Some women associated with McKendree Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, decided to meet once a week to carry out these desires after sensing the need for some special service in which their Christian sympathies could have free expression, their communion with one another be more satisfying, and their aspirations for a fuller knowledge of God and a deeper spirituality be nourished. It was simply referred to as “The Woman’s Meeting,” and no set schedule of exercises was initially mentioned. From week to week, a few elect females would attend the service. Their enthusiasm in the exercises gradually grew, and it was clear that they were gaining wisdom and elegance. The exercises eventually settled into a program that looked something like this: 1. A hymn. 2. a request. 3. studying the Bible. 4. the discussion of a Bible issue (that has been carefully announced) in light of one’s faith. The gathering grew in size and popularity until what had been started as an experiment under a warm Christian impulse turned into one of the enduring institutions of that significant and powerful Society. The pious women who profit from it adore it and are unlikely to let it disappear, at least not for this generation.

Is this not dropping some hints for us? Have we not just witnessed fresh evidence that a sincere Christianity will communicate its wants and desires in this manner?

This service embodies the core values of a class meeting—or even the core value of a Methodist class meeting, which is the nurturing of the Christian life. This feature’s focus on the Bible is fresh. Is this not a novel aspect that will revitalize and elevate the value of the class gathering everywhere? The study of practical Bible truth in relation to the always changing demands of the Christian experience provides the seriousness that many felt the class meetings of the past lacked. The theme of the week, which is sometimes encapsulated in a single verse of Scripture, serves as a prime hook for all subsequent theological reflections. It is amazing to see how a subject that is kept in the mind in this way will develop; by going for such a long time in one direction, the thought creates a deep channel. The contemplative, fervent believer therefore gets to the core of things. Thus, the sincere soul who is contemplating heavenly truth is treated to pleasant surprises when he learns that deeper meanings and brighter vistas are becoming visible as he moves forward. Thus, the Christian life is given boundless variety and ongoing freshness. Here, Ave find that which will make every true believer’s experience as fresh as the dew of morning and as reliable as the river of God, which is full of water, as the source of religious thought is endless and the appetite for it never cloys, but increases the more it is fed.

In addition to being cast upon the road of ordinary Christian experience by the Bible in this way, the light of experience is also reflected back upon the Bible. Who could possibly be unaware of this? The finest Bible study is a class meeting where sincere and thoughtful people discuss how to understand the Bible in the context of their own lives. The Bible’s most profound truths can only be discovered in this way. The Lord’s secret is with those who fear him. He who wills to do so will be aware of the doctrine. From the open Bible and the loving heart, light shines back and forth. The author of these chapters, who is also a Class-Leader, happy in his work, and carefully searching for the best approaches, has exploited this feature to happy effect. Every Christian can undoubtedly develop in grace and in their understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ through the Bible Class Meeting. Bible class gatherings are exactly that—class meetings. The distinction is made by where the hyphen is placed.

Future class meetings will undoubtedly resemble this in some ways. But not necessarily or everywhere. Keep in mind that its primary goal is the development of the Christian life through the exchange of Christian thought and Christian experience while giving it the freedom to adapt to the diverse situations of human society. Keep this object in your line-of-sight at all times, but don’t constrain the class meeting. There is a lot that can be left up to the uniqueness of various leaders, the peculiar desires of various Societies, and the astute judgment of church pastors.

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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