When Christians gather in small groups together, we usually greet one another with the colloquial “How are you doing?” This question can also be used to describe what happens thereafter. Many small groups that focus on personal sharing tend to focus on how the participants are doing inwardly, namely, by the sharing of their feelings, attitudes, struggles, insights, and-if real transparency exists-temptations and failings. Although these “soul- discussions” can be rich and productive, they don’t necessarily propel their participants towards Christian maturity and growth.
John Wesley, keenly interested in such maturity and growth, seems to have had a fuller expectation for small group sharing. Not only did he want the Methodists under his care to be asking each other how they were doing (meaning their inner feelings, attitudes, struggles, etc.), he also wanted them to be asking each other another question, which perhaps we can phrase as, “How is your doing?,” or, “How is it going with what you are doing?” Wesley believed that sharing how well you were living out your faith in actions pushed you to live a changed life.
Indeed for Wesley, how one was doing internally (in one’s soul) was directly connected to what one did, or how one lived out the Christian life externally (in one’s actions). ”A tree,” as the saying goes, “is known by its fruit.” Wesley uses this analogy to explain that true religion “is, properly and strictly, a principle within, seated in the inmost soul, and thence manifesting itself by these outward fruits, on all suitable occasions.”l In fact, it must. “But, wherever [true religion] is really fixed in the soul, it will be shown by its fruits. It is therefore expected of all who continue therein, that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation ”
Wesley saw this connection going both ways. Not only is the external life (the “doings”) the best indication ofthe inner spiritual health (the “doing”), but carefully managing the outward Christian practices is also one of the best ways to grow spiritually. In his sermon “On Zeal,” Wesley explains that by outward works of mercy “we exercise all holy tempers; by these we continually improve them, so that all these are real means of grace ” A key Wesley’s insight was that spiritual growth is fostered not only by the disciplining of one’s personal piety, but also by the equally important disciplining of one’s behavior. The Methodist was to train what he or she did, in order to train what he or she believed.
This is taken from the article, “John Wesley’s Question: “How is your doing?”” by David Werner from The Asbury Journal 2010, Vol 65(2), pp. 68-93. To read the complete article go to: http://place.asburyseminary.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=asburyjournal