The Class Meeting

The Class Meeting by Kevin M. Watson describes the kind of Christian group that appeals to me.  The format of the Class Meeting is actually from the eighteenth century, and John Wesley is given much of the credit for it’s design and impact.  The principle behind a modern-day Class Meeting is to become doers of the Word, not just learners.  This aligns perfectly with a phrase from Jesus’ Great Commission, “…teaching them to obey everything  I have commanded you.”

It seems to me that most “small groups” in the USA church are either affinity groups based on having fun, or studies based on collecting knowledge.  Class Meetings are designed to enable group member to live more holy lives.  Let me share a few ideas from the book.

  • The class meeting is essential because it is a logical, practical, and proven way to make disciples.  It forms righteous thinking (orthodoxy) and righteous action (orthopraxy).
  • Judgment does not prevail in Class Meetings.  Unless I have asked to be accountable, rarely will the Class Meeting members hold me accountable.  The person who judges me is myself.  The Class Meeting is a weekly self-inventory of my own life.
  • People who protest against the Class Meeting because it may be uncomfortable must admit that comfort isn’t a good indicator of whether something is good for me or whether I need to do it.  Comfort is focused on my desires, not God’s desires.

Honestly, what would happen if the church would actually live what they already know they should do?  The book is designed to enable the reader to start a Class Meeting.  If you are desperate to become more holy, check it out.  If you’re comfortable and want to stay that way,  the book will only make you uncomfortable.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog.

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All Things New

weekly theme #5 All Things New*  

week containing the first Sunday after Christmas

Jesus changed everything, but through my eyes, some things look unchanged.  I still see the fruit of false beliefs.  I still see sin.  Looking to the future is the only place I see all things new, and I long for that time.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17 New International Version)  The old doesn’t always seem gone, and the new doesn’t always seem to have come.  This conflict between scripture and my life has troubled me for yours, but the New Living Translation helped me in just five words.  Instead of “…the new has come!” it says “…a new life has begun.”  The new me is in process; it is not completed.  I will not always make steady, straight-line progress, but I will progress.  My new life is well underway, and I can propel it by intentionally making small, righteous choices.

Many small choices make a life direction, and this new direction as an ambassador of Jesus is heading toward great honor and responsibility.  Too often, I forget my duty as an ambassador and start to operate as a rogue agent.  By my negligence, I deny my duty, allegiance, and even my King.  Despite my wanderings, the King, this perfect King, continues to mold me and trust me.  He lets me remain his ambassador.  How can I help but love him?

“And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new!…It is finished!  I am the Alpha and the Omega – the Beginning and the End.”  (Revelations 21:5a & 6a)  It seems to me that humanity is not destined for continually generating new spiritual ideas but to come full circle and realize the end is actually the beginning.  We come up with a new buzzword or idea, but we soon replace it with another one.  (seeker-sensitive, emergent, missional, etc.)  All these words have sincere followers, and all of them carry elements of truth.  So it is easy for us, the Church, to allow our methods and terms to become distractions from our message, the Good News of Jesus the Christ.  I must guard myself from begin so zealous for an aspect of my faith that I forget that the end is also the beginning.  I’m going back to the Garden.  The Omega is the Alpha.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Cross-Cultural Servanthood

Duane Elmer’s book Cross-Cultural Servanthood may be the best Christian book I’ve read on the concept of working in other cultures.

He combines practical and theoretical to create an easy reading book on the why and how of working in cultures different from my own.  Perhaps what I like best is that he isn’t afraid to step on some toes.  The back cover has this bold quote, “Missionaries could more effectively minister if they did not think they were so superior to us.”  Then I opened the cover and started reading a number of true but painful words that led me to several conclusions, a few of which I list below:

  • I can be a person who serves or I can be a servant.  One is something I do, and the other is who I am.
  • Withholding acceptance from a person is rejecting a creation of God.  It is a sin against Jesus.    (1 Corinthians 8:12)
  • Trust can take a long time to establish but very little time to break.
  • I will not have meaningful relationships or effective communication in another culture until I can assemble their seemingly illogical, random actions, and reasoning into the framework of their root beliefs – their world view.

He helped me realize that it may not be prudent to jump right into a new culture and start serving.  He believes several factors need to be considered before I step through culture boundaries to serve: openness, acceptance, trust, learning, understanding.

He opened my eyes to one of the most logical, godly forms of leadership, a style he called “Traditional Tribal Chief”.  (I’ll let you read about that in chapter 11.)  And I admired his critique on Christianity’s infatuation with the topic of leadership.  Here are five thoughts on leadership that I gleaned from the reading:

  1. The Bible talks much more about serving than leading.
  2. I can expect good and bad leaders.
  3. Knowing Scripture doesn’t make me a good leader.
  4. God alone gifts and appoints leaders.  People who are trained as leaders, but not gifted and appointed, cause problems for everyone.
  5. Sometimes I may lead uniquely, but I need to lead Biblically at all times.

I’ve gone on too long.  Suffice it to say that I liked the book.  The time spent reading it was a good investment.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog.  Look for “Cross-Cultural Servanthood” as you scroll through the box.

 

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God Is With Us

weekly theme #4 God Is With Us*  

week containing the fourth Sunday of Advent

Immanuel, is a name that means “God with us”.  Immanuel, Jesus, stands near to me, wanting me to accept his love and desiring mine in return.  I would best show my love by going beyond sentiment to worship and obedience.  However, I am overwhelmed with material goods: a house with heat, cooling, running water, clothing, vehicles, books, electronics, and the list goes on.  All these things more firmly plant my feet in loving this world.  Those like me call those who have few possessions “the poor”, but I know in my heart they are not poor.  I am the poor one.  My happiness rises and falls by my possessions and comforts.  When I step back and examine my life, by what standards should I use to measure my riches – comforts or kindness?  Yes, I’m afraid that I am the poor one.

I can’t give what I don’t have.  That appears to be sound reasoning, and I’m sure I’ve used that line myself although I can’t remember when.  (I’m having trouble with my memory becoming slower and less organized, and that leads me to my point.)  Sometimes I can’t give even what I have.  When I consider myself the storehouse for what I can give, it limits my giving by capacity, access, and current relevance.  It seems better for me to connect to the perfect Source, Model, and Provider and let him provide through me.  Remaining a tool connected to the LORD, through the Holy Spirit, allows me to give two things I can never give from myself – everything and anything.

Sometimes I catch myself at the bottom of a page in a book and I don’t remember anything I’ve read.  Sometimes I realize that I have driven for miles and I don’t remember any of it.  I’ve been so engaged in a conversation (or TV show!) that I don’t notice what is going on around me.  Focus.  My focus determines what I sense.  What I sense impacts my feelings and thoughts, which produce actions (or paralysis), and determines my future.  God is with me, but do I sense him?  He has a prepared a pathway for me, but unless I sense him, I will not follow his path because his path is unknown and impassable unless he is with me. (Ephesians 2:10 & Psalm 77:19)

God has been with us since the beginning of human life, but Jesus’ sacrificial birth began a path for me to receive even more.  Through no merit of my own, God is in me.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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The Coming Of Christ

weekly theme #3 The Coming Of Christ*  

week containing the third Sunday in Advent

I have met people so focused on Jesus’ second coming that they fail to sense him right now.  Jesus’ first coming brought flesh and blood to prophesies in the Old Testament, and the invisible God became tangible.  Yes, I am supposed to look forward to his return to earth, but I must also live as he so clearly taught and exemplified.  Giving my attention to what is around me, as well as to the sky, actually hastens the answer to his prayer of “your Kingdom come, your will be done – on earth as it is in heaven”.

As soon as I sat down this morning for my Time With Father, I told him, “God, I’m having real trouble with this idea of watching for your second coming.”  I had this image of sitting in the rocking chair on the front porch staring at the sky – watching for his return, but when I read Ezekiel 34:1-10 and Luke 12:42-48 things started falling into place.  I “watch” for his return by doing his work.  I remembered Jesus’ parable about the owner of land turning it over to his servants’ care.  The owner did not want them standing around every day waiting for his return; he wanted them to care for what he had entrusted to them.  However, in truth, my work is most often a distraction from my watching.  It is when my “watching” wanes the most.

For years, I have longed to have better communication with God.  In church language, I wanted to “be constantly in prayer”.  (I wrote about this situation just last week – #2 Preparing The Way.)  Words from Brother Lawrence (he served in a Paris monastery in the 17th century) added some guidance to solving this dilemma.  As I understand it, he intentionally set up reminders for prayer so that his day was repeatedly “interrupted” by prayer.  Over time, each “interruption” became an anticipated oasis through the day.  Gradually he found himself conversing with God between these “assigned” times, making prayer a majority of his day.  And when he entered a task that might take his full concentration, he asked for his work to be an acceptable prayer.  This makes “constantly in prayer” and “always watching” seem reachable to me.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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