OK, so John Wesley didn’t actually write anything about online education. It just didn’t occur to him while riding on horseback or writing with a lantern.
But I am convinced that if Wesley were here today, he would reluctantly support online education. I say reluctantly because Wesley’s biases really were traditionalist. Did you know that he much preferred to preach in a physical church behind a physical pulpit? Did you know,that he did not want to start a new church? Did you know he didn’t want to ordain ministers in America?
The thing about Wesley, though, is that he could tell the difference between what was non-negotiable and what was only preferable. We repeatedly find him doing things that were less than preferable (to him) for the sake not only of spreading the gospel, but for the sake of seeing believers deepened in their faith and walk with Christ.
For these reasons, I am completely convinced that Wesley would be “all over” distance and online education if he were alive today. I can see him hesitating at first. At first, I can see him wondering whether you can really do spiritual formation in anything but a face to face format. At first, I can see him struggling to find ways to continue to get people to come to a college or seminary campus, maybe if only for intensive face to face experience.
But I think that phase wouldn’t have lasted long. In fact, I think he would have been into online education for at least 15 years by now. By now, he would have been utilizing it to its full capacity. By now, he would be trying to find ways to get smart phones into the hands of people in Sierra Leone or Bangladesh so they could study by phone. Sure, he would set up societies and bands on location to get the face to face in. But he would be using his considerable intellect to “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can” (technically, Wesley didn’t actually say this quote, but it fits him).
Business as usual ministry today is like insisting on preaching from a pulpit then. What are you doing in your ministry to do all the good you can in all the places you can to all the people you can?