Who exactly is this John Wesley?

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John Wesley (1703-1791) founded Methodism. He was born to a strong Anglican family and was ordained in the Anglican ministry after graduating from Oxford where he was a fine scholar. Wesley had his share of disappointments in the earlier part of his life, but after his "strangely warmed" experience he found himself empowered by the Holy Spirit to take the Gospel to all who would hear him, and especially those who did not want to come to church or were not welcomed by the church.

His followers first met in private home "societies", and when these societies became too large for members to care for one another, Wesley organised "classes", each with 11 members and a leader. These classes met weekly to pray, read the Bible, share their spiritual lives, and to collect money for charity. Wesley urged in one of his later sermons: "Yea, while you have time, do all the good you can unto all men."

Wesley did not intend to found a new denomination, but the movement grew quickly, as did his critics, who called Wesley and his followers "Methodists". Wesley was both a prolific writer and a fervent itinerant preacher. For Wesley, "the world (was his) parish", as he travelled more than 4,000 miles annually on horse-back, criss-crossing the length and breadth of Great Britain.

Much of his teachings may be found in his sermons. By the time Wesley died in 1791 at the age of 88, there were close to 72,000 British members and over 43,000 American members, more than 490 preachers on both sides of the Atlantic and 19 missionaries. Today, there are more than 30 million Methodists worldwide.