It has already been said that because the Class meeting has its origins in the Bible and the human soul, it cannot be destroyed. A means of grace that has the fundamental components of a class meeting will emerge among all Christians, not only Methodists, when they are alive to God and sincere in their pursuit of the Christian life. The “experience meetings,” “inquiry meetings,” “conference meetings,” “Bible meetings,” and “promise-and-praise gatherings” of other Churches are an expression of a felt need and an acknowledgment of the scriptural duty that binds Christians to exhort, comfort, and edify one another. According to the law already said, that the rebirth of the apostolic spirit and aggressive activity in the Church would bring with it the revival of apostolic usage and techniques, this type of Christian devotion and fellowship is certain to express itself in times of great religious interest. Therefore, the issue at hand is not one of whether the Class-meeting should be established because it does so everywhere Methodism has an organized presence. It is not a question of whether the class meeting will be revived because it has not been put on hold. But the question is, how can it reverse its downward trend and regain the vigor and strength it once possessed?
In describing the factors that contributed to the Class meeting’s demise, part of the answer to this issue has already been indirectly provided. But making a decision to do it is the first step towards reviving the class gathering. What God once abundantly blessed will continue to receive his blessing in the present. A proper effort would succeed with his blessing. This holy endeavor involves His own glory in the salvation of men and the spread of the gospel. Due to the absence of these source of grace, His Church is suffering. Due to a lack of the nurturing that it would provide, souls are perishing. With this formidable barrier gone, the world pours like a flood into the Church. The lambs of Christ’s flock die from exposure to the world’s cold environment as a result of this holy fire being extinguished. While the vast majority of Christ’s disciples remain silent, the masses are plunging into the superstitions on the one hand and the most groveling infidelity on the other. May God arouse each of us!
Pastors ought to take charge.
They are in charge of watching over Christ’s sheep. Their exclusive focus is on the welfare of souls. What topic is more deserving of their prayers and attention than this? What better manner could they serve the Church than by devoting themselves wholeheartedly to thinking through how to safeguard, direct, and strengthen its members’ spiritual lives? The pastors of our churches are working steadily and with a clear goal in mind to overcome any obstacles standing in the way of the rebirth of the class meeting. These chapters’ author has never served as a pastor without holding class meetings. The battle is already half won when the pastor decides to provide his congregation with these means of grace.
In the early days, a preacher who had recently arrived in a mining town in California inquired, “When do you hold your Class-meeting?”
“Class-meeting! None exist here. You must remember that you are in California and not Georgia.
“What! No class meetings in a Methodist church? That won’t work.
The brother grinned doubtfully and stopped speaking after that.
The following Sunday at the conclusion of the morning service, the young pastor delivered the following announcement:
“I am shocked and saddened to find that you have never attended a class meeting session in this church before. My brethren, we have to do better than that. Without a Class Meeting, a tradition unique to the Methodist people and one that God has richly blessed, a Methodist church is missing out on one of the most significant means of grace. For the purpose of setting up a class meeting, please meet on Thursday night in the church. At half past seven, the service will start. Since our membership is minimal at best, please be on time. I also hope everyone will make an effort to attend. Thursday night arrived. The young preacher set up the small table in the altar, lit the church’s lamps, chose a chapter and a hymn for the sermon’s introduction, and then he waited for the brothers and sisters with his wife seated in a pew directly across from him. They waited there while remaining silent. The minutes passed quickly as a result of the profound silence and low light. Finally, it was eight o’clock and no one had arrived.
The young preacher added, somewhat gravely, “They appear to be late getting here.”
His wife confirmed that they were running late.
The minutes passed quickly as they continued to sit and wait, looking intently at one other in the low light. When eight o’clock rolled around, nobody was there.
The pastor noted that they appeared to arrive rather late.
Yes, they are running late, his wife said.
The light seemed to be becoming darker as they continued to sit and look at one other while waiting. When ten o’clock arrived and no one had shown up, the young preacher had his first realization that no one would show. He was initially surprised by the notion, but he was completely preoccupied with the need to hold a class meeting. He then stood up and said to his wife,
“We have gathered for a class meeting, but despite the absence of others, we need not be discouraged. I know asking you about your spiritual experience may seem like just a formality, but
Here, the lady seemed to find the situation absurd, and when the young preacher noticed that she was shaking with restrained laughter, he firmly stated:
“Sarah, there will be a class meeting today!”
This in some way made things worse. She nearly burst out laughing. Once more, he said with greater sternness –
Do you still understand where you are and why we are here? There will be a class meeting today! Let’s pray,” he continued, and they went to their knees.
The young pastor, who was passionate about his subject, used “liberty” in that prayer, and his wife—a devout Methodist woman—was profoundly sobered as they stood up from their knees. The young preacher, now fully awake, got to his feet, shared his story, and urged with fervor, unaware of anything beyond the fact that he was leading a class meeting and enjoying himself. The meeting adjourned after a proper dismissal.
The following Sunday after the morning service, he said:
“Last Thursday night’s class meeting went well. Despite the low turnout, the activities were really profitable and fascinating. Next Thursday at half past seven, we’ll get together once more.
That resolved the situation. Ice was cracked. It was shown that a class meeting may take place even in a California mine. The little band departed the house with beaming hearts and newfound power for the following meeting, which was attended by a pleasant small group of Methodists and featured exercises that were full of interest. There was no issue with the class meeting moving on. It expanded in every positive sense. A shrewd Scotsman who had received training from Bishop Keener in the past was appointed Class Leader. Reading “John Nelson’s Journal” led to his conversion, and he adopted Nelson’s ardent and fearless brand of religion. Two young men, one of whom completed his course with joy after a brief but devoted and fruitful ministry, and the other of whom is still a watchman on Zion’s walls, a man of great usefulness, respected and adored by his brethren, were sent forth as preachers in the Pacific Conference from that class. The purpose of this personal account is to demonstrate that every Methodist pastor is free to host a Class meeting.