Last Friday, I re-published a post called “Spiritual Gifts and the Gathered Church“. In that post, I said that according to Scripture, the whole body should participate in the church meeting in order to exercise their spiritual gifts. Through this mutual service of edification, the whole church is then grown toward maturity in Jesus Christ. This is the responsibility of all believers, not just some who may be specially trained or specially gifted. I said:
The people should be given the opportunity to use their gifts when the church is assembled, and they should be reminded that God holds them responsible for this. In other words, if someone is in charge of the meeting time, that person should make sure that others are given opportunity to edify the church. And, the people gathered should be reminded that God wants them to participate and expects them to participate in building up the body.
In response, Sam – a frequent commenter – said:
Honestly, I have never seen this happen. Perhaps you or those who reads this blog have stories about such groups. I’d love to hear them.
Later, he expanded his request as follows:
The idea is not to copy what you are doing, but to hear it. Perhaps the Spirit will speak to some of us and give us ideas through your stories.
For me, this is like the way I cook. I read recipes, get ideas, then make something perhaps similar, or perhaps very different. The muffins I took to our small group last night were like that. I read other muffin recipes, then came up with my own, and they were very good and kind of healthy. Now I need to write down what I did while I still remember.
The purpose of this post is to provide the examples that Sam requested. Again, this is not to tell people how to “do church”. Since church is the gathered people of God, and since people have different gifts and different services, then church meetings will look different from time to time and from place to place.
But, like Sam requested, we can give examples that may help stir up ideas for other people. We can show how the body in serving one another in the church meeting here and now in order to provide examples for other churches meeting there and then.
I’ll start by posting Kat’s response in the comments of that post:
Although one of our elders usually shares a longer message from Scripture, there is always as much time as needed for others in the body to share what God is teaching them, as well as needs and praises. Needs are prayed for when they are shared. Someone shares weekly updates from the missionary families we have sent out; others lead in song or read scripture. Different men lead in the Lord’s Supper when that is shared as part of the worship service. Once a month, one or two families prepare a fellowship lunch or supper for the rest.
Throughout the week, a number of people provide care for the elderly mother of a Christian family and transport her to dialysis. Some mentor and encourage others. I have a cookie ministry to encourage families who are going through difficulties. Not all on Sundays, but it all works.
I am also writing curriculum to use as Bible lessons for children. This morning I read in Luke 4 that Jesus told His neighbors in Nazareth that “no prophet is accepted in his own country.”
God has called us all to serve and has given us the gifts we need to do it. Having the mindset that only the professionals are qualified to serve has, IMO, robbed people of the motivation and confidence they need to live as God intended. And we also need to accept the prophet who may be sitting in the pew next to us. God intends for us to edify each other when we allow His Holy Spirit to speak.
Similarly, Joe (JR) left a link to a post (“Doing church around tables“) on his blog where he described their church meetings. Joe describes how meeting around tables shapes their meetings. This quote specifically speaks to the topic at hand:
Tables shape our discipleship: Discipleship begins at the tables where people laugh together, cry, pray, share communion, make new friends, deepen existing relationships, and discuss the importance of serving Jesus in everyday life. Tables also create a natural opportunity for everyone to use their giftings, wisdom, or ideas to strengthen the church Family.
Finally, I’ll share briefly what generally happens when we meet together on Sundays. Our meetings begin with someone reading Scripture. We usually read through book – one chapter per week. We just finished reading 1 Thessalonians. If I’m starting our meeting, I’ll usually start by asking a question as well, such as “Why are you here?” or “Who have you loved recently?”
Several people take turns leading us in singing week after week. Different people will lead each week, and different people will play instruments. Sometimes we have one person singing and playing guitar. At other times, we’ll have several guitars, a djembe, keyboards, and even flute or mandolin.
Also, each week someone is scheduled to teach from a particular passage in Scripture. Currently, we’re studying through Matthew’s Gospel. While this teaching is primarily done by our elders, others are given the opportunity to teach as well. The person who is teaching can choose their style and methods – from lecture to discussion.
After this scheduled teaching, we have a time when anyone is allowed to teach, exhort, share, etc. with the whole body. Sometimes someone will share something that God has taught them through their own study (either on the passage that was taught or a different passage). Sometimes someone will share from something that has happened to them or a friend. Also, as people ask for prayer, again either for themselves or others, we pray right then.
We “dismiss” our formal meeting at that point, but people continue to talk with one another, usually for a long time. We also begin setting up for lunch. Those who want to stay for lunch will eat together and continue their discussions, prayer, etc. around the table.
What about you? How do you meet with the church in ways that allow the whole body to use their gifts to build up one another and help one another grow in maturity in Christ? Even though Sam asked for the examples, I know that many of my readers (myself included) would love to read your examples.