It’s easy to lose sight of exactly what Jesus had in mind when He outlined the Great Commission. He wanted His church to make disciples, not just converts, believers, or followers.
If we don’t make disciples, we commit the same mistake George Whitefield made 250 years ago.
At the outset of their ministries, George Whitefield and John Wesley were close friends. Over decades of ministry, they would eventually be divided on a couple of doctrinal points, but kept in touch with one another, nonetheless.
Both were incredible evangelists, perfecting the fine art of “field preaching,” also known as “outdoor preaching.” Neither man had any difficulty in leading souls to Christ; they were both highly gifted communicators of God’s love.
While Whitefield kept evangelism at the forefront of his ministry, Wesley did a fair amount of teaching and discipleship to help new converts grow in their faith. His chief tool in this endeavor was what he called the “Methodist Class.” Classes were small, and members’ main goal was “to discern whether they were indeed working out their own salvation.”
The classes became one of the principal means for determining whether or not the Methodists were walking according to God’s standard of holy living. When members failed to honor their commitments, Wesley would have them removed. In 1743, Wesley removed several people from the group of Methodists because it was learned (in the classes) that they defied the rules by habitual Sabbath-breaking, drunkenness, spousal abuse, lying, speaking evil, and the like.
George Whitefield was so impressed with Wesley’s Methodist structure of classes, that in later life, he attributed Wesley’s greater success to it.
My brother Wesley acted wisely. The souls that were awakened under his ministry he joined in class, and thus preserved the fruits of his labor. This I neglected, and my people are a rope of sand.”
Let this be a warning for pastors who only evangelize the lost, but never disciple the found.
A Real Christian: The Life of John Wesley by Kenneth J. Collins. Abingdon, 1999, Page 81.
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