What We Value
What do you value most on the first night of small group? The number of people who show up? Or the one life that begins the process of change?
In the 1700s, the spiritual climate of a generation was shaped by two important figures- George Whitfield and John Wesley. Both preached to huge crowds and led high profile ministries.
George Whitfield was regarded as the best preacher of his time, and he has left us a legacy of Biblically rich and stirring, convicting sermons that are as relevant today as they were then.
John Wesley was a good preacher, as well, but he prioritized investment in people over the sermon. His legacy can be found in people-- the millions of followers in churches all over the world that have been left in his wake.
I'd personally rather be a John Wesley than a George Whitfield-- a legacy that is found not only on some dusty bookshelves, but in the everyday, walking around lives of people. But that's harder to do because you can't see the immediate success. Recognizing that his legacy was dependent not only on his own gifts and abilities, but also on the gifts and skills of those he discipled, Wesley organized his followers into groups called “class meetings.” At each meeting, the participants shared what they were learning from Bible study, what they were praying for, where they were struggling, and where they were growing.
Wesley also invested significant time and energy in the development of young preachers. Even today, you can visit the chapel that he built at Bristol in which he installed a glass window above the sanctuary from which he could watch his young emerging ministers preach. Afterwards, he would meet with each of them and evaluate their progress.
Over 200 years later, we see the powerful results of Wesley's vision to prioritize people. Wesley’s movement brought us the United Methodist Church, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Wesleyan Church, representing millions of Christ followers today.
So what should we value most-- how many people show up? how well we led a group discussion? We tend to value most the things we can measure most readily and easily, but placing priority on those things might short-circuit the greater purpose of our group. If we value the growth of one person-- no matter how small or how long it takes-- we will build the Kingdom of God through people.