BY GREG WEST
Isn’t it fascinating that when the Son of God came from heaven to earth, He did not start a mega-church? He chose the twelve disciples and had female disciples among them. They were a constant part of His ministry. When He commissioned the disciples He also commissioned you and I to: “Go and make disciples of all nations ...” He did not mention small groups, but he didn’t have to; it was implied. He spent three years with His disciples in a mobilized small group, all the while drawing in more disciples to His ministry. His method was apprenticeship within a small group.
As you know, I’ve spent many years working with churches to equip them for small group ministry. I’ve recently partnered with a group of people who are passionate about recovering the small group ministry modeled by John Wesley’s “Class Meeting.” This model isn’t a Bible study. Rather, it allows the Bible to study us! We aim to recover small groups that seek to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ and obey God’s Word. In our groups, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we create an atmosphere of “grace and truth.” Most of the meeting time is dedicated to inviting each person to answer the question: “How is your walk with Christ?” After this, the leader either gives or prompts encouragement and guidance for each member.
In the original Class Meetings of the 1700s, non-Christians were welcome to join too. Often when we think about small groups in the church, we only think about discipleship, not evangelism. We need to also create groups that welcome seekers, doubters, the disillusioned and broken. As we welcome them into Christian community, the Holy Spirit will draw them to Christ through our love, our stories and struggles as the Spirit sovereignly works!
Our goal is to assemble 12 churches or ministries that want to have this small group training and coaching with the goal of establishing small groups that can be replicated. Our training will use Kevin Watson’s book, The Class Meeting: Reclaiming a Forgotten (and Essential) Small Group Experience. Our heart is to recover “a vital method of Jesus” by bringing people to life-saving faith in an environment where they can help one another to deepen their love and service to Christ. In this initial launch, we are seeking churches or ministries in the Hampton Roads and Peninsula areas.