WAS EARLY METHODISM A CELL CHURCH?
A. The Four Systemic Problems:
( Early Methodism was entirely focused on making disciples, if you look at this one famous instruction that Wesley gave to his Ahelpers@ or lay preachers: You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those who want you, but to those who want you most… Observe: It is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care merely of this or that Society, but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance; and, with all your power, to build them up in that holiness, without which they cannot see the Lord. This is the early Methodist discipline: a focus on saving souls.
A healthy church has been described in this class as a partnership between two systems: a Atwo winged church@ consisting of a worship system and a discipleship system. Institutionally, Wesley preserved his organization as a movement within the institutional Church of England, where it functioned as the discipleship system in partnership with the local Anglican parish church.
Early Methodists earned and used influence with their friends and neighbors to encourage participation in the Methodist Society. This sort of networking by laity is the essence of cell evangelism.
John Wesley=s Societies did not practice ministry to strangers, but ministry
that created community through long term relationships of influence. To convert
people without the relational support that will disciple them fully toward
sanctification is like fathering children and then abandoning them. Wesley
resolved not to preach where he could not include everyone in class meetings
for spiritual community: I was more convinced then ever that the preaching
like an apostle without joining together those that are awakened and training
them up in the ways of God is only begetting children for the murderer. How
much preaching has there been for these twenty years all over Pembrokeshire!
But no regular societies, no discipline, no order or connexion; and the
consequence is, that nine in ten of the once-awakened are now faster asleep
Those who had an interest in the Lord were welcomed into lifelong spiritual
families and provided support.
Wesley’s Twelve Rules of a Helper, “Minutes of Several Conversations” (1789), in Works, VIII, 310.
The worship system provides a place for worship and the administrative subsystems to maintain it: governance, finance, personnel, property and programming. All traditional church systems fit in to the worship system. Worship systems cycle, are task oriented and focus on conformity and smooth operation. The worship system corresponds to Senge=s Balancing process, Troeltsch=s church, Hegel=s thesis/synthesis and the diffusion of innovation=s pragmatic majority of middle adopters, late adopters and laggards (84%).
The discipleship system provides a process for transformation and change. It is teleological and goal oriented, with clear steps and a clear end result. It is relational and involves people in a network of influence that builds community while preserving respect for the individual. The linking usually involves small groups and rapidly develops and matures individuals for leadership. In cell churches where the discipleship system involves thousands of small groups, detailed management systems have evolved to control the system and equipping tracks have developed to rapidly train group leaders. The discipleship system corresponds to Senge=s Reinforcing process, Troeltsch=s sect, Hegel=s antithesis and the diffusion of innovation=s innovative minority of innovators and early adopters (16%).
John Wesley, AJournal@ (August 25, 1763), The Works of John Wesley, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 3:144. This reflects a 90% loss of the faithful when there is worship available in the parish church without participation in a cell type community as a means of sanctifying grace.
NOTE (my response)
The quote is from Major League Disciple Making: An Overview of the Best Research on the Cell Church, an online course developed for the Institute for Discipleship at www.BeADisciple.com in 2009. Course materials, including these lectures, can be downloaded here: http://www.disciplewalk.com/IFD_MLD_Class_Links.html
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.