Andrew’s comment to my last post The Importance of Community has helped me to continue to think about this vision of community. Yesterday I was reading Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America and came across a wonderful description of the Methodist class meeting, and the role that it played in helping people faithfully follow Christ.
Much like the Methodist class meetings of the eighteenth century, it moves beyond individual edification or emotional support to an intentional and disciplined sharing of the challenges of following Christ in an indifferent and hostile world. Coming together in regularly scheduled gatherings participants share the bumps and bruises of encounter with the world, as they comfort and strengthen one another. John Wesley believed that intentional and disciplined small groups could be a wellspring for faithful Christian discipleship…
In the sharing of temptations and weaknesses, and of strengths and accomplishments, participants can begin realistically to confront and acknowledge their bondage to sin as they learn to live as a forgiven and forgiving people. The intent is to create a social space and climate that encourages honest, caring relationships within a community of people who make time for one another, who celebrate and rejoice together, who know and serve each other, and who are accountable one to the other. (171)