Book Review: The Class Meeting

Reviewed by Chad Brooks –

The early Methodist revival was fast moving and organized behind a single purpose of saving people into a radical and transformed life with Jesus Christ and characterized by holy love. Highly organized (hence the name Methodist), one of its primary forces was the class meeting. These small groups played a pivotal role in the longevity of the people called Methodist.

Possibly the largest conversation current in The United Methodist Church focuses on renewal. Everyone appears to be in a fervent search for a solution for church decline. There are many opinions and solutions offered up.

In his book The Class Meeting, Kevin Watson has given us a game changer.

Instead of looking at what many believe to be a historic, but dead practice, Watson digs down into the functional goals of the original Methodists and brings a highly successful core strategy back into the future. He gives a convincing case of the importance of the recovery of the class meeting and leads us into the practical aspect of beginning one.

Class Meetings were the secret ingredient in the early Methodist revival. Part of the general concern between the early Methodists was a deep love for one another and participating in a life together with God. They were coming together and putting themselves in a situation to be changed by grace. The structure and relationship the class meetings provides gave a practical framework for the mobilization of thousands of people into living examples of the perfecting love of Jesus Christ.

It means taking your faith into your own hands. The Christian life is not passive. When people take faith out of the passive role it has previously occupied (and not given any tangible benefit) they are unleashing the love of God and the changing power of the Holy Spirit into real life. In real ways. Christians are made, not born. John Wesley knew the power of the class meeting and how it taught individual ownership to its participants.

How to sustainably manage a small group. Many churches know they need small groups. Sunday school as an enterprise is slowly not working for large masses of people like it did in the past. There are plenty of explorations about how and why to do small groups. Let’s also be honest, many churches have been doing modern styled small groups for almost two decades. Your average Methodist church is just beginning to think about them and it behind the times. We don’t have the infrastructure to raise up and organize a large mass of teachers. The beauty of the modern small group movement is how much it took from the class and inside the very DNA of Methodism is a practical and sustainable and lay-led small group model. It’s who we are.

The fourth hidden tidbit is the genuine ecumenicism of the book. John Wesley himself was known to cooperate with anyone who genuinely loved Jesus and wanted to see God’s kingdom advance (read the “Catholic Spirit” sermon). No matter what your denominational affiliation, The Class Meeting can be a dynamic resource to grow people closer to God.

Watson does a tremendous job teaching us to love the idea of a class meeting. He makes it easy to understand the necessity and historical side of them, as well as how to functionally begin one. This is the beginning of a new wave of Methodism.

Chad Brooks is the associate pastor of contemporary worship and student ministries at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Monroe, Louisiana.

 

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