Thursday, August 23, 2012

Questions Continued: What About Structure?

What is the structure of the simple, organic home church?
Here in the West, we live in a culture that is in love with structures, systems and manuals of operation. This is a significant factor in our perception and practice Simple, Organic Church.  Not only do we have to consider our culture, but also such things as; personality, age, familiar practices, lives that are scheduled to the max, our work, ages of children, traditions, etc. All these can and do influence our attitude towards wanting more or less some degree of structure when it comes to fellowship paradigms.  I often use a line of continuum as a visual example to explain this thought.  The left side of the continuum represents a point of highly structured practices. Traditional churches, especially those with liturgies would be on this end. The other end at the right, is what I describe as  fluid practice - where there is little, if any structure, and more like liquid or gas that is not dependent upon structure and even permeates around and through it. Much of missionary and evangelism work would be considered more fluid because it is not contingent on a special event or meeting.  Rather it happens spontaneously, and with divine serendipity moments. People find a place of comfort and practice somewhere on the continuum.

  HIGH STRUCTURE---0----1---2----3-----4----5----6----7---8----9----10--- FLUID

  Jesus practiced his fellowship all along the continuum, but remained mostly on the fluid end.  The book of Acts gives us examples of more structured fellowship.  I don't think structure of our fellowship is the main issue, but rather what you do when you come together that is important.  The key to fellowship being simple and organic, is being like Jesus who "only did that which the Father was doing".  So that means seeking the Father for His Will for the simple church.

So the first question to ask is; what is God directing for this simple church in this season of coming together?  

Is it to focus on a deeper understanding of the Word, doing outreach together, maturing new believers, deepening family intimacy, spending quality and quantity time in prayer or worship, ministry equipping, fun and relationship building, releasing others to begin new simple churches?  
Like life, our fellowship should be viewed in holistic terms that change with the rhythms of our lives and the themes that God is working in and through us at this time, and not stagnant meetings which become rote over time.  Once we know what God is focusing on in our lives, and how much structure that requires, we can structure our time together for that to happen.

For example, in one simple church we began, it was apparent to all of us that God was bringing us together for a season of encouraging one another in the specific and unique ways that each of us was feeling led to minister in.  It was a season of "coaching one another" with the truths of the Word, prophetic words, prayer support, encouragement and accountability.  Our structure supported this happening. After about a year, God released everyone to these ministries and the group disbanded.  The relationships are still there years later, but the time of that simple church reached it's end. Another group came together for a season of working on our marriages so we structured our time to include some DVDs that taught on marriage issues, had some great "date" nights together, spent some nights in ministry prayer for specific couples, and we didn't include the children in this simple church.  And in another simple church we led, children were very much a part of it so we structured eating together with "kid friendly" foods, playing together as a simple church with games, stories, toys etc.  We did worship with a ton of instruments that the kids could play (shakers, bells, chimes, drums, etc.),  kept the study of the Bible short and applicable to the kids in the group, and ended early in the evening to meet bedtimes.  In this simple church we were far less structured, and because of having the children participate, our times became quite fluid.

The reason and purpose for the simple church determined the structure and duration of the fellowship we experienced.

Most people who begin to practice Simple, Organic, Missional Church start out by bringing with them all the familiar structure of what they knew in traditional church, i.e. the same time/place each week, someone leading worship, usually the same person doing the facilitating/leading each week, scripture study, prayer time, fellowship time, and it's pretty much the same from week to week.  Nothing much has really changed except they went from big to small, and from a building to a home.  They change very little in what they do and look like from the traditional church they left.  Many call this "honey, I shrunk the church" syndrome and it's very common.

Some of the major strengths of Simple, Organic and Missional church practice is that it is mobile, intimate with God and others, it is done easily by anyone, can change without bureaucracy, adapts to circumstances, and supports everyone in their participation.   As we like to say in  the CMAresources Greenhouse is to; " lower the bar on HOW we do church, and raise the bar on being a disciple". 

Here's my take - If we think of church like a family, then we know that the structure of family gatherings changes with life and the seasons God takes us through to mature.  For example, when my kids were young, we had set times for dinner and everyone was home and around the table. As they grew older and more involved in activities like sports, drama, dance and such, and my husband started working nights, we shifted our meals and lives to accommodate these changes in our life as a family.  The structure of our dinners changed, but our relationships didn't.  What else didn't change was the interactions, involvements, and commitments with each other because our relationships determined our fellowship - not our structure!  We were still family and spent time together but what that looked like changed, and still continues to do so!

The Bible is clear about the things we should accomplish in our relationships with one another as The Body of Christ.  Some of those listed are; encouragement, prayer, the Lords Supper, each using their spiritual gifts, admonishment, confession, the study of the Scriptures, the sharing of resources, and many more!  This happens through the holistic interaction of our lives with one another.  It doesn't all have to happen at a scheduled and structured time every week with a few.

Of course, most of us need some element of structure because we don't live very fluid lives, but rather from "event to event" and pack our calendars full with our time slots.  So since that is how much of western world lives, I'd recommend checking out what my friends Tony and Felicity Dale have put together as a great resource which covers the many details and basic paradigm of having fellowship in the home at the House2House website.  You can find it at 

The next post will be on why Simple Churches don't grow and often become stagnant.

No comments:

Post a Comment