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John Wesley’s Discipleship Accountability Questions

The questions have their origin in the spiritual accountability group started by Wesley when he was a student at Oxford — a group that detractors called “The Holy Club.” The first list appeared about 1729 or 1730 in the preface to Wesley’s second Oxford Diary. Similar questions appeared in his 1733 A Collection of Forms of Prayer for Every Day in the Week. As late as 1781, Wesley published a list of questions like this in the Arminian Magazine.

The heart of Methodism during the life of John Wesley was the Methodist Class Meeting. This was a small covenant discipleship support group where members were accountable to each other. They confessed their faults one to another, prayed for each other, and stirred up one another to love and good works. Here the teachings of the Bible were examined in light of actual personal experience. Here leaders were nurtured and equipped.

Some of the questions proposed to everyone before he is admitted among us may be to this effect:

  • Have you the forgiveness of your sins?
  • Have you peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ?
  • Have you the witness of God’s Spirit with your spirit, that you are a child of God?
  • Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart?
  • Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you?
  • Do you desire to be told your faults?
  • Do you desire to be told of all your faults, and that plain and home?
  • Do you desire that every one of us should tell you, from time to time, whatsoever is in his heart concerning you?
  • Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear, concerning you?
  • Do you desire that, in doing this, we should come as close as possible, that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom?
  • Is it your desire and design to be on this, and all other occasions, entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart without exception, without disguise, and without reserve?

The following materials are taken from the writings of John Wesley and his Preachers.

  •  Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  • Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
  • Can I be trusted?
  • Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  • Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  • Did the Bible live in me today?
  • Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
  • Am I enjoying prayer?
  • When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
  • Do I pray for the money I spend?
  • Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  • Do I disobey God in anything?
  • Do I insist on doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  • Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  • Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  •  How do I spend my spare time?
  • Am I proud?
  • Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
  • Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  • Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  • Is Christ real to me?

“Encourage one another daily . . . so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” — Hebrews 3:13

Commitments to Discipleship

 Recently we had David Watson, CityTeam’s Vice-President and international trainer, who shared with Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary how God is moving among the most unreached parts of the world, and most of that without foreign leadership.  A major change is taking place in tactics and strategies of laborers serving in the cutting edge of the gospel advance in restricted and resistant areas.  The following is a seven-fold strategy shift in ministry priorities as described in Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale :

1.    Make Intercessory prayer the highest priority.

Prayer has become so perfunctory and superficial that one wonders if God is listening; however, our prayer attitudes shout how little we really depend on Him.  With unlimited finances and technology we ask for little beyond God’s blessing on our plans.  Amazing things happen when serious and specific intercessory prayer is depended upon as the only recourse for dramatic changes in lives, dangerous situations, or impossible needs. Few churches pray for devoted disciples to be raised up among specific unevangelized people groups or tribes. Do we believe Jesus meant it when He declared Matt 24:14?

2.    Make disciples who make disciples

Jesus told us to make disciples (Matt 28:19), not just converts, which requires much more time and close relationships. A quick prayer and a dip in the water is hardly what Jesus had in mind. It took the omnipotent God-Man several years to make a handful of disciples (est. 120-150), yet at best we attempt discipleship by a few scattered instructional meetings, not a relationship, and then leave the “student” on his own.  Most believers become apathetic or worse with this system, yet we blame everything but our shallow commitment to the new believer.  Jesus challenged and contributed to the disciple’s lives everyday. They later practiced the same method.

3.    Invest time in the right person to disciple

As in business the 80/20 Pareto principle is close to reality. Contemporary education thinks everyone can become great leaders by taking a course.  Attracting people to the gospel gains superficial fans that quickly fade when a commitment to sacrifice time, resources or one’s life is required. Jesus taught to find the right person that God has prepared in advance (Matt 10; Luke 10), then devote yourself to just him, not going to the masses.

4.    Don’t tell disciples what to believe and do.

Let people discover for themselves truths and commands to take seriously. Obedience to easy to understand commands is more essential than any in-depth instruction in the “deeper” things of God.

5.    Never settle for revealing just one dimension of Jesus’ life.

Christian compassion ministries tend to minimize evangelism and church planting to maintain their presence in restricted countries. The balance of compassion and clear evangelism is rare. Jesus never separated the two focuses.

6.    Never substitute knowledge about God for an obedience-based relationship with God.

The church institutions typically are good at giving information about the Bible but little focuse on obedience to specific commands in Scriptures.  Many suggest this is the reason why lifestyles of believers are little different from unbelievers. Jesus always spoke of pleasing God by obedience, not by “correct” knowledge.

7.    Understand that Jesus does impossible things through the most ordinary people.

Though we claim to value the “priesthood of all believers,” we require advanced degrees and training for virtually any ministry.  Jesus picked ordinary people without credentials, and after intensive investment in their lives expected them to launch a global ministry, risking everything to fulfill Jesus’ mandate. “Disciple-making is a mandate for every Christian and, when it is done well, it often facilitates the planting of a church… a “simple church,” regularly meeting to discover God’s will together and obeying it.”  Where did this plan go wrong?

Mentor and Protegé

There was a young seventeen-year-old teenage recently converted to Christ who fell in love with his new found reality of a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ.  No one else in his family was a believer; in fact, except for the person who witnessed to him he did not know another Christian!

Then this young man met the first Christian adult man in his life, a recent college graduate.  Because of his interest in Bible study, he was invited to attend a teacher training session in how to teach the Bible designed for teachers in a new Christian Elementary School.  The only man in the group was eager to meet this young teenager and they quickly became friends.

A few weeks later his friend asked him to get two or three other teenagers and he would teach them how to witness and lead someone to faith in Christ.  That Saturday afternoon they met in an empty room at the YMCA.  They began to memorize Bible verses and practice how to witness to each other.  After a couple of hours of practice, they headed down to the main street in downtown Pensacola to find someone to whom they could witness.

The streets were active on the weekends especially with sailors from the Naval Air Station seeking an adventure from their routine on base.  It was not hard to engage any of them in a conversation, but the agony of moving the conversation to a spiritual topic was eventually overcome.  As the clumsy first attempt at presenting the gospel began, the young man was amazed to find the sailor actually listening and interested in the story of Jesus!

Once through the four points of the gospel he had memorized, the final questions were asked, “Would you like to accept Christ as your personal Savior right now?”  To his utter amazement and fright, the sailor responded, “Yes, I would.”  The young man panicked, he shouted over to his older friend, “What do I do now?”

He was told to lead the sailor in a prayer to tell Jesus he was sorry for his sins and to ask Jesus to forgive him and to come into his life to be his personal Lord and Savior forever.   The sailor, fortunately, heard this instruction so that when it was repeated by the young man he was ready.  The young man put his hand on the sailor’s shoulder who began to sob in his recognition of his personal sins and guilt before God, then he prayed to ask Christ into his life.

Soon the sailor stopped sobbing and looked up like he had seen an angel and said, “Wow!”  The young man asked him, “If you were to die today do you know if you would go to heaven?” To which he replied, “Yes because I took Jesus at his promise.  I know He is in my life.”  The young man could hardly stand it.  This was better than making a hole-in-one, running a touchdown or catching a marlin.  That thrill would mark this teenager’s life from then on.

The young man asked the sailor if he wanted to meet other Christians, to which he replied in the affirmative, so together they walked two blocks to the Servicemen’s Center, a Christian activity Center for military Christians who want some healthy activity instead of the typical behavior of sailors on leave.  About six other sailors were in the Center and were excited to meet a fellow believer and now brother.  The young man left his first convert in good hands, then returned to the streets to find someone else who might need to hear the gospel.

The young man in this true story is Dr. Don Fanning, the author of this blog, now after thirty-years of missionary service in Latin America, he has come to Liberty University and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary as the Director for the Center for Global Engagement and Chairman of the Global Studies Department.  The mature Christian man in the story is Dr. Ron Godwin, Provost of Liberty University.  After forty years on different paths, God has allowed these two life-long friends to serve together in a training and evangelistic task of global proportions that neither of them could have ever imagined.