The following blog post is by Nick Scott, our director of Group Life at Arborlawn…
George Whitefield was a better orator than John Wesley. John Wesley was no chump, but Benjamin Franklin doesn’t talk glowingly about 30,000 people coming to hear John Wesley speak. He does that for George Whitefield. Whitefield’s dynamic personality and mastery of the spoken word drew bigger crowds than Wesley ever could. If this is true (which it is), how come you never hear anyone talk about the Whitefieldian tradition but often still hear people (at least in Methodist circles) talk about the Wesleyan tradition?
Kevin Watson helps us answer this question in his book, The Class Meeting, where he relates a man’s recollection of an encounter he had with George Whitefield. Whitefield asked if the man was still a “Wesleyan.” The man emphatically said that he was. Then Whitefield responded in this way, “Thou are in thy right place. My brother Wesley acted wisely; the souls that were awakened under his ministry he joined in class, and thus preserved the fruits of his labor. This I neglected, and my people are a rope of sand.”
The class meeting, what we might call today a small group, was the backbone of the early Wesleyan Methodist movement. The purpose of the “classes” was to help everyone in the group be able to communicate an answer to this question: “How is it with your soul?” Perhaps a more contemporary version would be, “How is your relationship with God?” The class members would support, encourage, and hold each other accountable to improve the state of their soul. Wesley was not only concerned that people understood what a disciple of Jesus Christ would be and do. He was ultimately more concerned that they were actually living as disciples.
John Wesley understood something important. You really can’t live your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ without community. He once wrote, “Holy solitaries is a phrase no more consistent with the Gospel than holy adulterers. The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness, but social holiness.” Just as there is no way that you can commit adultery that is holy, it is impossible to be holy without being connected to a community.
This is why at Arborlawn we are committed to connecting people to small groups through our new Group Life ministry. The vision of Group Life is to create small communities of real relationships for real life. We want people to be connected to an authentic community that will support them in living their best life as they grow more and more into the person God created them to be. Group Life is both for those who aren’t already connected to a community at Arborlawn or who want to be connected to a deeper community. Anyone who is interested in joining one of these small groups should register for our fast approaching Group Launch by filling out a short form at arborlawnumc.org/group-life. Group Launch is this Sunday, January 24 @ 7pm in Arborlawn’s Worship Center. At Group Launch you will get connected with your group, learn more about the vision for Group Life, and learn what your next steps as a group are.