John Wesley created a Methodist discipleship system that ensured all the members of his movement were constantly growing in their relationship with God. Methodist members were expected to attend all of the meetings listed below. Failure to do so could result in either Wesley or the local assistant removing people from membership.
Field preaching: Regular open air preaching in public places, where all people could hear the Gospel message. Wesley emphasized 5am on a weekday morning, to allow workers chance to hear before they began the day’s work. Field preaching also occurred in the evenings though, and at weekends in public parks.
Society meeting: A weekly evening meeting for all society members, with hymn singing and preaching. Converts from field meetings were encouraged to join the local society meeting.
Anglican church attendance: Wesley wanted Methodism to be a renewing movement within the Church of England. Therefore all Methodists were expected to attend their local parish church services on a Sunday (even if the local clergy were anti-Methodist), for fellowship and to take communion.
Class meetings: Although they began as a means for collecting money, the class meetings became a weekly bible study for small groups of 12 members. Class leaders took pastoral care over the members of their classes.
Band meetings: Weekly meetings for around 3-5 people of the same sex, who would ask each other a series of accountability questions.
Watch–night services: Monthly prayer meetings, usually held on the Friday night nearest the full moon (so people had the moonlight to help them make their way home in the dark). They usually lasted around four hours, from 8pm to just after midnight.
Love feasts: Usually held every three months, where society members gathered to share bread and water, and then testify on what God was doing in their lives.
What system do you have in place for those you are seeking to disciple? Can you learn anything from this early Methodist discipleship system?
For more on John Wesley, click here for info on how to order your copy of A Blueprint for Revival: Lessons from the Life of John Wesley. Mark Williamson is a founding director of One Rock International. He’s a lay preacher and leader within the Methodist Church, author of a biography on John Wesley, and currently researching for a biography on William Wilberforce. He enjoys good films, good food, praying for London, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.