Communities where love is incarnate are central to salvation, to Christ’s mission to redeem the world by grace through faith. Jesus prayed to the Father, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20–21). Love must be seen (lived out in unity by a community of Christians) so others might experience it, believe, and begin to live in God.
In John’s gospel, communal love is expressed through forgiveness, a key aspect of the band meeting. Following his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the community of disciples gathered together in the upper room. In what might be thought of as the “Great Commission” as articulated in the gospel of John, “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I now send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20:21–23).
Jesus connects the mission of the church, the reception of the Holy Spirit, and forgiveness. He makes forgiveness what the church, the community of disciples, does in the world. Christian communities are to be communities of forgiveness.
The band meeting, a proven discipleship model for growing in love through the accountability of small, same-gender groups, was one of the defining characteristics of the Methodist movement started by John Wesley in the mid-1700s. In reflection on Wesley’s class meeting and band meeting structure, George Whitfield once said, “My Brother Wesley acted wisely, the souls that were awakened under his ministry he joined in class, and thus preserved the fruits of his labor. This I neglected, and my people are a rope of sand.”
In The Band Meeting, Kevin Watson and Scott Kisker give an overview of the richness of this early tradition and introduce a practical approach for growing toward an authentic, transformation-oriented small group experience. Get it from our store here.