Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘small groups’

I’m in between churches right now – between congregations. All summer and fall I’ve been casually attending the meetings of various friends. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to not be obligated to make an appearance at any one building on a Sunday morning. I might tell a friend I’m coming, or I might decide Saturday night. Some Sundays I sleep in. Sunday morning heathenism is rather refreshing.

Except it isn’t heathenism. A lot of what happens in those buildings on Sunday mornings is of heathen origin. But heathenism is a lot more than skipping a sermon and praise concert. It is a lifestyle of rejecting God, and that I certainly have not done.

I believe the Bible teaches Christians to gather regularly with each other. That isn’t something I have abandoned either. My recent experience is filled with times of fellowship and encouragement with other believers. We do ministry together, hold each other accountable for our walks with God, philosophically tackle the dilemmas we’re facing, study the Bible, and pray. During these times we also tend to eat, to play games, to laugh and tease, sometimes to work. Kids running around get swept up by disciples of Jesus, who – like Him – love children.

About a month ago some friends invited me to their church. I went that weekend. This week they asked me what I thought, and didn’t I like it (since I hadn’t been back). And I froze, because, well, I did like it. The people were friendly and the teachings were biblical and stimulating. But I don’t think I’ll join. This Sunday I did go back there, though. And my friends’ thirteen-year-old son confronted me, “I thought you said our church was just ‘ok’.”

Hard to explain. This particular church is on the good end of mainstream churches. They have good doctrine. A lot of their money goes to missions. Kids are with parents in church for most of the time, and youth aren’t separated from their families. The music isn’t too loud or too self-centered. With a congregation of about 50, the pastor and teachers can know everyone.

After pondering for a day or so, here is my answer to the thirteen-year-old friend: (it’s alliterative so I can remember!)
1) Plurality. There is only one pastor at the church. He’s the head man. I believe Jesus is the head of the Church, and that leadership beneath Him must be shared among more than one equal. Whenever real life cases are discussed in the New Testament, the word is used in the plural. (Elders) In this way they can model cooperation and problem solving. Congregations and pastors are kept mindful that Christ is the true head, and that the Church is His project. Also, when one is weak, there is another to be strong, the proverbial man to pick you up when you fall. Two are better than one and a cord of three strands is not easily broken. Pastoring is a lonely job, being at the top instead of a part of your congregation as friends and brothers. My Bible describes a different sort of dynamic, where pastors are respected for being respectable and where everyone is exercising his gifts for the good of all: pastors, prophets, discerners, helpers, administrators, on and on.
2) Property. This was quite confusing to my friend, who expects people to scorn his church for meeting in the club house of a condominium complex. Whether you own a building, rent it, or have borrowed money from a bank to claim that you own it, all represent instances where the Church of God has used resources God entrusted to them not to do what He has instructed: caring for the poor, widows, orphans, and missionaries – but to have a separate place to meet. I believe churches are meant to be gathered in homes. Limited in size, surrounded by hospitality and everyday life, the atmosphere of house church encourages the participation of everyone, the familial fellowship of believers, and the synthesis of sacred and secular.
3) Preaching. The New Testament describes and even commends preaching. Except almost always the lecture style sermon was delivered to an unsaved audience. It is a tool of evangelism. And evangelism is not the purpose of the regular gathering of believers. In fact, the church meetings described in 1 Corinthians are much more open and unstructured than what we usually think of as church. No one was scheduled to speak. Anyone (any man?) was allowed to bring a word, be it a prophecy, a teaching, a tongue – as long as he spoke it for the edification of the group. He may share a testimony of God’s work or an instruction or challenge the Spirit laid on his heart to give to his friends. A teaching might be towards an identified deficiency of understanding or may flow out of the studies individuals are making during the week on their own. Prophecy may correct the direction the congregation is going, may identify weaknesses and strengths among them, may warn them, or may give them hope and vision for the future. Some verses indicate that individuals may also bring songs of their choosing to the meetings of believers, with which to encourage each other.

Now that I’ve said those things, I do believe that there is a place for the lecture-style teaching we call sermons. I really enjoy Bible conferences, and am not opposed to worship concerts where the band has practiced and is intending to honor God. When I visit my friends’ churches, I usually view those services as conferences, and I look for the Spirit-driven gatherings elsewhere. At this stage of my life I’m not content with the small groups and Bible studies that have been getting me by. So I’m still looking, reading books and searching websites from people who are practicing what the Bible teaches about Church. I’m excited to see where that leads.

Some questions remain, stronger tensions between the familiar and the ideal: how is authority supposed to work in the church? Is it important? Is it a matter of exercising authority or of submitting to authority? How much should we submit? What shall Christians do for evangelism? Wouldn’t it be better to team up? But is it wrong to invite people in to hear the gospel, or should we go out to them? Are women to speak in the church meetings? If not, why on earth did Paul say so? – Just to prove I don’t think I know everything!

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

For a few years there has been a Sylvan Learning Center near my house.  Driving home from church Monday, I noticed that it is now empty and “for lease.”  Whoever owned that franchise location probably felt like they had a good geographic.  The neighborhoods nearby have plenty of kids whose grades tend to teeter on the passing line.  Whether English wasn’t their first language, so they’re playing catch-up at school, or if they’re simply not disciplined enough to learn and do homework, students in this part of the world could really use some one on one tutoring. 

 

But more, it would appear, was necessary for the success of the business than identifying a need and providing the solution.  First of all, there had to be interest.  The parents of the students had to care about their grades and the solution Sylvan offered.  Secondly, the parents had to have the currency to pay for supplemental education: the currency of money and of time. 

 

Five minutes home from church ought to be a short period in which to fit analogies for life, but one struck me.  At our church I see several high school girls who need older ladies to care about them, to spend time with them, to ground them in faith, and to guide them to maturity and godliness.  So a friend and I, under our youth pastor, are offering a small group.  This would also enable the girls to get to know each other and encourage each other.  But most of the girls aren’t coming.  Either they don’t have the interest, or they don’t have the currency of time to invest. 

 

What’s the solution?  Should we close up like Sylvan?  Is our tactic wrong? 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

In the vein of Debate about Fantasy Literature, I’ve been continuing my thoughts recently.

1. I’m part of a small group for high school girls at my church that is just starting. No, I’m not in high school. We’re working on planning the format and lessons (along with getting people to come, finding a place to meet, etc.). I had the idea that we could watch an episode of Joan of Arcadia each week and then talk about it. Not only does Joan bring up theological questions and experiences; she is popular media’s version of a modern teenager. She and her friends and family have strengths, weaknesses, triumphs and struggles that I can relate to, let alone other high school girls.

Thing is, Joan of Arcadia’s theology is very off. And there is some content that is lacking virtue. There’s that verse in Philippians 4. Yet the show could be iron against which to sharpen our own worldviews. We could take their theology (similar to that offered by peers, neighbors, clerks, teachers, and obviously TV) and look at the Bible’s take on it. The benefits would be preparation for apologetics; and critical thinking whenever we’re consuming media.

2. Yesterday I saw August Rush for the second time. I like the music. And Keri Russell is beautiful. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers has a wonderful accent. Freddie Highmore is an excellent young actor. The ending is satisfying. The entire movie is poetic and like a fairy tale. But there is some bad language, and the whole story revolves around the fact that a single woman lost contact with her child as an infant and is now looking for him. Clearly we can object to that, and refuse to emulate it. On the other hand, the consequences of giving yourself away without commitment are pretty well laid out. I thought the movie was a pretty good argument for abstinence until marriage.

3. Tylerray at Elect Exiles posted an analysis of the movie (which I have not and will not see), There Will be Blood. I want to just encourage you, if you are going to consume media, to be interactive. Ask questions about it. Hold it to the light of God’s Word. To quote Tyler: If we passively consume media, we actively assume it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »