The Small Group Band Meeting: A Place to Grow in Holiness Together

During the Great Awakening of the 18th century, John Wesley famously quipped that justifying grace is only the door to salvation, while sanctification the house (“The Principles of a Methodist Further Explained”). The key to the spiritual revival in England and America was the organization of Christians into various small groups, then called select societies, class meetings, and bands. The purpose of each was to pursue holiness together. These structures allowed for mutual accountability, where spiritual friends were confessing sin without fear of condemnation. They regularly asked these questions of one another:

5 Questions to Ask During a Band Meeting
1. What known 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?
5. Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?

By ordering people according to gender and marital status, Christians received an encouraging micro-community that catalyzed their spiritual growth and realigned the spiritual trajectory of entire nations.

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Explore more seeds: Watch Kevin Watson’s Seven Minute Seminary video, “Keys to a Better Small Group Meeting“; Get Kevin’s book, The Class Meeting: Reclaiming a Forgotten (And Essential) Small Group Experience from our store; watch Ryan Danker’s Seven Minute Video, “The Genius of Wesleyan Small Groups“; read a piece by Matt Lipan on how their church is modeling small groups in suburban Indianapolis; in this article Eric George explains that sometimes personal stories are more important than Bible studies.


2 Responses

  1. I absolutely concur with what you say about where the church is falling short when it comes to enabling individuals to become the truly human persons God created us to be. As a lifelong genetic Methodist/United Methodist the only place I have encountered such support and encouragement was in a Weight Watchers’ meeting. It was there I finally understood about the power of sin. More often than not the leader would open the meeting with a query about who needs to talk about where they got off track so” you can be done with it and move on”; her mantra was the problem is not that a person got off track, it is the guilt afterwards that is the problem. Her teaching was to view the “fall” as a learning moment by analyzing what were the circumstances that led to the “fall” and was there anything that could have been done to produce a different outcome. It has been a very bitter pill to swallow that that kind of teaching and support is the very reason Methodism is in existence. The biggest thing I see that explains why Methodism has strayed is a misunderstanding that Wesley was some great social reformer. There is a desperate need to get the “real” Wesley out there: he did not set out to reform anything beyond his own life. It was Wesley’s quest to understand what it meant to live a life centered in God 24/7 that led him to do what he did. People do not understand that no matter whatever else he did, his focus never ever shifted from his Priority #1, which was the individual and their relationship with God. He had no idea that he was going to start a new movement–he was simply responding to people who had heard him preach and now wanted further guidance and he felt he had to respond. There is a difference in Wesley who is cast as a “Great Reformer” and Wesley who was simply “working out his own salvation with fear and trembling”.

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