John Wesley called it a class meeting. It’s had many different names. Regardless what it’s been called the act of gathering on a regular basis and asking of one another, “where do I see God in my life,” may very well be the best thing you can do to strengthen your faith short of moving into a monastery.
The church loves groups – no question about it! We have groups that are age-appropriate, interest-based, service-directed, and learning-oriented. We also “group” as women, men, youth and children. Some are about doing, some are about being, all are about being shaped as disciples of Jesus Christ… or are they? Have we become content to gain “information” and stopped short of allowing real “transformation?”
Kevin Watson, in his book The Class Meeting (Seedbed, 2014), makes the case that there’s not a lot of transformation going on in the life of the church, but there could be “if” – if we recover one of the core aspects of early and effective Methodism, The Class Meeting. Such meetings were the heart and soul of an earlier Methodist Church’s vitality.
In the 1798 Doctrines and Disciplines, Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury commented on their sense of the significance of the class meeting for Methodism: “It is the thing itself, Christian fellowship and not the name, which we contend for. The experience of about sixty-years has fully convinced us of its necessity; and we ourselves can say that in the course of an extensive acquaintance with men and things, and the church of God, for about twenty or thirty years we have rarely met with one who has been much devoted to God, and at the same time not united in close Christian fellowship to some religious society or other [meaning a small group like the class meeting]…
“We have no doubt, but meetings of Christian brethren for the exposition of scripture texts, may be attended with their advantages. But the most profitable exercise of any is a free inquiry into the state of the heart” (emphasis added). The Class Meeting is worth a 21st century re-examination! Why do we not gather together to share the details of our walk as Christians? Perhaps, with thanks to our friends from Texas, we’ve become “all hat and no cattle!” Or are we more “talk” than “walk?” Who better learn “the walk” from than others “walking the walk?”
WesleyMen are interested in facilitating the growth of the small group which recovers the core aspects of early Methodism. Soon you will find articles with a wide range of topics. We hope to have expert advice, reading recommendations, and testimony from leaders who have made small groups work to transform their interaction with God and neighbor.