FM History & Polity – Assignment 1

Post a reflection on your reading of John Wesley's Class Meeting by D. Michael Henderson.  Don't for get to come pack after Wednesday and add comments to at least three of your fellow students posts.

9 Responses to “FM History & Polity – Assignment 1”

  1. Jim Lenaway says:

    Jim’s Reflections on
    ‘John Wesley’s Class Meeting”

    This book made quite an impression on me from a variety of avenues. First of all, even though I was a member of a United Methodist Church for 4 years and a Free Methodist Church for 5 years, I knew none of the information in the book, other than John Wesley started the Methodist Church (which is really not accurate). So, learning the true history was quite enlightening. I did know that John and Charles wrote thousands of hymns. The oft-repeated story I heard was that many of his lyrics/poems were put to tavern tunes of the day.

    The other impactful impression I had was the courage and commitment Wesley demonstrated throughout his adult life. His obedience and humility set quite an example. His realization that a “method” of training, guidance, and spiritual growth was needed after his and George Whitefield’s powerfully motivating preaching changed the world of England during the eighteenth century. He kept plowing forward in the face of societal and religious resistance.

    How embarrassing it is for the Church at large to have in its history such a long period of time when the working-class were greatly excluded from services. The poor and lower middle class would be hard-pressed to hear the good news without John Wesley.

    Although, I fully believe that creating a system to encourage, assist and guide new believers in spiritual growth was and is a fantastic concept, it did not sit well with me the way it was forced. My reaction to this probably is rooted in my Roman Catholic upbringing where I got the impression to do this and do that, and Jesus will like you.

    The societies, classes, and bands were genius for the culture of Wesley’s day in Britain. Many of the converts had little education much less the ability to grasp the Biblical concepts that the Wesley’s and Whitefield preached of in the fields. The “method” successfully reached and changed thousands that would otherwise have not been affected by Christianity, especially within the Anglican Church. These folks now were part of a group, a member of a family where they could support and pray for each other.

    The most striking element of the whole book to me is the question, “Where are the class meetings today in the Methodist church?”

    My wife was raised United Methodist. Much of our theater and singing ministry has been in Methodist churches. We were members ourselves for 9 years and never heard the phrase class meeting. The only thing close is the “Growth Groups” at Open Arms which only last 10 – 12 weeks at a time.

    My understanding, mistakenly, was that small groups were a recent development, typically in non-denominational, evangelical, contemporary churches.

    The growth groups at Open Arms, which we very much enjoyed, didn’t have some of the elements that Wesley established. Especially the closeness, openness and bond that would become established over long periods of time. There is some of that, but not to the extent the class meeting reached.

    With that in mind, I am encouraged to create “Life Groups” at B-Free. I had the pleasure of attending a Thursday night Life Group in San Antonio earlier this year. Because this band of folks had been meeting weekly for years, their depth of understanding each other, their ability to sense a person’s mood, the intimacy of their prayers, and their obvious spiritual growth were mind-blowing. As I sat there, I felt a desire to be more of part of this “family”. The connection was palpable.

    I believe that was what John Wesley was hoping for. A group of believers from all walks of life spending their lives together outside of a church building on this journey towards the cross.

  2. Matthew Argot says:

    Wow. I was not expecting quite the depth of relevance and understanding from Wesleys history and analysis. I’ll pick a few that stood out to me as I read through this book. I enjoyed much of it, knowing John Wesley as a historical figure and knowing some of facets of Wesleyan theology, but not knowing the depth of his history and complexity of the methodology he helped to for. I expected it to be historical and heady. It was that but it was a lot more which left me very pleasantly surprised.

    Early on in the history of John Wesley, I enjoyed the foundation within a foundation that his parents, and especially his mother Susanna created by setting him up well with a parenting foundation that was both intellectual, relational and intentionally structured. This resonated with me because it is something I credit my parents with and am trying to lead well in my life for my children. Knowing it set up John Wesley and his siblings well as they entered into lives of ministry is encouraging. I gained some confidence, ideas and a some personal challenge for how to teach and raise my own kids.

    I was amazed to see how complete Wesleys methodology became. Prior to this book, I knew Wesley was a pioneer and built some of the framework of the modern church, but I didn’t realize how far he came. There are parallels to about every facet of our modern day church ministries – events, small groups, sermons, childrens ministry, youth, and a good balance of lay leadership and formal. The structure was well thought out and relevant for the time, but it seemed to have the foresight to be built to flex/evolve without losing its core. The foundation of discipleship and knowledge was timeless, while the ability to adapt to the culture and circumstances was left open ended. I think this was well explained in the way some of Wesleys gathering specifically replaced other cultural events/habits of time, such as the Kingswood society partying at nights. Wesley brought in biblical, relevant alternatives without compromising the goals of the ministry.

    The pointed and relational aspects of Wesleys groups also stood out. His targeting of the poor, rowdy, rag-tag crowds echoes the same way Jesus spoke plainly to common people and equipped the most lowly into His trusted disciples. His structures to not just convert but to then mobilize discipleship and continually have checks and balances as groups progressed and evolved was personally challenging (And even a little daunting because I certainly don’t have that level of oversight and understanding for our church small groups) There is so much to glean from beginning to end to see folks take steps from faith, to integration, to service and then leadership.

    The history and analysis warrants future trips through this book. I expected more of a history lesson and instead found lots of insight and ideas that are perfectly relevant in todays modern church ministry. It wont collect dust for long, but will be tapped as a resource in the near future.

    • Jodi Hollamby says:

      I was also struck by how his parents raised him. Definitely note worthy!! 🙂

      • Jim Lenaway says:

        Matt – I agree with your comment that you gained confidence, ideas, and challenges to teach and raise your own kids. My children are all grown, but my grandkids live with us now and this book re-emphasized the need to lean into their lives with love and Biblical values.

  3. Jodi Hollamby says:

    This book was fascinating! I love how God started teaching and raising John up from the time he was a boy through his Mother who was very systematic and disciplined. Which was something that come in very handy for John later in life, but also taught him about grace.
    I really like that John was a person who wasn’t afraid to try things first. If it wasn’t working, then he pitched it. If some of it worked, he kept that part and made it better. Perhaps one of the most profound statements to me in the entire book was, “…Wesley’s dual standard for excellence was: Is it scriptural and does it work?” This is something that I ask myself on a continual basis as well. I was delighted that we had something in common.
    Being a part of a church that has had a small groups system in place for many years, I can vouch for the fact that this is the single most important system in my personal growth. Also, it is through these groups that I have seen lives change, relationships form and God’s family serve.

  4. Jim Lenaway says:

    I too appreciated Wesley’s understanding and regular use of grace. His courage towards trial and error with enough humbleness to make a change when needed was encouraging.

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