As I typed the title I questioned what response people would have. Would you read it and automatically assume what this post is about? I'm not sure but did you know that John Wesley never set out to create a new denomination. John was a PK. He grew up in a parsonage. My children and countless others throughout just our denomination could share some stories - both ones of extraordinary kindness and then some not so nice ones. Despite of or maybe because of his experiences John answered his call to ordained ministry. John from the beginning has some concerns but also he saw that there was a disconnect between what people said in worship (or perhaps just outside) and how they lived their lives. Sound familiar? So John thought ok, let's get people into small groups where they could work on having unity in their thoughts and actions. As we know it was neither easy nor welcome in places. However, John persisted and we continue to live into his life's work.
John knew that people cannot live in isolation and that there was no personal holiness without social holiness. Our lives are connected to God, each other and the growth of our spiritual lives. Given our current situation we are not able to keep going as we have. It is causing upheaval in so many places and everyone wants to go back to the way it was before. I do not know when we will be able to move back to life as before but maybe this is also an opportunity for us. John organized people - encouraging them to continuing attend worship in the morning of their Church of England churches for communion. Then if you wanted to grow - you were put into Methodist Society - people from a specific geographically area where you would participate in learning what it meant to be Methodist - difference in theology, etc. Think of a classroom lecture. Then each society was sub divided into classes. These classes had 10 - 12 people and was a diverse group of gender, class, experience, age. It was in this group that a leader would share vulnerably about failure, sin, temptation and was the place together we could work out how to live the Christian life. It was all practical focused on the experience. Next individuals, if they desired, were put into "bands" groups of 3 that were intense accountability groups that were made up people who shared the same gender, age, experience, etc.
So how does John Wesley's organization of Methodists apply now? We need, now more than ever, to be divided in small groups. We know that as things begin to reopen that in order to meet together safely groups should be no more than 10-12 so we can limit exposure as well as to be able to safely distance. We know that powerful things can happen in small groups. Imagine what God can do with us when we devote ourselves to living more faithfully. So what would it mean if we divided our congregation into small groups? Do we have a few leaders that would be willing to lead these groups? Do we have individuals who would participate? I am excited about the possibilities.
Lest you think this morning's devotion is only a history lesson. Where do you think that John got the idea of groups of 10-12? If you guessed Jesus, you would be right. We know that Jesus called the 12 disciples. We also know that God organized Israel into the 12 tribes, one for each of Jacob's (later named Israel) sons. Spend some time thinking about the teaching of the disciples - what they learned in small groups. And then think about if you would be willing to lead/participate a small group in our church. Let's pray:
Gracious God, help us to see the times we live in as an opportunity to grow and live more faithfully. Encourage us to rely on your strength as we follow where you lead. In the name of Jesus - Amen,