Discovering Church in an Age of Deception – Part 3
Part 3 is simply my effort to share what I hope will be some practical insights for becoming and being authentic church. Many sincere followers of Jesus have concerns over the orderliness and discipline of a church which does not have the formal structure and leadership most associate with the church. They can envision chaotic meetings without the benefit of recognized leadership and the security of a structured liturgy. However, if the church truly is the company of the committed, if the church is comprised of sold-out-for-Jesus disciples, then you won’t have the prideful, self-centered petty attitudes and behavior we have all witnessed at one time or another in our church experience. Uncorrectable bad behavior in the church only exists with unaccountable and unsubmitted non-disciples.
Where should the church meet? In a sense, the real church should be able to meet in just about any location and still put its focus where it should be. However, when the latitude exists, why not meet in a place that most encourages the true functioning of the church. I believe that place is the home. In the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible, there are 22 uses of some form of the word for hospitality. We are told to love hospitality, to be given to it, we are to practice hospitality. It is especially stressed that the more mature believers are to have hospitality in their spiritual resume. Meeting in the home puts people at ease. It promotes relationships. In the home, the number of participants is obviously limited. This is a plus since people tend to fall through the cracks in larger gatherings. In order for the priesthood of all believers to be fully functional, you must by necessity limit the number of saints gathering at one time.
Structuring a service requires consideration of what ought to be transpiring in our time together. We are interested in building significant, meaningful relationships wherein transparency, trust, accountability, honesty, compassion, and mutual love are characteristic in all present. These traits are neither encouraged nor developed in large, impersonal gatherings. Most services in homes will include prayer, worship, sharing of the Word, testimonies, manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and fellowship. The time allotted to each of these contributions will vary from meeting to meeting as the Holy Spirit leads. We also see different spiritual motivations or giftings frequently settle on certain individuals. This might be gifting in prophecy, teaching, pastoring or leading, etc. These are not positions or titles; they are inner motivations and abilities sponsored and resourced by the Holy Spirit.
Believers who are still young in their spiritual maturity simply need to be taught in the ways of the Lord as they are called together in Jesus’ name. In Corinth, Paul was dealing with some very enthusiastic saints who must have been less than gracious as they jockeyed for opportunities to prophesy or teach or share some revelation. He assured them that all would be permitted to contribute but only in an orderly manner. Paul dispelled any notion that individuals could be taken over by the Holy Spirit and coerced into surrendering their volition when he wrote: “Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turns.” Unfortunately, there have been shameless misrepresentations of the spiritual gifts and workings of the Holy Spirit serving to bring contempt and derision upon Christians, the church and Christianity as a whole.
In starting a church in the home, it is favorable to hopefully have at least one person in attendance with some degree of maturation in the faith. In this case, others would most likely look to that person as an “elder” and accept the guidance and leadership that person could provide. Once again, I would stress that “elder” is not a title or a position but rather a calling and motivation that leads to serving others even as all ministry giftings should do.
Many disciples choosing to meet anonymously in the home fail to understand their respective roles in the body. I believe John’s first letter provides considerable help in this regard. John is encouraging the believers to bring forth from their own lives how they have been impacted by Jesus.
We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.” 1 Jn 1:1-4 NLT
I encourage the saints to put these verses in the first person rather than the third and therefore better inculcate the essence of what is being taught in these verses. For example, “I am proclaiming to you…whom I have heard and seen. I saw him with my own eyes and touched him with my own hands…This one who is life itself was revealed to me. I proclaim to you…”
Every follower of Christ should have a transformational relationship with him. This means hearing shaping, forming words from Jesus day by day that are conforming us to his image. When I am in the Word and Jesus calls me more unto himself, then I have seen and heard him, I have touched him with my own hands. That is what I am to proclaim to others that they too can be inspired and encouraged in their faith and walk with Christ. Every time this happens, it is like a fresh revelation of Jesus. Remember…
It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.” Matt 10:25 NKJV
John seems to indicate in this passage that one of the ends to which our experiencing Jesus and proclaiming him to one another is that we might realize fellowship with each other and also the Lord. Biblical fellowship, koinonia, is far more profound than the typical surface interaction we mostly carry on with others. Koinonia is a sharing in and a partaking of one another’s lives. It has to do with the kind of bonding that transpires when persons share a common unique and meaningful experience that has significantly affected their lives. Encountering Jesus should always be a life-altering experience such as when he called the original disciples to follow or when Paul met him on the road to Damascus. Proclaiming to one another what we have “seen and heard” isn’t about getting others to have the same experience; it is more about demonstrating the character, ways and purposes of God.
Ultimately, this is all about growing up into the full stature in Christ. It is about being conformed to his image. As renown teacher and author, DeVern Fromke, once said, “What our heavenly Father really desires is many sons and daughters just like Jesus.”
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Eph 1:4,5 NLT