And that is why I have finally gotten around to writing a book that is designed to introduce people to what a class meeting is and to help create and sustain these groups. I have just submitted my manuscript and am excited to see this book in print.
Class meetings were groups of seven to twelve people who gathered together to discuss the state of their relationship with God. The question used in the eighteenth-century was, “How does your soul prosper?” Today it might be translated, “How is your life in God?” Regardless of how the question is phrased, the most important thing is that the group is focused on each person’s relationship with God.
In my experience, when people want to grow in their faith, they typically assume that they need to know more. The problem of a lack of formation is often perceived to be a lack of information. I agree that all of us could stand to learn more about our faith and there is a key role for catechesis.
However, following Jesus is ultimately a way of life, not a body of knowledge about him. Too often, Christians do not practice what they do know.
The key contribution that the early Methodist class meeting would make for contemporary Christianity is that it would help people learn to look for encounters with God in every part of their life. They have the potential to help Christians learn to interpret every part of their lives through the lens of the gospel.
Above all else, contemporary Christianity needs Christians who are Christian not in name only, but women and men who are passionate and confident in their faith in Christ and who can speak to the ways that they have seen and experienced God’s work in their lives and in the lives of others.
I believe that the Holy Spirit wants to use this form of communal Christian formation once again to help people have an active faith in Christ, not merely a passive intellectual faith. And I believe that if this practice were to be reclaimed, it would be used by the Spirit to bring renewal.
If you are interested in reclaiming the class meeting in your faith community, stay tuned! I will update the progress and availability of the book here and on twitter (@kevinwatson).
If you’d like to read more about the class meeting, check out the series of posts I wrote here.