John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism, understood salvation to be about our transformation into the children God has claimed us to be. Forgiveness is necessary, but not sufficient for the children of God, for the church. Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). He has gone “to the Father” (John 16:28). Our calling is to be as he was, “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” Now we are to “shine like stars in the world” (Phil. 2:15).
Forgiveness is reconciliation, the beginning of intimacy with God. That relationship saves us, by degrees, to become the love that has saved us. As we grow in faith (more and more seeing and knowing the God who created, forgives, and desires to live in and through us), we love better. In one sense, we are saved the moment we come to faith, when we experience forgiveness for our past sins and glimpse the character of the God who created us. In another sense, we are saved when with deepening “assurance of things hoped for” and “conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1), we are equipped and enabled to “walk by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7), consistently, here and now. One might even say that the degree to which we love in this life is the degree to which we are saved in this life from sin.
God extended his love to creation, not because the Trinity needs more company in heaven. God extended his love to us so that each of us might be freed from what binds us to a futile disobedience and grow into the mature character of the love that already embraces us. We are being saved “for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph. 2:10). And we can’t do them unless we are recreated in Christ Jesus to live the love of God. That is grace. Forgiveness alone can’t do that.
The band meeting, a proven discipleship model for growing in love through the accountability of small, same-gender groups, was one of the defining characteristics of the Methodist movement started by John Wesley in the mid-1700s. In reflection on Wesley’s class meeting and band meeting structure, George Whitfield once said, “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.”
In The Band Meeting, Kevin Watson and Scott Kisker give an overview of the richness of this early tradition and introduce a practical approach for growing toward an authentic, transformation-oriented small group experience. Get it from our store here.