BAND MEETINGS & Think You Have Lots of Friends? Nope: Science Says We’re Lucky to Have 5 #DunbarNumber

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: English sociologist Robin Dunbar has researched small group dynamics more than anyone, finding a small group of 3 to 4 friends is crucial for a healthy social life. John Wesley 250 years earlier stressed the same thing. Welsey emphasized the importance of groups of 3 to 4 called, “band meetings.” For more on modern equivalents of the “band meeting” search these words on this wiki.

Think You Have Lots of Friends? Nope: Science Says We’re Lucky to Have 5

Research shows that while you’re close to 100% sure certain people are your friends, only 53% of the time do they agree with you.

By Jeff Haden, Inc. Magazine, 8/8/16.

…Now imagine I ask all the people you list to make a list of their friends. Think you’ll be on all those lists? Probably not.

In fact, only about half the time will the people you consider to be your friends consider you to be a friend. (And of course that also means that only about half the time do you consider someone who thinks of you as a friend to be your friend.)

…according to Robin Dunbar you don’t have the time to have dozens of friends. Because of that, Dunbar feels we have different layers or slices of friends: one or two truly best friends (like your significant other and maybe one other person), then maybe ten people with whom we have “great affinity” and interact with frequently… and then all sorts of other people we’re friendly with but who aren’t actually friends. In total, “Dunbar’s number” says you can have about 150 people in your social sphere.

…And that means, if Dunbar is correct, that you can only have a handful of true friends. That means some people you think of a close friends don’t see you that way at all.

So why — apart from making you and I wonder how people really feel about us — does this matter?

Superficial, distant, and less than meaningful relationships can lead to feelings of insecurity and loneliness… which can increase your risk of illness and death just as much as obesity, alcoholism, and smoking.

That means the key isn’t to have more friends. The key isn’t to try to have a tons of friends. The key is to have three or four really, really good friends… and then, of course, plenty of people who aren’t necessarily friends but are fun to be around, or result in a mutually beneficial relationship, or share common interests….

You don’t need to be less friendly — you just need to nurture the most important relationships in your life…

Read more about ways to do this at … http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/think-you-have-lots-of-friends-youre-wrong-science-says-were-lucky-to-have-5.html

ACCOUNTABILTY GROUPS & How Jon Weist Recreates Wesley “Band Meetings” #Exponential #TheWesleyanChurch

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 4/25/16.

In partnership with the Exponential East conference, The Wesleyan Church holds an “Ignite” pre-conference sponsored by their Department of Church Multiplication and Discipleship.  Here are thoughts gleaned from Jon Wiest (church planter and current church revitalizer):

“We have four congregations plus multiple gatherings (mid-sized group), small groups and accountability groups of 3-4 like Wesley’s band meeting.”

“We have all this information about church organization, but when it comes to discipleship we don’t have a clear answer about ‘How do you do that? What do they do?’ We are changing the way this church thinks about this.  Now they think about these steps:

  1. It starts with the Bible. Everyone reads two chapters a week and then we write down our thoughts. We have a bookmark to remind us about 10-questions (Wesley?) we ask people to answer.
  2. Three people in a group walk through the bookmark and we share one of the journal entries regarding how God spoke to us this week.  Accountability groups recruit individuals to join one of these “discipleship groups.”
  3. Prayer for the unchurched is part of this.  We see discipleship as including evangelism, so that evangelism takes place here.  We formerly did an attractional strategy which forced people down from Sunday attendance downward in this process. Our process is upward instead, where they come into this discipleship group and then get involved in bigger fellowship-orientated small groups and gatherings and our four congregations.

This creates a culture of discipleship throughout the organization.”

SOCIAL HOLINESS & The Methodist Band Meeting: Confession Is For Protestants Too!

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Kevin Watson is a Wesley scholar and professor at Emory University that is indigenizing John Wesley’s method for emerging generations. I agree with him that people misapply Wesley’s phrase, ” The gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness” (John Wesley, 1739, “Preface” to “Hymns and Sacred Poems″). People usually apply this in a limited sense, e.g. to encourage social action, customarily through deeds of advocacy for the poor and disenfranchised. Yet Wesley saw social holiness as much more, meaning “communal holiness,” or in other words holiness bred in conferencing and intimacy between believers. Hence, Wesley encouraged participation in small groups (i.e. class meetings) and even smaller huddles (called bands) to foster this holy intimacy. Social holiness meant helping the needy as part of the task, but not as the complete task, because social holiness meant holiness bred of community and accountability. Read Dr. Watson’s helpful article for more on this.

The Methodist Band Meeting: Confession Is For Protestants Too!

by Kevin Watson, 1/21/15.

When was the last time that you confessed any known sins you had committed to another person, or group of people? When I discuss the value of confessing sin, people often seem uncomfortable with a practice that seems too “Roman Catholic.” Did you know that confessing sin was a very important practice that was at the heart of the early Methodist revival? Did you know the band meeting was the most concrete way Wesley put his understanding of sanctification and entire sanctification into practice?

Early Methodists were known for their organization and multiple layers of meetings and groups. In England, early Methodists gathered together in annual conferences, quarterly conferences, society meetings, class meetings, band meetings, love feasts, prayer meetings, select societies (or select bands), and even penitent bands. Historians have often noted the importance of conferencing for early Methodism.

Methodists gathered together because they were convinced that growth in holiness was most likely to happen in community, by “watching over one another in love.” Early on in his ministry, Wesley believed community was so important to the pursuit of holiness that he criticized the isolated individual’s pursuit of holiness as similar to pursuing holiness through the practice of idolatry. He wrote:

Directly opposite to this is the gospel of Christ. Solitary religion is not to be found there. ‘Holy solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness. (John Wesley, “Preface”; in “Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1739″)

This is the one passage where Wesley uses the phrase “social holiness,” which has so often been misused in contemporary Methodism. The best example of what Wesley meant by social holiness was the early Methodist band meeting.

In discussing the early Methodist approach to small group formation, people often confuse the class meeting and the band meeting. The class meeting was required for everyone who was Methodist and it often included women and men in one group. There were typically seven to 12 Methodists in a class meeting (though they were sometimes much larger). The basic question of the class meeting was: “How does your soul prosper?”

The band meeting was optional, though highly encouraged, for all Methodists who had experienced justification by faith and the new birth. Bands had about five people in them and were divided by gender and marital status. There were several prerequisites for joining a band meeting. Once you joined a group, five questions were asked at every weekly meeting:

1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?

2. What temptations have you met with?

3. How was you delivered?

4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?

5. Have you nothing you desire to keep secret? (John Wesley, “Rules of the Band Societies”)

The band meeting was a place of deep vulnerability and intimacy. It was a place where Christians were completely honest with each other about the ways in which they knew they had fallen short of who God was calling and enabling them to be in Christ. When Methodists discussed the rules or organization of band meetings, they nearly always started by stating that they gathered together in bands in order to be faithful to James 5:16, which reads: “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

The purpose of band meetings was not to shame one another or heap guilt and condemnation on one another. On the contrary, in telling each other the truth about their lives, particularly where they had fallen short, Methodists brought each other to the bottomless wells of God’s amazing grace. They sought to drench one another in God’s healing grace so that they could experience freedom from all that kept them from complete freedom in Christ.

Might this be a practice that God is calling members of the Wesleyan/Methodist family to retrieve? Confession of sin is a means of grace in multiple ways. Confession is a concrete act of repentance. As a result, it is a gracious act that paves the way for a new experience of one’s forgiveness and restoration as a beloved child of God. Confessing sin also expresses a belief in and desire for ongoing growth in holiness. One purges what is not of God to be freed from it, and in order to be further filled with the life of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the past, revival and renewal within Methodist communities tended to be preceded by humble, forthright confession of sin. This practice is not common in many contemporary Wesleyan/Methodist communities. This fact may say more about the extent of our current desire to hide, to cover up, and to avoid deep intimacy with brothers and sisters in Christ than it says about the ongoing relevance of such a practice today.

May the Triune God enable contemporary Wesleyan/Methodist churches to boldly reclaim this practice. And in so doing, may we find genuine repentance for any sin that lingers in our lives, a new experience of the Father’s audacious and neverending love for us through what has already been accomplished for us in Christ, and a freedom and desire by the Holy Spirit to entirely love God and neighbor, to the exclusion of sin.

WESLEY & How to Create Accountability in Small Groups

by Bob Whitesel, 3/5/15

I’ve found that often times small groups lack an accountability function and instead mutate into venues in which people “don’t want to hurt any feelings” (and true accountability does happen). But, there are questions that can be asked, formats that you can embrace and things you can do to encourage a deeper level of communication in small groups.

John Wesley faced such problems.  Attached is an article I thought you might enjoy about the relational nature of his small groups: http://www.disciplewalk.com/files/Joel_Comiskey_Methodist.pdf

Wesley required followers to attend “class meetings” usually of 6-15 people, but he also encouraged for accountability the participation in “bands” which were usually under six people. They were more intimate, and thus could offer more accountability.

Below are the frank questions that he encouraged be asked at every band meeting (taken from Joel Comiskey, “Wesley’s Small Group Organization,” http://www.disciplewalk.com/files/Joel_Comiskey_Methodist.pdf cited above and extracted with permission from Joel Comiskey, History of the Cell Movement: A Ph.D. Tutorial Presented to Dr. Paul Pierson; the entire tutorial (including bibliographical resources for notes) is available at: http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/tutorials/cellHistory-1.html

  • What known sins have you committed since the last meeting?
  • What temptations have you met with? How were you delivered?
  • What have you thought, said, or done which may or may not be sin?