If you place a living person within a plaster of Paris mold, they will pass away if they are not quickly freed. This was somewhat how the class meeting was handled. The Methodism’s polity underwent numerous changes, and the pulpit also shown flexibility to the shifting social norms, but the Class Meeting remained constant. It stopped growing and started to deteriorate. However, it was too deeply ingrained in Bible teaching and human nature for it to be readily destroyed. Nothing could have rescued it from the dangers and shocks it has faced if this had not been the case. Its trunk and limbs have been damaged by storms, but the tree is still standing and is already sprouting sensitive new growth, so we will soon see buds, blooms, and fruit once more. God bless the Church with obedient husbandmen and send rain and sunshine!

In the same way that the pulpit was expected to deliver more than only hortatory gifts, the class meeting also required more. The moment has arrived for the leader to take the reins and guide his class’s thinking. I have nothing negative to say about excitement. Without it, the Church is despicable in its frailty and repulsive in its coldness. I have nothing negative to say about the emotional component of religion. The current inclination to undervalue it, mock it, and completely exclude it from religious life is a sign of evil and a warning that all that is most important in Christianity is in risk. If you were to remove this, all that would be left would be a body devoid of a soul and light devoid of heat. Religion devoid of emotion is empty and futile; but, a religion dominated by emotion is fanaticism. The human soul never fails to turn away from mere intellectualism to seek sustenance and warmth wherever they may be found because it freezes and starves. A tautologous emotionality, however, that is unrelieved and unredeemed by new and alive thought, is the most unbearable of all tedious things to human nature. After the people learn that there is nothing behind his lungs and lacrimal glands, the preacher, whose superficial but honest tears and melting voice may move a new audience for a sermon or so, is greeted with empty pews. The Classleader who lacks knowledge-based zeal and whose only talent is for noisy, ambiguous encouragement is just as likely to lose control over his class. The enthusiasm that results from a raging revival is admirable, but if it is not coupled with study of the Bible and the book of human nature, it is an inadequate gift for someone whose job it is to care for people’s souls in this age of the world. In many cases, the Class Leader broke down, not the Class Meeting. He crumbled because a growing, alive man was required and he turned into a fossil. This tree was planted by God himself, but its growth was limited by the chilly frost of carnality, and the failures of the vineyard guardians made the damage worse.

By Nathan Zipfel

Ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene Pastor of the New Life Church of the Nazarene in Boswell, PA. Batchelor of Arts Pastoral Leadership, Nazarene Bible College Master of Arts, Ministry, Ohio Christian University Master of Social Work, Indiana Wesleyan University Behavioral Health Therapist

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