A CALL TO THE ECCLESIA OR TO THE INDIVIDUAL?
(Mark 16:15 NIV) He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
It is interesting that the church so many times reads this as an instruction to go far away to lands over the sea. It seems more glamorous to be missionaries in far off lands. Sometimes this call is appropriate but a survey of the locality of the church will soon reveal a great field very near at hand and well within the resources of the local church to sow and reap for the kingdom.
Today the patterns of yesteryear are no longer adequate. The church has clung almost fiercely and certainly traditionally to the set concepts for gathering people together and the far off missionary idea. Tradition maintains set patterns for leading them into a deeper understanding of the meaning and content of the sacred writings.
There is a need to rethink and evaluate what we do and how the time available is used.
Is it necessary to have a gathering every Sunday? There are seven days in every week.
If we meet what are the things we should always do or can some of these things be scheduled for monthly or periodic participation?
Perhaps each gathering should be for a “special” purpose dictated by the demands of that day and the time available?
Is the evening meeting on Sunday always to be a “Gospel” meeting. There are so many other thing that could be done.
What sort of mid week gathering would attract the majority of the people?
If study of the Scriptures is essential to all, when and how much?
How many times a week can members be expected to attend?
How many hours a week?
Is it legitimate to demand/ask/insist they attend?
Is the Sunday sermon time enough to fulfil the obligation to perfect the saints in the work of the ministry.
Are we caught up in the concept of having a “good” meeting and wasting valuable time by over scheduling some activity. Sung praise and worship for example
When does the Ecclesia receive the essential ministry of the ascension elders?
All these kinds of things need examination regularly lest we fall into the habits of tradition. The Saints can become comfortable in the routine. They come and sit and go through the motions and leave content. (and so can the ministry!!! ) But is this fulfilling the purposes of God?? Where is each person’s priestly input?
Growth, change and moving on are part of God’s purpose and this less obvious area of how the “church” spends its time is often found to be a neat little bit of going around the mountain.
Presuming that all the time that is available i.e all the time the majority is willing to come together as the Ecclesia to minister and be ministered to, is say four hours per week. What MUST the gathering be doing in this time frame in order to be adequately fed and ministered to by the Holy Spirit? How much time
can be/must be allotted to each essential ministry in this available time frame.?
Every other activity for particular groups is an extra and while these are interesting and helpful the “add ons” should not cause a lack of attendance at the central gatherings of the Ecclesia. This substitution can and does happen unless the Eldership establishes wise use of time.
THE FORTRESS CHURCH
The traditional approach to the need to convert the people of the locality has changed very little since the Middle Ages. In those times a church was styled on the Lord of the Manor. It was a literal fortress in the sea of unrest and social instability. Run to the great fortress of the church and be safe. It’s only here we can find the great leaders who will protect us.
We still train the people of God to think with this fortress attitude and develop behaviours to support a “running to” mentality. Everything to do with God is in this one place. Bring people, problems, and social life TO the church centre.
We are not called to come in but to GO. The primary activity of the church is outward. We are in a war and the only way to win a war is to attack.
THE ATTACKING CHURCH
Soldiers (most times a strong force) sally forth and establish outposts. From these an area of land is over run and the outpost develops into a strong point, then becomes an established strong hold and joins hands with a similar adjoining stronghold. The territory won becomes part of the kingdom.
This is not a new idea. Many churches start off with some similar sort of concept. Unfortunately it seldom happens. Many times I have heard, “We intend to first build a strong central church/resource centre/bible school/meeting hall etc. then we can move out and conquer the Town/city/ State. The project grows and grows and many, even most times succeeds up to a point. The large church is very seductive in its appeal and the saints sink back to being Word sponges or pew warmers, they lose the vision and the conquest of the land seems not so important. It has taken too long to happen.
Attitude and vision are vital to success in warfare. A soldier must have faith that his army will win and be “raring to go” We have the weapons let’s get on with it and win the land.
With an outward looking plan and purpose the local church can do the same.
Establish outposts (home churches) draw in the neighbours by visitation, helping hands, participation, social life
Build a strong point. ( Start to build under guidance a local church)
Establish a Stronghold (An independent & established local church)
The saints need to have as a primary attitude the thought, “I don’t come here to build this centre but to learn and be equipped to build a church in MY street or close to it and I believe that with your help I can do it and win the neighbours to Christ.”
It is not enough to build a fortress. To use a colloquial expression the only way to get people’s attention is to be “in their face”. Two, three K’s away is just too far. The peripheral impact of a church on the neighbourhood is likely to be less than a kilometer. “Home churches” is the answer.
Home church development requires a basic instruction and attitude. “If you can only come to church once this week go to your home church. Home church must come first. “
PREPARING THE ARMY
First is the essential of motivation and utter committal. The local church must be sold this idea by preaching the message of involvement from Scriptural examples and stirring them in the excitement of spiritual war. There is to be no option about this. We are all to GO.
All of us and no exceptions
A failure to motivate adequately is defeat before you start. Half hearted warfare means a lot of wounded people and negative thoughts. The army falls back to a defensive position and the enemy attacks the weakened fortress itself. The longer Elders wait to establish an aggressive church the less likely they are to succeed. Now is the time!!
All attacks begin with a plan of the land and its people. A local church is no different. Where do the people come from? Where do we establish the home churches? Who will be enrolled in each? Who do we approach for use of their home/s. Could this be a round robin usage? Who lives in the planned area? It is likely that the best way to get this started is to have all the families in each area assembled together on a Sunday morning and sort it out face to face.
Hard copy lists of names and addresses, homes available, leaders names, preliminary activity guides, power point presentations are needed
Leaders are a good idea but they need to be briefed. How to run a home church, what is always done, the need to report back to the Eldership, the task of visiting those who do not turn up etc
Preparing the soldiers is an going Sunday ministry of the “Mother” church. Ideally using a balance of teaching, pastoral preaching and prophetic guidance. The saints love to sing, praise and worship. However to allow this to dominate the very small amount of time available for fulfilling the mission of growing sheep can skew the church towards an over emphasis on musical expression.
In this regard having a “traditional” service every Sunday is just not necessary.
DEVELOPING THE HOME CHURCH
This developing of new churches is, I have become convinced, the province of the ascension ministries. All such ministries, together with the Eldership who are available from among all of the local church membership should, and I believe must be fellowshipping with one of the home churches when these embryonic local churches meet.
With Ascension ministries there is a need for them to move from group to group to permit their input to be shared with all the church. It is helpful if Home Churches meet as far as possible on different nights to facilitate such ministry.
Read again the pages above about the function of the ascension ministries. These inputs into the home church will be the vitality and spiritual strength that can cause the baby to grow. The fivefold ministries as five fingers are the hand that touches the work with the grace of the Lord and blesses all that it touches.
This constant input is the food, instruction and encouragement required to develop the saints in the work of the ministry and the eventual setting in order and establishment of the new local churches.
Encouragement is necessary and essential. Every way and any way to allow the individual home church to tell of their doing must be used to underline how important these baby churches are for the Lord’s work in winning the war.
If you want this kind of move to work the active participation of all mature ministry is vital. Sheep must see the shepherd active in the work. Any sort of home group project fails get enthusiastic attendance if there is no shepherd participation in each and every group. Home churches also must be an obligation on young people and children. The home church must be really a “my church” idea not just a pretend situation. Emotional attitude plays an important part in success. Everyone needs to be utterly convinced in their heart that this is the Lord’s way to victory and the leadership is 100% behind the Home Church in word and deed.
TEACHING THE HOW TO
Churches in the making needs to be taught how to do the basics not just know about them.
Such as : moving in the gifts, praying, witnessing, taking communion, giving a word as sharing, being a Royal Priest, everyone needs to participate
No one should get away with excuses such as I can’t move in a gift of the Spirit. We ALL can seek after and have this blessing. The same can be said for most spiritual ministry. No pew warmers allowed should be the rule. And the rule needs to be said loudly and often. Shepherding is teaching about and training to do. Both are vital. When saints meet in His name
Scripture says ALL have something to contribute. AND THEY SHOULD DO SO.
(1 Cor 14:26 NIV) What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
The very important word here is “everyone”. In the local church everyone should/must be involved in order to strengthen the church. Eldership failure to provide the structure where this is possible weakens the church.
All of the saints are called in this Scripture to have (bring?):
i. hymn (song, psalm, musical contribution )
ii a word of instruction (sermon, short or long admonition, testimony)
iii a revelation (prophecy, vision, word of knowledge, word of wisdom)
iv. tongues and interpretation
Another important phrase is “all of these things must be done”
Local churches still persist and insist that the above instruction is not for everyone but for special people who perform the above functions.
“Must be done” is interpreted as when we get around to it and then only if we have time.
Choirs, orchestras and brilliant sermons make spectacular performances but are no substitute for growing mature sheep who can and will obey the great commission.
(1 Sam 15:22 NIV) But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices (choirs, orchestras and brilliant sermons) as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice,(all the time spent on polishing the meeting place.) and to heed is better than the fat of rams.(putting on a good show)
A PLAN FOR BUILDING THE PROPHETIC COMMUNITY
First and basic for the attacking church is an accepted understanding among its members that there are minimum obligations. The basic premise is that you are expected to attend with all your family at least two meetings per week. These meetings are Sunday morning and Home Church. To establish this principle is the work of the Eldership. Not a simple task and it has to be preached, exhorted, cajoled, pushed at every opportunity until a cultural habit is established. WE EXPECT !!!! Is an appropriate attitude.
The structure of having Pastoral care leaders will reinforce this principle if they do the job conscientiously. In fact their input is critical to success, as is their skill in follow up.
Pastoral Care in each home church would consist of two members, (ideally husband & wife) caring for about five families. The carer’s task is to follow up all who are not present at Sunday and midweek meetings. Ideally he/she would visit personally and deliver newsletter & make inquiry as to health, needs, etc.
Also follow up on any “new” in their geographical area be they just visitor or interested person is part of the task. Particularly to introduce them to the Home Church meeting. Not intrusive but to show the caring face to members and interested ones.
A letter, then another letter about two weeks later can bring surprising results.
Everyone must come to understand that the church is a family and we are ALL concerned about each other and desire to care for and support one another in our corporate growth, worship, and assembling together as obedient servants of the Lord God.
This method will take care of a big problem of oversight; the ” Who needs ministry?.” Far too often the member sits at home too timid or embarrassed or fearful or a number of other reasons, afraid to call for help, angry that no one cares and the Elders never hear about them except a final realisation that they are no longer coming to church. The bigger the church the more often this happens.
Carefully selected carers are the ideal basis for Home Church leaders and in due course Elders for the developing local church that grows out of the Home Church.
Two couples for each Home church is desirable.
A “Paul” couple who would mentor a”Timothy” couple
If these pairs are married it simplifies things but there is need to remember to leave space for singles to work in pairs at this ministry.
There is a reason for mentor pairing. When the group becomes too large the “Timothy” leaders become the “Paul” leaders for the new group.
Geographical locationing of each group is important. There should be no option about where members attend. It must be understood at the beginning that the geographical boundaries WILL be changed as numbers grow and needs expand. Teach that folks go to the group allotted regardless of previous associations and friendship groups. Our calling is to spread the Gospel through out the community, to extend the mantle of the Lord over this city and claim the land.
ALL should attend. This is a family church and so all the family go. Children can and do contribute and minister and should be involved. If the folk use imagination and enthusiasm it can be a wonderful experience for everyone.
The only variation that may be found necessary is the musicians. One per group is an important ingredient. Not necessarily one who plays at church but one willing to go as directed and can provide music of some sort. A good singer may sometimes lead in the absence of music.
The home church concept is not a closed study group. Far from it. This is a time to invite friends, to be a worshipping family, to demonstrate the reality of the prophetic community. We sing together, pray together, share our experiences in the Christian walk, hear from the young ones their experiences, seek advice, hear a Word from several who have been given insights into the Scripture, share communion, prayer, moving in gifts of the Holy Spirit, receive a visit from Eldership for a “special” word and most importantly get to know each other as people. NO pre-planning apart from physical practicalities but let the churches be guided by the Spirit.
Being gathered in His name Jesus is in the midst and a remembrance is needed about the times He spent in joyous social occasions.
Underlying Home Church must always be the Pauline teaching
(1 Cor 14:26 KJV) How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
It not a matter of “Go & get” but “Come together & give”. An essential task of the leaders is to make sure that everybody is given a time and a space to do this. More blessed is he who gives rather than receives and our inner spirit knows this. It is a powerful motivation to attend.
Within the Home Church the idea of taking turns is an accepted idea. This would wherever humanly possible include being the host household and physical refreshment such as tea and bikkies. The less able need to know their state is accepted just as the more fortunate need to learn gracious acceptance.
The when can be a choice given by Eldership and made by the member families. Wed or Thurs. Perhaps. So also with time of starting. Leaders need to note that beginning and finishing on time is vital. No matter how people say it doesn’t matter, it does. If the time decided is 7.00 p.m. START. Leave the front door open and get on with it. Finish means completed and out the door. NO excuses, it must finish and start on time.
The senior leader has one other duty besides leading the Home Church. He/she should be given a small report sheet supplied by the Eldership. On it is to be noted, how many came, a sentence or two as to how things are going, any cries for help. This goes into an envelope already addressed and stamped and is posted ASAP. (That night if possible) No slip ups!
Ideally this reporting back leads to a meeting of all leaders fortnightly with the Elders. This is the opportunity to share the good and bad happenings, receive guidance, pray for one another, share insights and perhaps receive a short teaching word. If this is not done the leaders will float away from the BIG family and the vital touch from more mature ministry.
Pastoral care leaders as earlier mentioned are responsible for follow up and this begins at the Sunday service. Each leader needs to touch base with the members of their group and be welcome their special family. Visitors & new faces also come into their brief.
It would help a great deal if name tags were used in the Home church meetings. Visitors could be given a coloured circle with their name and leaders taught to follow up on recording address etc.
THE ADVANTAGES OF DEVELOPING THE HOME CHURCH CONCEPT
a. Sunday morning services can be refined down to having more emphasis placed on the Pastoral & Teaching ministry. Less time given to praise, music and song, communion and much more on feeding the flock. With thought, it is possible to have two periods of spoken ministry in the two hours normally given over to a Sunday service. 30 mins each given on the one hand to Pastoral Guidance and the other to direct, structured Teaching Ministry from and about the Scriptures. The general wide ranging content can be narrowed a great deal and time used much more effectively providing the Home Churches are being what they are planned to be.
b. Sunday night services may be held lightly in the sense that people would come as they felt led to do so and no attendance follow up is needed. If meetings were held they would be as seems appropriate and could include a range of “special” kinds of gatherings. E.g. Youth, Ladies night, Men’s night, etc It would be a “We’d love to see you tonight”. Come and enjoy … (Whatever is going). In regard to the Sunday night meeting there is a need to rethink the format and break away from the audience and speaker process. As an example the participating members might share a meal together, perhaps a barbecue or Smorgasbord, hear a short introductory guidance talk and then break up into discussion groups on the topic for the night. One from each group to give their findings if appropriate
Alternatively a pithy, short summation from one of the Elders/Leaders, share a cuppa then close. There are many variations of this but the basis is participation by personal involvement and contribution. Members of the New Testament church are Royal Priests and need/must have a place to exercise their priesthood. . We aim not to put on a show but build a prophetic community.
c. Given that reality has shown that four hours a week is the best that can be expected from busy families, using the time in the Home Church way does cover all the essentials needed for healthy Christian health and growth.
d. Eldership is released to do what it is called to do. “Labour in the Word and Doctrine.”This function of Eldership is always first. Then comes the bishop (overseer) function.
Home Church planning also allows the Ascension Elders to visit around the church groups and input to them all. In both Sunday church and home church the Ephesian instruction (that the ministries given by the ascended Christ are to perfect the saints in the work of the ministry) becomes possible.
e. Home churches geographically placed in the community have great potential as prayer centres and evangelistic powerhouses for drawing in the people living around them
f. Always the two meetings of the church (Home Church & Community Church) are/and should be, there to lean on, run to, find help, cry out for. Because they are a provision for all the spiritual needs, these two places become the backbone of prophetic community. Only on very, very special occasions should they cease their activity.
Re “f” I incline to the idea that if one of the two meetings isn’t held, that both be closed for that week. The church needs to feel they are one experience and disciples cannot grow without them
Re “b” No need to have a Sunday night meeting every week. This would further highlight the importance of the basic two gatherings. The “Events” of Sunday night need only be decided and announced on Sunday morning.
Pastoral guidance will need to include ways and means that the folk can grow and contribute to Home Church. The dynamics of the system need to be gone over till all are familiar and it becomes part of the family life. Regular habits of “doing” are the stuff strong families are made of.
Leaders might be given a chance to share their Home Church experiences with the whole church.
Interesting quote from Derek Prince in his article, “The Local Church”. Quote “I would suggest that one Elder cannot effectively shepherd more than ten families at the most. If there are twenty families they need two shepherds.”
Regular time tabled visits to each group by the Eldership/Ascension Ministries is very important. Hosting the Elders is another way of growing family identity quite apart from the Bishop function.
The practice of structuring the church to reinforce the idea that “young people” and other similar groups are in some special way so different that they require to be almost totally separated from the corporate spiritual/social life of the church is seriously flawed.
Special activities that cater for youthful vigour and bubbling enthusiasm by all means but never allowing novices/young people to think that such gatherings are a substitute for the corporate gathering of the church. The place of worship for all the people young and old is together as a family.
Anyone has been filled with the Holy Spirit/redeemed is well able to participate in the corporate worship and home church activities and should do so. Activities taken together, enjoyed together are the cement that holds a church family together. Young people activity may need to be more casual and have a from time to time structure to underline the need to participate in the central life of the church.
On reflection it does seem that we have become people of the tree rather than people of the forest.
Our vision is mostly towards the single tree and encouraging the life forms in the tree. We hope all the creatures of the land will come and live in our tree and leave the inferior growth round about. Our seed is presented as good food. This is usually true. The creatures who do come eat and live from it very well.
But the primary use for seed is to grow another tree.
The big picture is the forest.