In recent research, I came across the following quote in Francis Asbury’s Journal:
In meeting the society at night, I spoke plainly of some who neglected their bands and classes; and informed them that we took people into our societies that we might help them become entire Christians, and if they willfully neglected those meetings, they thereby withdrew themselves from our care and assistance. (June 12, 1774, vol. I Journal, p. 118)
This is an interesting quote because it is towards the beginning of Asbury’s ministry in America and is before he was the undisputed leader of American Methodism. It is also ten years before Asbury was ordained and Methodism in America became a Church in its own right.
Yet, from what I have read about Asbury, this was not an isolated sentiment that radically changed after 1784. Rather, it is pretty typical of his understanding both of the importance of the classes and bands for helping people “become entire Christians” as well as his understanding that this was the basic purpose of Methodism (helping people become entire Christians).