As things stand, many young people have a great deal to learn about the Church’s forms, practices, and activities when they first join. Some people come from nonreligious backgrounds where they have never had the chance to learn anything about religion. Even pious parents’ children frequently display astounding misunderstanding on these issues. Their upbringing and education are too weak to make any significant and long-lasting impressions on them. They are never instructed on the beliefs, structure, or background of their Church. Their Book of Discipline was never opened by them. They have only heard a small amount of religious discourse, and what little they have heard has been conventional and incomplete. Except for what they have heard from the pulpit or have absorbed from passing contact with religious people and religious material, they have little to no knowledge of religion. What growth in spiritual gifts or expansion of spiritual life can be anticipated if one is restricted to the regular attendance at Sunday sermons, where they hear two sermons, and the weekly prayer meeting, where they hear a chapter read from the Bible and listen to two or three prayers by their seniors? They occupy the same space as the hordes of deaf and half-alive people whose names add to the church membership count but who have about as much influence as a bunch of straw men in terms of Christianity. Their initial romance’s radiance fades. Their religious life stops flowing and turns into a dead sea devoid of any new spiritual inspiration, aspiration, or energy. The class meeting is what they really want. There, their religious thought will find expression and grow. There, they will benefit immeasurably from the sage advice and kind sympathies of saintly individuals who have studied heavenly matters in the light of the Bible and the classroom of experience. In the freedom of that holy circle, they are prepared for service in all the devotional activities through which Jesus’ followers witness for him and labor for the salvation of souls. There, they learn the language of Zion. A large number of still-living witnesses, pious men and women, who started their Christian studies before the Classmeetingsj faded, would attest that they owe it more than any other form of grace for the effect that gave their life stability, useful direction, vigor, and joy. The writer has heard this testimony from so many of the powerful men and holy women of the generation currently on stage, in response to a direct question, that he is unable to question the veracity of the broad assertion expressed in the preceding phrase.

Should young people be separated into classes or mixed in with adults? It wouldn’t be a good idea to respond in a hasty or dogmatic manner. The obvious advantages that young people can gain from exposure to the mature judgment and wide range of experience of older ones have previously been hinted at. On the other side, friends who identify as Christians often have a sense of freedom and ease while among older people. The church’s pastor in Santa Rosa, California, established a “Young People’s Class” that convened on Saturdays. Twenty people attended on average, though there were moments when the number was much higher. These young folks, who ranged in age from twenty-five to roughly fourteen, were of both sexes. A significant portion of them were youthful converts, the result of a revival that, at least in the minds of some of them, will live on forever. They were all the happy after this class gathering. It created a Christian environment that was luminous with the holy light of Christian brotherhood and warm with the brightness of new life. Any member of that band who is now dispersed over the globe and comes upon these pages will read these lines with swollen hearts and perhaps misty eyes. They will always remember their class gathering on Saturday. Among the students in this class, a remarkable religious development occurred. These young Christians shown rapid and consistent growth not just in their ability to speak, but also in their readiness for song, fluency, and fervor in prayer, as well as in their sincere consideration and fruitful thinking on religious subjects. And it was gleefully acknowledged on all sides that their reflex impact on the entire Church was most gratifyingly felt in all of its worship and activity. One of the meetings was attended by an excited older brother, who exclaimed to the leader, “Your Young People’s Class could conduct a camp-meeting!” And they were able to. They had acquired the skills necessary to participate in any service for the Church in its regular worship or specific offensive movements against society through the instruction they had received in their class. The guiding principle of this class was that each participant should offer his or her best idea and/or experience to each weekly meeting. The goal of a truly Christian life was constantly in front of them as they grew in knowledge and grace. The leader would occasionally recommend Bible passages that dealt with practical issues of religion as a framework for the meditations of the next week. Other times, each member was asked to bring a verse from the Bible that related to a noteworthy event or doctrinal principle of revelation. However, religious experience was always the endpoint of all activities, and it was delightful to observe how completely unrestrained by stiffness, constraint, or false modesty these young Christians were in these exchanges of Christian experience and discussions of divine truth. It was very pleasant to see how completely such a man could throw himself into the spirit of the occasion, and how heartily the young disciples welcomed one who walked in the light of the Lord, and whose soul was kept perennially fresh with the influx of the life of God. Occasionally, the leader would invite the presence of Dan Duncan, a local preacher, whose almost seraphic face, sweet humility, and chastened joyousness of spirit, made him welcome in all circles. He too was a class leader, one who cherished his position and regarded class meetings as the entrance to heaven.

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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