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.

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

  1. Brenda Libreatori says:

    Libreatori 1

    Pastor Brenda Libreatori
    John Wesley’s Class Meeting
    15 October 2019

    My Personal Reflections on John Wesley’s Class Meeting

    Growing up, I had always heard about John Wesley. With being raised in the Methodist church, of course, I did. However, what I had heard about him was that he was on fire for God and that he “would be turning in his grave” because of the way the church had gone. Forty-five years later, I had still only known very little about him, but not now. This book from page one caught my attention and my heart. What can I learn from it? How do I put it into practice in the here and now? If it worked in the 1700s, can it work again?
    It seems to me that John Wesley came to the same understanding of “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means win some” as the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 9:22). As he looked at his nation, the nation of England, he wanted to remedy the moral ills. He understood the only way that could happen was there had to be a spiritual awakening. His education and background had not caused him to believe that he was only sent to aid the educated and elite of his day. Instead, he allowed God to stretch him beyond his own comfort zone to the masses. “Wesley took his appeal to the common people of England, and on their own turf and in their own terminology” (Henderson). That’ll preach! The other thing that caught my attention was the training he had received at home: Biblical knowledge through his father and his mother did not allow rebellion, stubbornness, or deliberate disobedience (Henderson). His mother felt about those behaviors the way that God does. I believe, the way his parents trained him at home had very much helped him to fulfill the calling of God on his life. A lesson for all Christian parents:
    Libreatori 2

    It matters what we do in our homes with our children. We can either do it God’s way, according to the Word of God. Or we can do it our own way. Regardless, we will reap the results! I found it interesting that although John Wesley was educated and knew the Bible very well, he was not “born again” until he was challenged by the Moravians. He knew about Jesus intellectually, but not intimately. His whole relationship with God was based on works, not on faith. Again, he could have allowed his pride to stand in the way of his salvation, but he didn’t. Through the Moravians, he also saw the benefit to having women in ministry. John Wesley could have said “we have never done that before.” Even though he had an analytical mind, his heart was open to try different things, which he did. If he saw it wasn’t working, then he was willing to put it aside and try another method. I like the fact that he didn’t care for preaching that made moral demands on the people without following through with specific instruction. And that he believed in cleanliness in their person, homes, and clothes. A man after my own heart! I think that John Wesley had a good handle on how it was done in the early church and that is what he kept going after. I feel that many pastors, in this day and age, are caught up in numbers, comparisons, and being relevant to our culture. Jesus did not call us to be relevant to our culture. He called us to make a difference and change our culture, which is what John Wesley did in his time through the methods he had tried and proved. I believe, we are ripe for revival in our nation as long as the spiritual leaders of our day will listen to the Holy Spirit and do it God’s way. It has been done before and it can be done again, but not by man’s ideas. Several years ago, the Lord spoke to me and said “my house is in disrepair, my house is in disrepair, my house is in disrepair.” So, what do I do with that? Do I say, “well that’s a shame but I’m just one person, what can I do?” Or do I seek Him until I have His answer to the problem?
    Libreatori 3

    As I read this book, I thought, Lord, is this the answer? In John Wesley’s Class Meetings and bands, it gave opportunity for leaders to be raised up and used by the Lord, it wasn’t just about a “pastor.” I believe, in our western thinking, the pastor is the main man or woman, who is supposed to build the church, bring in the people, and raise the finances etc. This book has given me much to think about and question. John Wesley was much more than a man on fire for God and, I do not think, he is turning in his grave. I think, he is cheering us on from the grandstands of heaven and saying go back to the basics, return to your first love, submit to God, and go win souls!

    Libreatori 4

    Works Cited
    “1 Corinthians 9:22.” King James Bible.
    Henderson, D. Michael. A Model for Making Disciples: John Wesley’s Class Meeting. Francis Asbury Press, 1997.

    • Sherry Brzezinski says:

      I love the reference to change can only come from a spiritually awakening, I can attest that in my life I tried to change so many times but until God awakened in me that conviction it was then the change was made. I also can relate to how amazing Wesley’s upbringing was. I strive to help my children find and experience their own faith but I love how his mother saw her home as a small church to shepherd. You gave amazing insight to how he allowed God to stretch him which makes me think even people of great knowledge and methods have need to be changed/stretched.

      • Eric Brown says:

        Great reflection, I agree about Wesley turning in his grave. Though there is plenty to grieve over concerning the state of today’s church, we all know Who our Savior is and what He is capable of!

        I love that you reflected on Wesley’s being “born again”. That testimony in his life was a great encouragement to me. I felt the same way for so long, understanding so much about Christian faith and Scripture but still knowing that there was something missing. I believe that it is absolutely necessary to press in and experience God for yourself before you can truly follow Him. Intellect goes by the wayside once that experience comes. It’s a testimony of the simplicity of the Gospel that a man as intelligent as Wesley had to put it all aside to come to a place of simple faith in the revelation of what Jesus had done for him.

    • Becca Hanke says:

      Brenda your experience in the Methodist church is fantastic, to see what was being discussed when you were growing up is good to recall! I did not grow up in the Methodist church so hearing from your experience too is great. As for your question, which I believe you have the answer to but in my limited opinion, can this be used in the present? I believe and pray that it can. His ability to reach the poor was revolutionary, without knowing it I think we have slowly pushed the poor out of our line of sight. We tend to fear what we do not know or understand, so often times we do not push forward into those uncomfortable broken places like poverty for fear of many things I think. But I do believe that doing community with all walks of life, the poor, the broken, the addicted and so on is like Wesley mentioned is the foundation of his system; he imitated Christ. And in that description alone is the beauty in what Christ has called us to be, like him.

    • Michael Ratchford says:

      I also thought it was really interesting that he didn’t go for the “churched elite”. He sought after people who needed Jesus, and his focus on reaching out to the poor emulated that. I feel that people today have the same tendencies that the religious elite had in Wesley’s age. We don’t always want to get our hands dirty, but we should live by Wesley’s example and represent Jesus to people who are hurting and distressed.

    • Tina Phillips says:

      I agree with the questions you have raised. As I read the book, I also thought this is still the answer….on several occasions….to how the church can effectively operate. We have been so blessed in our church to have a great model of authority delegated to both men and women, spread across many people, with differing layers. It amazes me to think that John Wesley had that vision back then, that is still needed today so that we can reach more people.

    • Ana Acosta says:

      I didnt know John Wesley other than my former Pastor in NY holding high esteem for him and quoting him at times….I too am impressed with the level of education John Wesley received and his success in reaching so many during perilous times. For one thing , his upbringing at home and the discipline he received… he was not afraid of changes , but did fear speaking in public…I could relate to that…all of his training … was in preparation for Gods work. …It starts in the homes , I agree, that we need to return to basics in the church and if we really want to see a revival it starts in the hearts of man. We need to repent and get right with our Lord,..and when we do, we will be able to reach many for the kingdom of God. John Wesley knew that….he devoted himself to doing the will of God at a young age . I am bless to be a part of the family of the Free Methodist Church.

  2. Eric Eliason says:

    I thought the same thing you did. Is this history to be more a part of our future? Get more back to the “roots” in some areas? Not just disciple making but disciple growing? Good stuff

  3. Sherry Brzezinski says:

    My Reflection on John Wesley’s Class Meeting: A Model for Making Disciples, by D. Michael Henderson
    By Sherry Brzezinski

    John Wesley was a well-rounded, educated man who was taught liberal education and classical language by his father. He and his siblings were taught to read the New Testament in Greek by the young age of 10. Wesley would meet with his mother weekly and talk with her about his spiritual growth. Henderson describes Wesley’s mother Susanna as viewing her family as a small church and she tended to the spiritual needs of her children weekly. Sharing with her each week. Those meetings seemed to have such an effect on him that even while in Oxford John Wesley recognizes his need for a method to continue in his achievement of holiness. His very strict upbringing that also allowed room for recognizing where he was spiritually and where he needed to go was a great beginning to Methodism.
    Wesley continues on his journey towards perfectionism and keeps himself on a rigid schedule with a two hour daily spiritual reflection, but he finds himself longing for something more. I think that we all look and long for something larger than ourselves as introspection can only take us so far. Wesley having such a healthy spiritual group (family) growing up he longed to share his spiritual struggles with likeminded people. One of his colleagues and fellow Holy Club member, George Whitefield that is an open air preacher asks Wesley to take over his evangelism. It is in this experience that he recognizes the state that the people and the church are in. The church itself had become almost a ritual that the high scholars frequented. Alcoholism had consumed the poor including children and Wesley saw a great opportunity to call sinners to repent. The problem that he found was how to begin change and keep the people moving towards a better, holier way of life.
    Wesley comes to meet the Moravian’s that influence him in understanding that faith is a gift from God and transformation through conversion could be attained by anyone who seeks after it (Henderson). Wesley began to see that by meeting regularly like the Moravian’s and pushing towards change in behavior after conversion a person could work towards holiness. He experiments some with the Moravian’s but cannot get completely on board with their beliefs.
    After much trial and error Wesley sets forth in motion the society, small group, and bands, and even some outlying groups to tune into special needs of the people. The society would present the doctrines and teachings needed to consider and the small groups would dive deeper into that instruction. Finally the bands, He found that if he put people that were alike together in small groups they could speak freely and without judgement of their spiritual state. By doing so the group could “bear one another’s burdens”, Galatians 6:2 and help facilitate change in behavior. Each person had the ability to speak of their sin and where they were struggling. The others in the group would help them to walk through this change and pray for them.
    As I read through this book and saw Wesley lay out Methodism I was in awe of how distinctly our society looks similar and are still struggling with much of the same that Wesley saw in his day. Poverty and alcoholism plague our world just as it did then. I also saw that our church is very much in agreement with these methods from so long ago. Our church currently has 10 small groups that meet weekly for instruction. This has become a forward moving groups that are seeking changed behavior through the study and conversation of scripture and our personal walk with Jesus. What I see we need more of is the accountability groups where we can feel safe and free to talk about the state that our souls are in without judgement that we can work towards and attain holiness. The churches as a whole from the time I was young focused more on a mask of perfection and if anything in your life was difficult then you must have done something to deserve such wrath. Because of this mask of perfection the church lost their raw and real brokenness that could be related to and used for the glory of God. I am glad that I belong to a conference and church that is not afraid to be real and is so accepting of people right where they are at. I think John Wesley would be thrilled that we are working together towards holiness. As Henderson says, “Since moral improvement was Methodism’s stock and trade, oppressed and destitute people were its raw material.” We need to reach these people that are so desperate for Jesus. I feel we can do this by the instruction of the sermons of our pastors and then following up in small groups. This is also a natural way to make disciples because as I am disciple I then in turn disciple those around me. Wesley took the simple act of Jesus with his disciples and modeled that for us in the world today.

    Works Cited
    John Wesley’s Class Meeting: A Model for Making Disciples, by D. Michael Henderson

    • Michael Ratchford says:

      I love how you mention, “introspection can only take you so far”, it’s so true! Wesley experience it with the Moravians. Although, I still find that a lot of people feel comfortable in their introspection, myself included. It always seems to me easier to keep to myself rather than sharing my faith or telling other people about Jesus. But, just like Jesus called Peter out on to the water, as Christ followers we get called out of the boat as well. We need to become more comfortable doing the uncomfortable when Jesus calls us out of our own boats.

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      Sherry, I also loved the discipling through small groups. It is truly in authenticity and accountability that real growth in Christ happens. I agree that by “shedding the mask” of perfection and just simply showing the love of Christ will draw the broken people that we need to desperately need to seek out to Him and the hope of salvation.

    • Tina Phillips says:

      Sherry, I agree that small groups really do lead to growth. The sharing that happens in these groups helps bonds develop. Sometimes they lead to greater accountability, but not always.

      From my own experience I agree with Wesley in that the leader sets the tone in the class meetings / growth groups. When the leaders steps out in faith and shares, the other group members do the same.

  4. Eric Eliason says:

    Yeah I agree about needing more accountability group setting where we can share freely our struggles and victories without fear of judgment or ridicule. That’s a tough thing to do, fear keeps us from being open with each other and we know where that comes from!

    • Brenda Libreatori says:

      Yes! I believe that small groups for accountability and honesty are a must. So that people can be unmasked and be who God intended us to be.

    • Eric Brown says:

      It is a hard thing to do and its sad. As a culture we’ve become very good at putting up emotional walls. I believe that labeling things such as social anxiety disorder, clinical depression, ADHD, and other similar “conditions” just add to the difficulty today of addressing what is really a spiritual condition. Healing is found in Jesus, not in mystery medicines; and Jesus works through the community of believers.

  5. Eric Eliason says:

    John Wesley’s Class Meeting

    I was immediately taken by surprise reading about the total and complete lack of morality in the time Wesley was living. To read that the industrial revolution was so destructive to families and especially children was remarkable. When I read alcohol abuse was going on even among the children I found it hard to grasp, I couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around that thought and struggle to envision it.
    To try and imagine children of four and five years old working in factories is a big enough stretch for me but some of the other goings on are beyond my abilities. To paint such a dark picture of that period of time really put in perspective the magnitude of the work Wesley had in front of him. The church at the time only catered to the wealthy for the most part which is the exact opposite of the ministry of Jesus and I wonder how it had gotten off track so far? I guess when government ”subsidizes” the church trouble is on the way. Control over who could preach and what they could say Is surely a recipe for disaster. Wesley’s upbringing was quite a controlled atmosphere to say the least, I tried to imagine what his parents would have thought about PlayStation and cell phones! The amount of discipline they had in the home as kids was remarkable. However It was really awesome to see how those lessons would guide his approach to discipleship. It’s funny to think “Methodists” was used as a slang or negative connotation to describe one of his early group meetings. I find it amazing that Wesley, considering his upbringing and his relentless pursuit of scriptural knowledge was so remarkably able to see other ways of doing things and just seem to adapt to them and use them in his own ministry fluidly. He wasn’t afraid to fail it seems and he was not at all afraid to step out of his norm and try something that would have been a stretch for him. To see him adopt field preaching after seeing how it was done by Whitefield. ” The very settlers which Wesley had alienated by his offensive high-churchmanship, Whitefield brought into regular worship and some degree of piety. For example, Whitefield baptized by sprinkling some children whose parents had forbidden Wesley to baptize, because he insisted on immersion even in the dead of winter”. This is a great example of the contrast between the two and instead of becoming hardened by the experience Wesley was humble and changed how he would deal with people in order to reach more with the important truths, yet he still was able to use his structure and discipline to advance whatever new ideas he was working in. Very thought provoking and enlightening book for sure.

    • Becca says:

      Your example between Whitefield and Wesley made me chuckle, when I read it in the book as well! My first reaction was silly men. hahaha Think they can baptize babies in the dead of winter! But in all seriousness his ability to see his weaknesses and adapt or change them is a feat within itself. Especially for the time, where leaders where not quick to change their ways. Also because I think in a leader we tend to overlook that quality but one of the greatest traits in a leader is their ability to take ownership of their short comings and move forward.

    • Michael Ratchford says:

      I thought this was really interesting too. The Industrial Revolution uprooted so many families with the promise of living wages, so many people sold their land and started new lives with so much hope just to be left with nothing. No wonder the Jesus movement exploded in these communities! They really needed to know how God really cared for them despite their situations.

    • Sherry Brzezinski says:

      The perspective you give of Wesley not being afraid to fail was such a great insight. It made me think how much more effective would we all be if we just continued pressing towards the goal of the ministry. If we fail, we change some things as Wesley did and press on until we find what gives us results. Often I equate my failure with a loss, when instead I should learn from the failure and continue on towards the goal! Thanks for a great perspective and reminder that obedience to God and continuing on pressing towards our goal is always a success.

    • Brenda Libreatori says:

      Your reflection about four and five year old’s working in factories in that time made we think. In this day and age in America we would never even think about putting children to work in factories but because of drug abuse (just to name one factor) how many children in our nation are suffering neglect and abuse? Just like God called out John Wesley in those dark days, He is calling us out, to stop cursing the darkness and turn on the light, by being the light!

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I also agree that it took great courage it took for Wesley to go against the grain to minister to a whole people group whom everyone overlooked, had cast aside and counted out. And to have the humility to be adaptable; he didn’t fear failure, he knew the objective was greater than the method. The method was the servant.

  6. Becca Hanke says:

    I enjoyed this book a great deal. Being a part of the Free Methodist Church now for a little over two years and working in ministry I had no idea the history and foundations of the church. I have to say as I read of his life I saw similarities to my own pastor in how he leads us as a team. A few things I was not aware of now had any knowledge of was the influence of the Moravian’s, social evil is not resisted but overcome with good and I found it interesting the early morning work society.
    My first knowledge of the Moravians was when I first moved to North Carolina when I was in my early 20s. I thought they were so mystical and strange with lots of strange ideas. Seeing how they influenced Wesley’s thought process was interesting. What I also found interesting was that he took their good qualities, being more in touch with their faith as one and disposed of their lesser qualities, like casting lots or their tendencies toward mysticism. Which leads me into my second item I found interesting, social evil is not resisted but overcome.
    I doubt you could call the Moravians evil but the common link here is in the way I was raised. I was raised very legalistically. It was encouraged that all other sects of Protestantism were wrong when I was growing up. it was also encouraged to resist evil and to kept completely away from it. That could have been one reason I dove straight into it. Regardless I still have tendencies to see things as black or white (not race), but to see things are right or wrong. Evil is bad so you must stay away. Moravians are wrong therefore we can not learn anything from them, but that isn’t true. God’s commission to us was to go into the nations and speak the good news, not only to those who are relatively good or appear to be “good” but to all. It is something I have to constantly tell myself everyday to keep my legalism in check.
    The last piece I listed as interesting was the early morning work society intended on helping those going to work live and show Christ to their fellow workers. I don’t know why but I feel like this is revolutionary! Not only for that time which I am sure was needed but even for today. I believe a lot of people have good intentions leaving the church on Sunday but then they get sucked into the grind of day to day life. I think this is a cool idea to keep one focused on the bigger vision and mission of God, which is to share God’s love.
    I found the whole book interesting but these were just a few of the points I found extra interesting! Thank you in advance to anyone who comments, I value your opinion and perception!

    • Brenda Libreatori says:

      Thank you for the reminder everything is not black and white right or wrong. I have had to learn that lesson. I agree that we get sucked into the grind of the day and forget we are missionaries at our jobs the store etc. Good stuff! Thanks

    • Eric eliason says:

      Love it Becca being able to use particular portions of what as a whole might be a bit off is an ability the church lacks greatly. Just because secular institutions don’t do everything how God wants it done doesn’t mean everything they do is wrong or cannot be used to Gods glory!!

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I also loved reading about his connections with the Moravians and that he eventually entered into his own salvation due to their work! Just more proof of the idea of “eating the watermelon and spitting out the seeds”. Just because we don’t agree with a whole theology or ideology doesn’t mean we can’t learn and receive from the Lord through it.

    • Carey Pifer says:

      The early morning work society, intrigued me as well. It is so easy to get sucked in the daily grind. Wesley’s vision to help the working class was amazing to me. He broke the mold of the normal church experience by creating a system that addressed true needs of the communities he was serving.

    • Marne McAvoy says:

      Hey Becca, I too appreciated how Wesley could learn from others even when he did not agree with all they did. He took the good and tossed the bad. As I have heard before, he ate the hay and spit out the sticks. 🙂 …. Praying for the eye to see the God things all around me!

  7. Eric Brown says:

    I greatly admire Wesley’s approach to ministry. He always seemed to approach it with a sense of curiosity and experimental mindset. He was very methodical in how he managed things, yet he kept a sense of flexibility and openness. I suppose what I love most about his approach is that he never got so rigid in his doctrine that he wouldn’t consider another point of view. Wesley’s methods developed through interaction between many different trains of thought on how to approach God. He carefully studied those trains of thought and judged them against Scripture and put into action those things that he could verify with the written Word of God. He had an amazing understanding that God could speak through anyone and anything and found a great balance of being able to hear the experiential Word of God and filter it though the written Word to be sure that he was hearing correctly before he acted on it.

    Wesley’s dedication to his mission statement to spread Scriptural holiness throughout the land was impressive. It seems rare to find such discipline these days. The Spirit he operated in was both very unmoving on certain fronts, and yet very humble, submissive and gentle on other fronts. While he made no allowances for sinful behavior and confronted it dead on in his messages, he also understood very well the human condition and showed great compassion for those learning to turn from sin. God had certainly given him the anointing to do what it is he did in England.

    I can see why it is that the class meetings were so successful and played such an important role in turning the destiny of an entire nation, and I wonder if such a thing would be possible to achieve in todays culture with as busy as we make ourselves by never being unplugged from the outside world. However one thing is for sure, the practice of holiness will never succeed outside of community, which was a strong conviction of Wesley’s. I believe there is great value in studying the system that God graced Wesley to put in place and consider how it is we could adapt it to our modern culture. Without deep and personal connections and the regular accountability to live out a holy lifestyle we are all open to deception. Deeply connected community is a treasure we seem to have all but lost in our event driven church culture.

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I did love how he was a student of other movements and didn’t disregard anything he studied or learned from them. Whether it was a classroom setting or on the mission field, the field preaching or the charismatic meetings. He took it all back to form, I believe, the best methodology of true discipleship: small group instruction and shared experience of the Christian walk.
      “Without deep and personal connections and the regular accountability to live out a holy lifestyle we are all open to deception” -Amen!

    • Becca Hanke says:

      I do think that his flexibility was impressive. To take ownership of his methods but never too much that he disposed of change or better logic or the holy spirits movement. I think that is a trait few have, to have ownership but to be correctable at the same time. Good stuff Eric!

    • Sherry Brzezinski says:

      I would agree that Wesley has such an experimental mindset. I love that about him. He also seemed to just take what he learned and moved forward. He didn’t seem to look back on failures but pressed on towards the mission.

  8. Michael Ratchford says:

    I love seeing the back story to what we do as a church. When I first started reading, I was really excited to figure out this age old ministry trick that would bring new life to the church, or some forgotten nugget of wisdom that would revolutionized church ministry, and I was a little disappointed at first to realize that the trick is just small groups. This isn’t nearly as exciting as I’d hoped it’d be. But reading on, it was amazing to hear about how it really did revolutionized church ministry. In Wesley’s time, no one else was ministering to the poor like the Methodist, no one else was doing ministry at the same level as the Methodists, and it didn’t seem like anyone was as successful as the Methodist in the same task! All of this credited to Wesley’s “method” approach and class meeting (and the Holy Spirit of course!). The concept seems so simple now, but that’s only because churches all over the world adopted his methods due to their success. I think the class meeting was so successful for three main reasons. One is that class meetings were focused on sharing and prayer rather than spiritual teaching, two, because they maintained small local groups and three because of the abundance of entry level leadership positions.

    I think the focusing on sharing and prayer is so important because this was not a part of daily life for most of the people in the groups. In such depressed communities, it seems the popular method for dealing with emotions was fairly toxic. Class meetings were an opportunity for the members to speak their minds and maybe even vent a little bit, while the leader could keep the group on task and keep Jesus the focus of the conversation. By not focusing on teaching, the leader was able to know and understand each member and pray more intentionally for each of them.
    Small local groups were also valuable because it gave the members relationship. They were all seeking after the same things, in the same areas, and maybe even working on some of the same assembly lines. It gave all of the members a higher level of accountability, and made it easier for them to stay in contact throughout the week. Keeping the groups small, between 10 and 12 people, allowed everyone the opportunity to speak every meeting and have their voices heard.
    The third major reason class meetings were so successful was because of the leadership opportunities that were available. Members who were growing in faith and certainty had the ability to serve and take ownership of their faith. They could put into practice what they had been learning at church by praying for and listening to the people around them. They could see the difference being made in people’s lives because of Christ being taught to the masses. Entry level leadership is vital to the growth of a church because it multiplies the leaders ability to reach more people. The idea of class meetings was born out of Wesley’s need to reach all of the churches membership. Wesley knew he couldn’t do it himself. The church was growing too fast for him to meet each member personally. Class meeting allowed him to empower others to do it for him. More people became empowered to lead which created the opportunity for more people to be invested in.
    Although it didn’t seem to me at first, Wesley really did find a way to revolutionize ministry. He found a way to reach more people for Christ, empower people, and make Christ’s name known. All in something as small as small groups.

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      “Entry level leadership is vital to the growth of a church because it multiplies the leaders ability to reach more people…More people became empowered to lead which created the opportunity for more people to be invested in.”
      Yes and Amen! (Where’s my fire emoji? 🙂 )
      More Leaders=More Growth. Period.

    • Tina Phillips says:

      You are so right Michael!! Small groups are so fundamentally necessary to a church. All 3 of your reasons for success are spot on. Great explanations for these reason too!!

    • Eric Brown says:

      I agree about the small group revolutionizing the way church was done, but I feel that we’ve lost a lot of the structure that made them so functional in our day. We have small groups at our church, and they’re great, but I still feel like we don’t gain much ground on discipling entry level leaders.

      Wesley’s groups didn’t just offer the chance for equal participation; they required it. Every member of the group was required to have input and to open up and participate about personal things. Small groups these days are mostly after the same pattern of Sunday service with one person responsible for teaching a curriculum and trying to keep the conversation focused as the more outspoken of the group offer their opinions. I’m not saying that they don’t produce some good fruit, but it certainly doesn’t have the power to build people like the structure of Wesley’s groups did.

      In reading this book I wonder if there is a way that we could adapt the structure of Wesley’s groups to fit today’s busy culture.

    • Marne McAvoy says:

      Of course, I totally agree with the importance of small group, and love the solid structure that Wesley used to insure success and max effectiveness. It is important that we are considering our own groups and how we can structure them for max success.
      I love the example that Wesley set multiplying leaders to reach more for Christ. He was a great mobilizer.

    • Ana Acosta says:

      I have to agree with you on so many things …for one thing , My former church also operated in the Wesley design with classroom meetings, I didnt understand how powerful classroom meetings were until I attended them myself. coming from a catholic background we didnt have meetings like the ones we see today. People do open up and are more transparent with one another which is why I believe John Wesley created this method for church growth, and leadership also along with prayer. He implemented what was deposited onto him and his brother from his parents devoted lives to God and on to them with the discipline of following in Gods will.

  9. Zoe Hatcher says:

    When John Wesley began his ministry after returning from mission in Georgia in 1738 he made the decision to evangelize the poor, the common people and the working class. Right off the bat, I was touched that his first “Field Sermon” was on Isaiah 61, which is what God used to call me into pastoral ministry. He took Whitefield’s mass evangelizing and systematized the believers into groups for discipling. He eagerly sought the “foulest circumstances” instead of just disdaining the “sinners” from afar, which is most of what the church had been doing at the time. His target was in fact the “dregs of English society”.

    Learning about his upbringing being taught by faithful parents devoted to the Lord and training their many children for ministry. His mother Susanna, taught and trained from birth in a methodical and disciplined way, but also in a very individualized and devoted way. Meeting with each child weekly, she saw nurturing each of her 11 surviving children as her serious duty entrusted by God. She even taught up to 200 children from the community desiring to offer the same opportunities to other children in need. As a homeschool mom of four for 15 years, this touched my heart. The dedication it takes to pour into your children an education and spiritual development is not for the faint of heart. I believe directly because of this dedication, Wesley and following leaders did the same and saw individualized tutoring as a vital part of the Methodist’s care.

    Seeing the core values of developing and using lay leadership for many roles, including preaching, and even including women, which at that time was not done. The qualifications of lay leadership was not training so much as the faithfulness of their leadership, and their honesty and concern for the people. Advancement within the society came from the virtue of their leadership and faithfulness, not their social rank, wealth or education, which was also unheard of at the time.

    His Aldersgate experience, which was influenced by his time with the Moravian movement, solidified not only his own personal salvation, but the core tenet of Methodism that salvation comes to us through faith by grace alone. He had researched personal conversions in the movement and in scripture and came to understand the essence of salvation. He renounced his works and relying solely on the blood of Christ, trusting Him for salvation.

    His administrative giftings lent to the development of the groups of societies well organized by structure and fueled by the authenticity and accountability of sharing their experience of growth. He dealt privately and individually with those whose behavior threatened to disrupt the cohesion of the fellowship. He had a growth mindset and adapted the structure when needed, trying new methods and throwing them away if they didn’t work. This structure of systems and breaking the society into smaller bands led to massive growth that quadrupled their numbers. Systems bring the foundation upon which such massive growth can flourish.

    One of the greatest strengths I observed was the team leadership Wesley embodied throughout the whole system. He showed managerial ability delegating as much responsibility to society members as he was able, according to their gifts: stewards of the financial and caring for the poor, visitors of the sick, and lay assistants to preach and lead. “The primary function of spiritual and educational leadership is to equip others to lead and minister, not to perform the ministry personally” (p.127) This concept of working “on” and not “in” the ministry gave the lay leadership the vision of leaders equipping leaders. It was revolutionary at the time to offer official ministry positions for the whole body, enabling thousands of “common Christians” in the direct role of shaping not only the church, but eventually the direction of the nation. This collaborative style of directing ministry, delegating responsibility, bestowing authority, and sharing leadership is the model I believe that has and will revolutionize kingdom leadership and the church as a whole.

    It is beyond rewarding to currently work in a ministry that develops leaders and is dedicated to working as a team. A whole body with all gifts represented and valued. Working to build one another up in the Lord to serve Him without concern for status or territory. We also love the “dregs of society” because Jesus desperately did. It is a beautiful work to share in and even more beautiful to see its roots.

  10. Carey Pifer says:

    John Wesley’s Class Meeting
    I really enjoyed this book. I was introduced to the Free Methodist church as a teen but had no understanding of theology. I enjoy learning about John Wesley and how he shaped the foundation of the Methodists. I was amazed at how closely our church operates to Wesley’s design. I love small groups but I didn’t realize John Wesley used small groups in his structure. Small groups changed my life and my husband’s. He did not go to church until after attending a small group. He now is a faithful attender and hosts small groups.
    I was shocked to read just how bad alcoholism was during Wesley’s time. Wesley’s conviction to help the common men, who were beyond the reach of the church, changed England. Wesley had fears about preaching anywhere but in the church. After his friend, Whitefield took Wesley to a speaking engagement; Wesley’s fears subsided to excitement. This was the beginning of a spiritual revolution. I appreciate that Wesley was not completely sure about field preaching until he experienced it with Whitman. I can sometimes over analyze a situation. Fear can hold me back even though I know it is a good thing, like speaking and teaching people.
    John Wesley upbringing intrigued me. The strict time management was pivotal in managing such a large family. Wesley would take these lessons and apply them to pretty much everything he did. I was raised in a legalistic and superstitious home. It played a major part in how I viewed God and my relationship with him. Thankfully, for Wesley his parents were very structured and taught him properly. This was the true start of Methodism. Throughout his life, John Wesley would create structure and discipline in the various groups he was part of.
    After a missions trip to the new world, Wesley returned to England discouraged. He was searching for something deeper. He was searching for spiritual security and meaning. The Aldersgate experience was the turning point for Wesley. He received Jesus and knew that faith was a gift from God and God would freely give it to those who sought. I find it amazing that Wesley devoted his life to teaching about God, yet came to have a relationship with him after he had already been serving God for some time. One of my favorite paragraphs, in the book, is right after Wesley’s Aldersgate experience.
    It is what God does in the life of a person who comes to him in penitent faith. It is that act by which a seeker becomes a finder; a religious servant becomes a spiritual son. This personal awareness of the assurance of God’s favor was to become the corner stone of the Methodist message and method.
    Wesley went on to create a system that worked. It changed the lives of many. He dealt with practical issues. Even the times of the meetings were strategic in helping people make better choices. Everything about the method he created was to help equip people for a better life. He did not just put moral demands on people but provided practical steps for people to grow and learn. He even provided celebrations to help people have fun and something to do so that they did not revert to their old life. This is amazing foresight. All too often we are given a list of things we need to give up and do. It can make our journeys more about a biblical check list than a relationship with Christ. Wesley’s system transformed England because it was practical and biblical. We do this today. After reading this book I have a better understanding of how and where our systems originated.

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I loved your observation on his hesitation to speak outside of the church until he encountered Whitefield. I share your nervousness about speaking, but I have seen the power of God work and am willing to be used!

    • Marne McAvoy says:

      Carey, one of my fav parts was also the Aldersgate experience. That is salvation,when a life changed completely and forever! I thought it was beautiful that he was so affected that he considered all his work basically nothing, totally willing to trash it and start anew, and from that point forward was changed. He met the King!!! I like your insight that his success was very much due to how practical and biblical. Practical to the day to day life needs and happenings, and biblical at it core. The foundation he laid is on the Rock, all Jesus!!

    • Ana Acosta says:

      I have to agree with you on so many things …for one thing , My former church also operated in the Wesley design with classroom meetings, I too like you and Wesley have some fear of speaking in public, Amazing how one can serve God , yet not have a relationship with him until there is an awareness of Gods assurance and favor on ones life. John Wesley made sure that in his search for a better method in church order that people would grow and learned. I believe that discernment came from God himself. ….he was not afraid to go after the lost , the outcast of society and with his compassion made a world of difference in the lives of so many. I am grateful for the model in methodism that he created which is being used in so many evangelical and pentecostal churches today. I for one learned from this system that John Wesley started. I am blessed.

  11. Tina Phillips says:

    After reading the book, I am in awe of John Wesley and his accomplishments. The background of England at the time he started his works was so telling of just how in need the working poor, the miners, the peasants, and the very young children really were. The growing economic divide between the classes had to leave those in bottom hopeless with not much hope of climbing out.

    John Wesley new what they needed…they needed Jesus!! He developed the “method” they could understand Jesus and would want to respond Him with a personal relationship. Not a system based on theology, but methodology.

    It is so inspiring to see what he was able to create in a relatively short amount of time. From field preaching to personal conversion with Moravian to establishing bands and creating a system where societies could deliver the “plain truth for plain people,” “on their turf in their own terminology.”

    Wesley’s definition of a society in Rules of the United Societies makes it all sound so simple “Such a society is no other than a company of men having he form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their own salvation.” This definition just

    John Wesley created a system 2 centuries ago that is still used today. Societies for instruction and class meetings for personal growth not in little ways, but in eternal ways. I feel blessed to serve in a church that operates under Wesley’s model. Delegating authority, growth through community, holding each other accountable, speaking truth in love, meeting people right where they are, leading them to Jesus and empowering them to lead other, John Wesley’s ways are still working in the Free Methodist churches today!!!

    • Marne McAvoy says:

      I too am impressed with Wesley and all his accomplishments in such a short time. What a productive life for the Lord.
      I am inspired as well to seek the things that are outside my comfort zone. Wesley modeled this when he changed his ministry to reach the poor, less learned, and less privileged, as you mentioned.
      I too feel privileged to be a part of a church body who is doing the very things that Wesley modeled. I also find myself impressed that Wesley’s model weathered the test of trial and time so marvelously, revealing the divine origin of Wesley’s methods.

    • Ana Acosta says:

      OCTOBER 30TH 2019

      I have to say that though my former pastor in N.Y spoke of John Wesley, I didnt know of him until now. There were several things that jumped at me as i was read the book. For one thing the discipline that he had growing up and how his parents implemented to their children what was taught in their household. His mother was a wife of a noble character .Proverbs 31. We clearly see that education starts at home bringing up our children in the ways of the Lord and when they grow old they will not depart from it. John Wesley and his brother didnt questioned their parents but followed in their footsteps bringing a national and spiritual renewal to England which followed in America. The classes that John Wesley created are used as a model today in many spanish speaking churches on a weekly bases with the discipline and devotion carried out by the ministers or teachers. I am very honored to be a part of the Methodist church at a time where we today have the opportunity to go out and make disciple to all nations as Jesus commanded us to do. John Wesley showed compassion on the oppressed and concern for their souls. He was determined to reach a people rich or poor having a personal relationship with them to bringing them into conversion through a transformation that could only happend through the Holy Spirit. England was going thru an industrial revolution and the poor along with the children were the victims. John Wesley saw an opportunity to go into remote places and with his technique brought many into salvation….teaching also to meet on weekly bases for prayer, fasting, reading of the word and accountability. Very few churches are doing this…people dont want to pray or gather any longer, We need to bring people to Christ but that can only happend thru corporate prayer which no longer are the people of God seeking….let us return back to loving God , loving Jesus and making disciples, …. John Wesley left us with this method to reach as many as we could possibly reach , following in his footsteps . Jesus did the same, everywhere he went , there was a multitude that followed and he gave the great commission for us to do the same.

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I too am inspired by how quickly and thoroughly he developed his method of discipling so many. It was amazing to see how God blessed and grew it and how it still works today!

      • Marne McAvoy says:

        I also thought his upbringing was amazing, especially his mother got my attention. Susanna Wesley, inspires me to seek the Lord, for my own conduct and discipline. Yes, I too thought of the Proverbs 31 woman as I read about her. It is wonderful to hear that your churches are using small groups, our is as well. So much growth and relationship building is done in that small group atmosphere. They are so important. Thank you for sharing your insight!

  12. Marne McAvoy says:

    I am enjoying learning about John Wesley and the grass roots of our Free Methodist family. Wesley was such an intelligent, disciplined individual with many strengths and weaknesses. God certainly used all of who Wesley was for his good purpose, to birth the Methodist movement.
    There is so much good in this read that we could mull over, but four distinct areas of Wesley’s journey stood out to me. First how Wesley’s up bringing molded the person he became and played a huge role in shaping his strengths and weaknesses and ultimately culminating his success. Second, How even a person’s strengths can become weaknesses unless surrendered fully to the Lord. Third, I observed that Wesley was a humble man who sought counsel from others. He was not afraid to learn from others and apply what he learned. Fourth, Wesley was not afraid to fail.
    Wesley’s upbringing was quite remarkable. Both of his parents loved the Lord and structured their home to cultivate an environment of discipline and respect for righteousness, truth, effectiveness, and God. Wesley seemed to embrace these attributes and continue them in adulthood. He was an extremely disciplined individual and structured each day in detail. To some his level of discipline may seem quite intense, borderline control freak, but it played an invaluable role in Wesley recognizing the need and developing a method to propagate spiritual schooling. Wesley’s acute discipline ultimately lead to the birth and effectiveness of his class meeting, the jewel of Methodism.
    As much as I appreciate and stand in awe of Wesley’s life of discipline, rules, and structure, I can see clearly that even our strengths can be our demise. But glory be to our God, because he is faithful. God sent George Whitefield into Wesley’s life. To this point Wesley was accustomed to speak and minister within the church walls and to a higher class of people. Whitefield’s invitation to go into the mines and share the gospel got Wesley’s attention, but was such a struggle for him that he allowed casting lots to decide this fate. It seemed to Wesley almost sinful to preach the word outside of the walls of the church building and in such a degraded, defiled, sin filled place, but the lots said go. Wesley believed that Lord said,” go to Bristol”, ” so he went. If Wesley would have placed his rules and preferences before the voice of God, he would have missed the opportunity and the future of the Methodist church.
    John Wesley sought the wisdom of other Godly individuals. His openness to learn and grow from the teaching and example of others revealed his wisdom and his deep humility. Wesley would seek out others, observe, question, and take things that he learned and believed to be godly ways and apply them. He learned from many including: his parents, Samuel and Susanna Wesley, George Whitefield, the Moravians, Anglicans, such as De Renty, and many more. He was a fast learner and quick to implement and put different techniques into practice. But just as quickly, if something did not work, he was quick to abandon it and try something new. All people and things were filtered through the word of God and Jesus, all and only Jesus. Wesley’s example and experiences remind me of Apollos in Acts 18. Apollos was a learned man and passionate, but had a limited understanding of the gospel. God was faithful to send Aquila and Priscilla across his path to instruct him more adequately.
    At a glance John Wesley’s belief in God and acts to service for God’s kingdom gives us the impression that he had a relationship with Jesus. But by his own admittance, he had experienced no such thing. This came as a shock to me as I read. Once again being influenced by others and open to learning, Wesley accepted the challenge, to follow the example of the Moravians. Wesley began to seek salvation. Salvation not through works, as he was accustomed to, but through the grace of God alone. Finding what he sought, at Aldersgate on May 24, 1738. After experiencing personal, instantaneous conversion, he states that all his previous efforts were now useless, much like the apostle Paul saying, “7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” (Philippians 3:7-9)
    Lastly, I’m impressed with Wesley’s courage and openness to failure. He was willing to try new things wholeheartedly, but also see each new thing as an experiment on the journey of finding that best way. Failure wasn’t the end, it was the opportunity to learn and discover what works, what doesn’t, what is good, and what is better.
    There is so much more I could write about. Many aspects that I appreciate about Wesley’s life and ministry; his passion for accountability, leadership do’s and don’ts, proper order, and many more. But to close, I will share one last observation, whether I always recognized it or not, Open Arms aligns in so many ways to Wesley’s philosophy and practice. Learning about our history has brought encouragement and affirmation to God’s leading in our lives and ministry. His will be done!

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      Amen! I love your observations that our strengths can be our downfall and that he was open and teachable and learned from many others. I loved the example of Apollos and Priscilla and Acquila!

  13. Carey Pifer says:

    The fact that Wesley served the Lord yet did not have a relationship with Jesus stood out to me as well. Wesley wasn’t afraid to seek counsel to better himself. As you stated, he wasn’t afraid to fail. I’m amazed how much Open Arms aligns with Wesley’s methods.

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