The Class Meeting served as Methodism’s right arm for more than a century. The results of its ongoing revivals were preserved, leaving the mighty men of God who traveled and preached in their ministry unharmed and enabling them to go to far places at the earliest opportunity from the commanders of the itinerant host. 

Young men who later became exhorters, class leaders, and preachers of the word first exercised and recognized their skills in the classroom. Every Methodist Society was a field army that was preparing to conquer the world. Practically speaking, it served as a theological seminary. It provided the youthful convert with a concrete understanding of Methodism’s doctrines. They had been woven into the very fabric of his spiritual life. In the class meeting, the young man who was considering entering the ministry was encouraged to focus more on practical issues that directly affect the spiritual life than on theoretical theological issues or difficult exegetical issues. As a result, when he entered the pulpit, he was able to point his listeners directly to the cross and convey his experiences with assurance and conviction. Every Methodist school in the country ought to hold a class meeting, especially those with formal theology departments. It would provide a solid barrier against irrational fallacy and hazy theology in general. In a welcoming Methodist class meeting, there could be no tolerance or respect for agnostic nonsense. In the flame of a sincere encounter with the presence and power of the Holy Ghost, it withers and perishes.

During this time of rapid growth, the Class-meeting provided a test of sincerity that was very valuable to the Church. Our ancestors used the apostles’ techniques. They threw their nets into the water and brought both good and bad fish to shore. Admission into their Societies was contingent on having the desire to escape the wrath and arrive to start over. The class meeting quickly evaluated these recruits’ abilities, as well as the genuineness of their professed desire and motivation for wanting such a connection. The sincere ones got exactly what they wanted out of it. It had everything that the carnally minded and half-hearted could not stand. The faithful were confirmed before the six-month probationary period was through, while the unworthy were expelled. This was “confirmation” for the Methodist faith, and it was quite good. It was similar to what an elderly black Methodist woman described when a Protestant Episcopal Bishop suggested confirming her into his church:

Why, sweetie, I have already been confirmed a hundred times! Bless your soul!

She was most likely a Methodist from a Class Meeting.

More than any other single agent, the Class-weekly meeting’s inspection and stimulation gave Methodism its strength and purity. It created a clear demarcation between the Church and the outside world. It stocked the ranks with genuine followers of Jesus Christ and prepared them for duty using the best practices. Those who would defy or betray Christianity were stripped of their Christian uniform at the same time. Since the time of the apostles, there has never existed such strong moral discipline, and the Church has never exhibited such strength or advanced in such a way. Thus, the Class Meeting, under God, served as both the Church’s protector and a source of militant energy.

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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