Wednesday, August 3, 2011

John Wesley's Accountability Discipleship Groups

Today's article may surprise some of you as you notice the source. Many write Wesley off, even though they love to sing his and brother Charles hymns, because of his Arminian tendencies and doctrines. However, Wesley was used of God to lead many people into the Kingdom of His dear Son. There are many things we can learn from John Wesley. Remember what George Whitfield said of John Wesley when he was asked by a critic who expected Whitfield to criticize or condemn Wesley:

 "Do you think you will see John Wesley in heaven?" Whitfield was asked. "Oh no", came Whitfield's reply, "Wesley will be so close to the throne of God I won't be able to see him."

The heart of Methodism during the life of John Wesley was the "Methodist Class Meeting." These were small covenant discipleship support groups where members were committed to each other. The members would confess their sins to each other, they prayed for each other, and stirred up one another to love and good works.

John Wesley's Rules for the Band-Societies (December 25, 1738)

The design of our meeting is to obey that command of God, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed."

To this end, we intend:

1.  To meet once a week, at the least

2.  To come punctually at the hour appointed, w/o extraordinary reason

3.  To begin exactly at the hour w/ singing or prayer

4.  To speak each of us in order, freely and plainly, the true state of our souls, with the faults we have committed in thought, word, and the temptations we have felt, since our last meeting.

5.  To end every meeting with prayer, suited to the state of each person present

6.  To desire some person among us; to speak his own state first, and then to ask the rest, in order, as many and as searching questions as may be, concerning their state, sins, and temptations

It is also interesting to me that these groups didn't admit everyone.  They seemed to regulate them to believers but also to believers who were sincere and committed to growing in grace. I strongly contend that we must be very cautions and careful in this area, yet I think many people waste time, quench the Holy Spirit, and undo what is being done by those who are not serious about their walk with God. So, for what it is worth here are...

Some of the questions proposed to every one before he is admitted among us may be to this effect:

1.  Have you the forgiveness of your sins?

2.  Have you peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ?

3.  Have you the witness of God's Spirit with your spirit that you are a child of God?

4.  Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart?

5.  Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you?

6.  Do you desire to be told your faults?

7.  Do you desire to be told of all your faults, and that plainly?

8.. Do you desire that every one of us should tell you, from time to time, whatsoever is in his heart concerning you?

9.  Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear, concerning you?

10.  Do you desire that, in doing this, we could come as close as possible, that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom?

Any of the following questions may be asked as often as occasion offers; the four following at every meeting:

1.  What know sins have you committed since our last meeting?

2.  What temptations have you met with?

3.  How were you delivered?

4.  What have you thought , said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?

What do you think of these Accountability Discipleship Groups?
Do you belong to a group similar to this at your place of membership?
Would you belong to such a group if one were available?

Join us on Gospel-driven Discipleship Wednesdays as we continue to highlight discipleship with various articles, news, events, opinions, and book reviews as I work toward fulfilling the five purposes of this blog (see right sidebar of blog) and continue to supply biblical principles of discipleship. I hope to provide the reader with teachings related to beginning, intermediate, and advanced steps that enhance the discipleship process.


Larri @ Seams Inspired said...

Very interesting, Gregg! I've belonged to small groups, though I've never felt the complete trust of everyone in the group to unveil all my confessions of sin. I'm blessed to have godly sisters and a Mom to whom I can confess and be held accountable. If given the opportunity, yes, I would join a discipleship group. My biggest concern would be finding a group that could disciple without being legalistic.

Thanks for sharing. Happy Wednesday! ☺

Persis said...

I'm in a small group and women's group. There are a few people to whom I can confess my sins and ask for prayer.

However, my concern over this method would be if the focus is more on ferreting out sin than the application of the gospel. Also could this lead to unhealthy group codependency and legalism rather than dependence on the Holy Spirit?

Gregg said...

Petra- I am glad you have a good small group.

Great concerns!

First, reprinting this piece doesn't mean I have put blanket approval on all of it, but I thought it was interesting and worth sharing in a day and age where sin is treated so lightly if treated at all.

You are right any good thing can become legalistic and unbiblical. I was looking for opinions and feedback, so thank you!

Michael Wright said...

Very good, these are some great rules to keep in mind.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Your post Gregg I was very interested in, John Wesley and his Brother had connections in Bristol UK I was reared there and can remember a Wesleyan Chapel. My mother took my there when I was not very old and told me all about them.

Enjoyed the read as usual.

Petra said...

I totally agree with Persis, but don't belong to any accountability group per se, but have dear friends who are loving enough to also be honest!

JD Curtis said...

Youre right Gregg, we can learn alot from Wesley, and all too often he's ignored due to Arminianism.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I would be a part of such a group in this day and age. Public confession of sins (even in a selected group) today would be texed, twitterd, facebooked, blogged and emailed around the world as soon as the words came out of the sinners mouth.

Depending on the type of sin committed, it's best to confess to God and the people effected by the transgression.

Gregg said...

Old Geezer - I think every believer needs to be part of a good midweek small group. Finding one that operates biblically is difficult, but because it is difficult doesn't mean it should't be pursued. You are right, without wisdom and the HS we are vulnerable. I respect you but I still think the scriputre says that we confess our sins (faults) to one another and we pray for one another in these areas and we help people through their sin and struggles.