In the bible there are only a few basic principles that lay out how we should do church together. In scripture the Spirit does describe the identity and purpose of the church and lays out some basic principles, but the bible is silent on many questions we may want it to answer:
When should we meet? Where? How large should gatherings be? What’s the best way to obey the command to make disciples in groups? How should leaders be trained? What’s the best way to finance things? Exactly what level of influence should leaders have over the congregation?
We cannot copy a model from the bible. Jesus wants his church to be free to move as its Spirit moves it, just like a body. Should a body sit down or stand up? Should it wear green or blue? Should it be big or small? What matters is that the body is healthy and engaged in doing what it was made for.
So to get practical, we have to:
- Start from a biblical foundation of our identity, purpose and principles, seeking to obey the commands of scripture
- Use the example of the early church as a guide for application
- Adapt the application to our modern context as sensibly and faithfully as we can
At a seminar last year Fabian of The Last Reformation [video below] explored three examples of what went on in the early church, looking at Israel (Acts 2:42-47), Greece (1 Corinthians 14:26) and Italy (Hebrews 10:22-25).
This drew out some common elements that we can use as a guide:
He developed these common elements into a memorable format for simple fellowships. Of course he doesn’t intend his model to be “the point”, but as we can’t just pop in to an early church assembly it can be very helpful to design a simple format we can focus our gatherings around.
His model for simple fellowships inspired me so I wanted to try it out with our House Thing church. Mulling it over as I usually do I came up with a simple format to help us “get” it.
We’ve been doing it at home now for about three months and it’s become our spiritual heartbeat. About ten of us meet from around 8pm to 10pm. The usual order goes:
- We start by sharing communion – it sets the tone
- Look back: how’s this week gone for you? For regulars, how did applying #4 below go?
- Look up: sharing about our week naturally leads into prayer & thanksgiving, possibly also a little sung worship etc. We’ll read & discuss a short passage of scripture together or someone will share an inspiration, leading to…
- Look forward: what do you plan to do this coming week in response to the looking up (e.g scripture reading)?