At the heart of the Methodist movement in its earliest stages were two communal experiences: the class meeting and the band meeting. The class meeting was the entry point into the Methodist societies. Men and women would come together and answer the question, “How does your soul prosper?” For people who were there because they wanted to “flee from the wrath to come,” an honest answer to that question was the starting line from which they ran into the nail-scarred, justifying hands of Jesus Christ. As these men and women grew in their faith, the answers changed. There was more of God and testimony to God’s goodness and grace. Many people in class meetings, however, would experience a restlessness as though there were something more, something deeper available to them. They didn’t only want to know Jesus saved them from the guilt of their sin, they wanted Jesus to break their hearts free from power of sin. Those desiring to do so would attend band meetings where the questions shifted to ones like “What known sins have you committed since we last met?”
Methodism in all of its forms hasn’t set much store by the band meeting in a long time. They faded out of institutional memory and practice long before I was born. I don’t think I heard them mentioned until I was in seminary, and even then it was as a historical footnote. I found the idea of a group of people hearing me confess sin, sharing the temptations I experienced from week to week, and whether I was keeping anything a secret both exhilarating and terrifying. Do I really want to be known that deeply? Will my friends still want to be my friends when they discover how depraved I still am? These questions became walls between me and others, people I loved. And yet, my deeper desire was to experience the depths of God’s love and his ability to cleanse the human heart so that I could live a life released from the bondage of sin’s power.
In September 2017, I began to meet weekly with four other men for the purpose of banding together in order that we might be freed and healed. There is nothing I look forward to more from week to week. Our band has been a challenging source of sanctifying grace both in learning to love and work alongside others and in having people love me and pronounce the biblical exhortation of forgiveness over me. Ever since the first meeting I have noticed that my heart and my thought patterns have changed. I’m more aware of myself and my surroundings. I treat others with more love and grace. I’m quicker to repent. All because of those men and those questions[^1].
My love for God and my love for people have taken a turn for the better since I started meeting with my beloved brothers in Christ. If you desire to do the same, let me recommend a great starting point, a book called The Band Meeting by Kevin Watson and Scott Kisker. They not only explore the historical and theological importance of the band meeting, they offer practical suggestions and testimonies from people who, like me, have found it an extraordinary means of grace.
: The questions are:
1. What known sins have you committed since we last met? 2. What temptations have you met with? 3. How were you delivered? 4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not? 5. Is there anything you desire to keep secret?