Here are my notes for Chilcote’s Recapturing the Wesleys’ Vision, chapter 3: Shared Experience.
1. “Wesley’s goal was to cultivate personal religious experience in the context of supportive fellowship groups” (p. 45). His experience with and vision for these fellowship groups was that they would “watch over one another in love,” that is, take responsibility for helping one another stay on the Christian path. “The early Methodist people discovered the freedom of living in the grace of God within the context of a disciplined fellowship, a committed community. This brings up an irony and paradox of the Christian gospel–to experience freedom, we must be bound to the right Master and the right disciplines.
2. Personal: Wesley emphasized “the personal nature of faith, which is ‘a divine evidence and conviction, not only that ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself,’ but also that Christ ‘loved me and gave himself for me”” (p. 46). The defining moment in Wesley’s life was his Aldersgate experience when the truth of God’s love came home to him in a deeply personal way. “If faith is authentic, it will always find expression in the first person singular” (p. 47), which means there is some story, some witness to share. And the personal experience of saving faith, of encounter with God, brings us into relationship with God’s family.
3. Social: “The gospel of Christ know of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness” (p. 48, quoting Wesley’s preface to Hymns and Sacred Writings). Two points here. First, “community is necessary, and it is only in the context of a community that God’s love will grow in us.” Wesley used “mutual accountability in fellowship” to grow the people in faith and practice. Second, Christianity is not merely an “inward religion of the heart” (Wesley), but one that is expressed outwardly in relationship with others. Today, we might translate “personal and social” to “personal and corporate.”
4. “A Christianity that is both personal and social will always move individuals toward God and toward one another” (p. 52). Following Christ and life in Christ’s community go hand in hand.