Recently, I re-read the first Discipline of the Methodist church in America States (1784). I read it a little more than a year ago, in preparation for ordination, and wrote several posts, including: The Historic Questions, Rules for Early Methodist Preachers, Smaller Advices for Early Methodist Preachers, Early Methodist View on Use of Time.
One thing that struck me this time was the section, “On the Duty of Preachers, to God, themselves and one another.” One question is, “Do we sufficiently watch over each other?”
Today, in The United Methodist Church, pastors may belong to various fellowships or orders—the Order of Elders, the Order of Deacons, the Fellowship of Local Pastors, etc. Pastors in districts and/or smaller “clusters” may meet periodically for fellowship and personal growth. They can be helpful. But as I read this section in the 1784 Discipline, I realized how high a value was placed on “watching over one another.”
Here’s how the 1784 Discipline answers the question of whether or not we watch over each another?
We do not. Should we not frequently ask each other, Do you walk closely with God? Have you now Fellowship with the Father and the Son? At what hour do you rise? Do you punctually observe the Morning and Evening Hour of Retirement, viz. Five O’Clock? Do you spend the Day in the Manner which the Conference advises? Do you converse seriously, usefully and closely? To be more particular: Do you use all the Means of Grace yourself, and inforce [sic] the Use of them on all other Persons?
My post, Early Methodist View on Use of Time, deals with a couple of these questions.
After these questions, the Discipline goes on to detail list the “instituted” and “prudential” means of grace, but the point is, these are pretty intense questions preachers might use ask to watch over one another. We are a bit more laid back today!