Transparency Over Curriculum

By Joel Comiskey, check out: Facilitate

Many believe that 18th Century Methodism saved England from moral collapse. Participation in a class meeting (identical to modern day cell groups) among those early Methodists was so essential that a person needed a “ticket” verifying he or she was regularly attending a class meeting to even enter the larger society gatherings.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, as Methodism spread around the globe, the class meeting was almost extinct, only occasionally referred to by historians.

So what happened? Why did the Methodist small groups practically disappear?

Kevin Watson wrote an excellent 2013 book called The Class Meeting: Reclaiming a Forgotten (and Essential) Small Group Experience. He explains that Wesley’s classes or cell groups focused on transparent sharing and growth in holiness. They emphasized each person’s current relationship with God and how they were living it out.

But according to Watson, one key reason for their decline was the gradual shift to curriculum based Bible studies, rather than life-changing small groups. Methodists began to talk to each other about abstract ideas, rather than applying God’s Word to their lives.

When a person is uncomfortable in talking about his or her relationship with God, a curriculum driven study can be less intimidating. A person can talk about content instead of really talking about a relationship with his or her Creator. In many Methodist churches, the Methodist “classes” literally became Sunday school “classes.”

Transparency is central to life-giving small groups. Open sharing that leads to biblical transformation is the goal, rather than talking about abstract concepts. So what does transparency look like and how do we practice it in the cell church?