In the early days of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, the denomination’s founder, set down six common disciplines or "Rules" that members were expected to agree to.
To meet once a week, at least.
To come together at the hour appointed, without some extraordinary reason.
To begin (those of us who are present) exactly at the hour, with singing or prayer.
To speak each of us in order, freely and plainly, the true state of our souls, with the faults we have committed in thought or deed and the temptations we have felt since our last meeting.
To end every meeting with prayer suited to the state of each person.
To desire some person among us to speak his own state first, and then to ask the rest, in order, as many and as searching questions as may be, concerning their state, sins, and temptations.
"The class meeting (of John Wesley) was the cornerstone of the whole edifice. The classes were in effect house churches (not classes for instruction as the term class might suggest), meeting in the various neighborhoods where people lived…" – from The Radical Wesley: Patterns of Church Renewal, by Howard Snyder
William A. Beckham, in The Second Reformation, writes
"These small groups (classes) functioned as the church. They did what the church was supposed to do. Therefore, when opposition came (and it did!), Wesley was not distracted by the traditional church that considered itself to be the ‘real church.’ The ‘classes’ were the ‘real church’ to Wesley and were therefore his primary focus. They were functioning with the authority of the Body of Christ. Because Wesley placed such a high spiritual purpose and doctrinal nature on his classes, they could withstand the resistance of the traditional church."
"Wesley protected his small groups because he correctly identified them as the very heart of his movement. He simply would not waste his time on people if they would not meet in society. He recorded in his journal on May 26, 1759:
I found the little society which I had joined here two years since had soon split in pieces. In the afternoon, I met several of the members of the praying societies: and showed them what Christian fellowship was, and what need they had of it. About forty of them met me on Sunday, 27, in Mr. Gillies’s kirk, immediately after the evening service. I left them determined to meet Mr. Gillies weekly, at the same time and place. If this be done, I shall try to see Glasgow again: If not, I can employ my time better.