Small Groups and Christian Thought

This weekend’s literature has primarily included a review of Wesleyan Small Group practices, Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Discipleship, and the foundations of Christian Thought. 

I am struck, as though by lightning, as I reflect upon what I have read yesterday and today regarding the nature of Christian Thought and Life. Of first importance is to acknowledge that whatever comes after, if it is right is of God and if it is wrong is of my flesh. 

Regarding Wesleyan Small Groups, I must admit that there were points at which I bristled against the habits described due to the souring of those practices in my own life as a result of my off and on battles with Laurence through the years, setting such things aside there is much that was gained and appreciated. It is with hints of sorrow that I lament the loss of such treasures as the class and band meeting in the modern Christian life. Meetings dedicated to the pursuit of piety, informed by scripture which one read and held accountable to by the brothers and sisters with which one met. These meetings were not on the surface, these questions probed the very heart of the believers. “How is it with your Soul?” or put another way, “How is your abiding in God?” this was the priority of the class meeting it was not about the histories of one’s former life, but wholly dedicated to where one was currently with God and how the brethren might pray for one. This class meeting was not about instruction but about genuine care for the souls which participated. The class meeting was similar to modern small groups but struck something much deeper than anything I had ever known possible to occur in a group setting. There was no ice breaker, there was no standing at the edge of a lake without taking the step of faith, there was only raw and genuine connection that sought only what God desires for all his children. That those who would believe would know and trust that God has loved, is loving, and will always love those who call upon his name from sincere faith.  

On the Band Meeting, this is the place of confession. it is the group where those who are already committed Christians meet in very small and intimate gatherings (no more than 6) to hold one another accountable to the standards of Holiness, watching over one another from the Gentle and Lowly heart of Christ available to all disciples through sanctification. Oh, the love of God visible in these meetings is something I long to see thriving in the church once more. 

On the Spirit of Christian Thought and Life, this is from a text by Dr. Robert Wilken, a scholar who seems to have been molded much in the way I have been given his heart for history, apologetics, and the intimacy of the Christian Mind. Though I have only read the very beginning, I cannot help but share the joy that God has provided in the text. The very nature of Christian thought is established by the pursuit to understand and explain the Resurrection of Christ and its implications for life. This book has ministered to me on a soulful level and so I pass along those statements which have done so that you might be blessed and comforted with the things God has blessed and comforted me. 

Note not all points are exact quotes. Some points convey merely a summary of longer sentences that might be murky to those unfamiliar with theological works.

  1. The Christian Religion is inescapably ritualistic (baptism), uncompromisingly moral (“be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”), and unapologetically intellectual (1 peter).  
  2. Christianity is more than a set of devotional practices and a moral code: it is a way of thinking about God, about human beings, about the world and history. 
  3. Thinking is part of believing; Augustine once wrote that No one believes anything unless one first thought it believable. 
  4. He (Jesus) who once was dead now lives. 
  5. The things which were established by Christianity if cut off from the Bible are uprooted from the soil that feeds them, they are like cut flowers whose vivid colors have faded. 
  6. Christian reasoning flows from History, from ritual, and from text. 
  7. Christian thinking is anchored in the practices of the Church.

In essence, this text rather convincingly argues that the very core of Christian intimacy with God is established in the habits, teachings, and reflections of the first several centuries of the Church. Flowing from this, ignorance of those habits, teachings, and reflections from those centuries, cuts one off from the very recognized heart of intimacy with God.

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