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Class Leaders: Recovering a Tradition Paperback – April 30, 2002
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Because this is Christ's model for ministry, it should be ours as well. Unfortunately, the class meeting lost its value and purpose within the Methodist Episcopal Church as it transformed from movement to institution. Watson takes care to track the decline of the authority and significance of the class leader as the church began to shift from true pastoral itinerancy to more established, geographically local clergy. As the church invested more in its administration, it neglected the development of strong lay leaders. The class meeting and class leader system lost so much ground, that by 1939, Methodism's most effective discipling method was stricken from its own Book of Discipline.
However Watson does not simply propose that we return to the Methodist class meeting. Rather, he outlines a "re-traditioning" of class meetings to ensure that we are not trying to fit old wine into new wineskins. Re-traditioning involves first understanding the Biblical basis for the ministry, next understanding the culture and context in which the ministry will occur, and then identifying and equipping leaders to serve. Watson's companion books, Covenant Discipleship: Christian Formation Through Mutual Accountability and Forming Christian Disciples: The Role of Covenant Discipleship and Class Leaders in the Congregation provide insight into the spirituality and systems needed in the local church to accomplish those tasks.