Covenant Discipleship: Christian Formation Through Mutual Accountability


David Lowes Watson advances the practice of mutual accountability in Christian discipleship by expanding and updating the original handbook for covenant discipleship groups.

Accountable Discipleship was the manual for covenant discipleship groups for more than six years, with over 20,000 copies printed in three editions. This new version should prove valuable in leading existing groups to a deeper level of discipleship, and newcomers to a fresh...

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David Lowes Watson advances the practice of mutual accountability in Christian discipleship by expanding and updating the original handbook for covenant discipleship groups.

Accountable Discipleship was the manual for covenant discipleship groups for more than six years, with over 20,000 copies printed in three editions. This new version should prove valuable in leading existing groups to a deeper level of discipleship, and newcomers to a fresh discovery of the best of the Methodist tradition.

Of special interest is Watson's recovery - from John Wesley's General Rules for the early Methodist societies - of a fourfold "General Rule" of discipleship: "To witness to Jesus Christ in the world, and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781579109530
  • Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/2002
  • Pages: 186
  • Sales rank: 465,346
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.64 (h) x 0.42 (d)

Meet the Author

David Lowes Watson is Director of the Office of Pastoral Formation for the Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church. A native of England, he was educated at Oxford University , (M.A.), Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri (M.Div.), and Duke University , Durham, North Carolina (Ph.D.). He has pastored inner city and rural congregations in Illinois and North Carolina, and has served as Executive Secretary for Covenant Discipleship and Christian Formation at the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church. He has taught at Southern Methodist University as the McCreless Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology, and at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. as Professor of Theology and Congregational Life and Mission.He has written extensively in the fields of Methodist history and theology, evangelism, and congregational life and mission. His books include The Early Methodist Class Meeting, and God Does Not Foreclose. He has also written curriculum resources for The United Methodist Church, including the New Testament studies in Troublesome Bible Passages. He was the founding editor of the Covenant Discipleship Quarterly and the Journal of the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education, of which he is a past President. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Bicentennial Edition of The Works of John Wesley and is presently a member of the Board of Directors of Eden Theological Seminary.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface xi
Introduction: A Wesleyan Tradition xiii
Covenant Discipleship Groups xiii
A New Handbook xiv
The "Why" of Covenant Discipleship xiv
The "How" of Covenant Discipleship xiv
Gracious Discipline xv
Back to Basics xv
Class Leaders xvi
Chapter 1 The Challenge of Christian Discipleship 1
The Call to Discipleship 1
The Unconditional Condition 2
The Cost of Discipleship 3
The Dilemma of Discipleship 3
The Anguish of Discipleship 4
The Search for God's Will 5
The Power of Discipleship 6
The Obligations of Discipleship 8
The Worldly Suffering of Discipleship 9
The Pitfall of Spiritual Withdrawal 9
The Hope of Discipleship 10
An Impossible Tension? 11
The Task of Discipleship 12
The Condition of Discipleship 12
The Obedience of Discipleship 13
A Deep Unease 14
Back to Our Roots 14
The Practice of Discipleship 15
A Ring of Common Sense 15
A Practical Example 16
Mutual Help and Support 16
The Need for Leaders 17
A Pattern for Discipleship 18
For Thought and Discussion 19
Chapter 2 Early Methodist Discipleship 21
The Wesley Brothers 21
Wesley the Theologian 21
The Tension of the Gospel 22
Wesley's Upbringing 23
An Influential Mother 23
Wesley's Churchmanship 24
Ecclesiola in Ecclesia 24
Reform of the Church 25
Reaching Out to All 25
The World His Parish 25
Churchly Tensions 26
Against Schism 26
Formative Factors 27
The Religious Societies 27
The Moravians 29
The Bands 29
Too Much Too Soon 30
Disciplined Christian Living 31
Christian Assurance and Christian Discipleship 32
Degrees of Faith 32
Forms of Grace 33
Freedom to Resist 34
Wesley's "Pelagianism" 34
Salvation with Responsibility 34
Family Chores 35
Necessary Good Works 36
A Revolutionary Teaching 36
Christian Maturity and Christian Obedience 37
Aldersgate Street 37
Spiritual Diversity 38
Mutual Accountability 38
Basic Guidelines for Discipleship 39
The Form and the Power of Discipleship 40
The Method of Methodist Discipleship 40
The Class Meeting 41
For Thought and Discussion 42
Chapter 3 The Early Methodist Class Meeting 43
"That Excellent Institution" 43
Lots to Tell 43
Criteria for Accountability 44
The General Rules 45
Do No Harm 45
Do Good 46
The Ordinances of the Church 46
The Means of Grace 47
Gracious Works 48
Maturity of Obedience 48
Format of the Class Meeting 49
The Danger of Formality 49
Continuation of the Bands 50
Basic Structure 50
The Class Leader 51
Class Discipline 52
Class Tickets 52
Conditions of Membership 53
The "Muscle" of the Body 53
Body Building 54
The Body of the Church 54
The Decline of the Class Meeting 55
From Society to Church 55
Keeping Things in Context 56
To Reform the Church 56
Ecclesiola AND Ecclesia 57
Commitment to the Church 57
The Challenge of Early Methodism 58
For Thought and Discussion 59
Chapter 4 The Class Meeting for the Church of Today 61
Traditioning the Class Meeting 61
Accountability for Christian Discipleship 62
Accountability for Living in the World 62
Accountability for the General Rules 63
Accountability for Works of Mercy 64
Accountability for Works of Piety 64
Working for Our Spiritual Food 65
Accountability to and for the Church 65
Accountability to the Holy Spirit 66
The Method of Methodism 67
Accountable Discipleship for Today 68
Two Important Contextual Factors 68
Mutual Accountability 69
One Day at a Time 69
Holding Fast with One Another 70
Meeting Jesus Christ in the World 71
Serving Jesus Christ in the World 71
On Call for Christ 72
Active Expectancy 73
The Need for Basic Guidelines 73
For Thought and Discussion 75
Chapter 5 The General Rule of Discipleship 77
Mercy and Piety: Social and Personal 77
A New General Rule 78
A Fourfold Tension 79
A Basic Checklist 79
An Old Mistake 80
Christian License 80
The General Rule of Discipleship 81
Witnessing to Jesus Christ 82
Witnessing in the World 83
Following the Teachings of Jesus 83
Accountability for Acts of Compassion 84
Common Courtesies 84
Accountability for Acts of Justice 85
Justice with an Agenda 85
Social Risk 86
Mutual Consultation 86
Social Responsibility 86
Accountability for Acts of Worship 87
Liturgical Renewal 87
To Glorify God 88
A Personal Illustration 88
Accountability for Acts of Devotion 89
Face to Face with God 89
Alone with God 90
The Discipline of Fasting 91
Accountability to the Holy Spirit 91
The Threat of Christ's Presence 91
Promptings and Warnings of the Holy Spirit 92
Accountability to and for the Church 92
The Few and the Many 93
Congregational Leadership 93
Covenant Discipleship Groups 94
Holding Fast 94
For Thought and Discussion 95
Chapter 6 Forming a Covenant Discipleship Group 97
Joining a Group 97
Group Membership 98
Covenant Discipleship for Young People 98
Covenant Discipleship at Seminary 99
The Number of Members 99
The Right Day and Time 99
Task-Oriented 100
What Covenant Discipleship Groups Are Not 100
The Top Priority: Be There 101
The Importance of Regular Attendance 101
Certainty in the Midst of Uncertainties 102
Two More "First Steps," 103
Some Common Questions 105
Chapter 7 Writing the Covenant 113
The Nature of Covenant with God 113
The Preamble 114
The Clauses 114
A Sample Covenant of Discipleship 115
The General Rule of Discipleship 116
Spiritual Promptings and Warnings 117
Living in the World 117
Responsiveness to Context 118
Practicality 118
"Taking up the Slack," 119
Length of the Covenant 120
Keeping Our Bearings 120
Personal Clauses 121
The Conclusion 121
Signing the Covenant 122
Openended Commitment 122
Leaving the Group 123
Radical Freedom 123
Some Covenant Preambles 124
Some Covenant Clauses 127
No Neat Categories 127
Progressive Accountability 127
Christ the Only Paradigm 128
Acts of Compassion 129
Acts of Devotion 131
Acts of Justice 133
Acts of Worship 135
Spiritual Promptings and Warnings 136
Some Covenant Conclusions 137
A Covenant from Prison 138
Some Common Questions 139
Chapter 8 The Group Meeting 143
Only One Strict Rule 143
Any Time, Any Day 143
A Regular Meeting Place 144
Leading the Group 145
Catechesis: Question and Answer 145
Opening the Meeting 146
Reading the Covenant 146
The Covenant Clauses 147
Covering All the Clauses 149
Controlled Dialogue 149
"Advise, Reprove, Comfort or Exhort," 150
Polite Rather Than Intense 150
Personal Problems 151
Closing the Meeting 152
Housekeeping 152
Conveners 153
A Sample Group Meeting 154
Conclusion: Two Warnings and a Promise 163
The "Doldrums," 163
Complacency 164
The Promise of Grace 165
Endnotes 167
Resources 171
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