] [4][5] [6][7] [8]

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

[1]Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000). Putnam’s work is described online at The Saguaro Seminar, Civic Engagement in America, (accessed August 17, 2007). For another description of the decline of social capital in neighborhoods, see Mary Pipher, The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families (New York: Ballantine Books, 1996), 82-107.

[2]Putnam, Bowling Alone, 65-79, 391-392, 408-410.

Series Navigation<< Ministry to strangers, like all addictions …The kingdom of God spreads from person to person within human networks of influence. >>
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