the weblog of Alan Knox

Share your "recipes" for mutual edification

Posted by on Feb 17, 2009 in blog links, edification, gathering | 5 comments

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.


5 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-17-2009

    Dear Sam:

    Go to the following link to see how we bake our muffins at Christ Fellowship of Kansas City – http://www.ccwtoday.org/article_view.asp?article_id=206

    As you will see, we meet weekly in homes (currently five homes meeting simultaneously on Sunday evenings, and every 6 weeks or so we all come together in one place).

    One interesting challenge in all of this is “You are what you came from.” What I mean is it is a challenge to break free from a mindset that most of us have come from which says, “Sit, watch, stand, sing, sit, sing, listen, tell the pastor what a great message he preached, then go home.” We are so used to passively watching, that this idea of participating is a challenge! In fact, I’m sure you would agree that most of our church buildings are designed so that we sit and watch what goes on instead of actively participating in the meeting. That is not to slam churches that meet in sanctuaries, but it is to say that we all need to provide venues where mutual edification, which is vital to body life, can happen.

    Warmly in Our Savior,
    Steve Burchett

    [Alan, I appreciate your blog, brother. I was pointed your way via Dr. Black’s blog.]

  2. 2-17-2009

    I love the way my husband explains our way of gathering and how it is different from the current accepted model which we have come to see as non-biblical. It has to do with the current accepted model as being like college (he is a college instructor) and what we and others all over the world in small bits do as “real life”.

    When weekly gatherings of the local expression of the Body are not more than twenty people gathered for a whole evening starting at around six and going till ten or even midnight it is almost impossible not to hear from everyone. And this is with all of us struggling to dump old baggage of what “church” is supposed to look like, I can’t imagine what it will look like when all of us finally get over what it is supposed to look like based on how we were brought up and just listen to scripture on the matter and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

    When those same people spend a great deal of their time together during the rest of the week it is again nearly impossible not to get to know their gifts and encourage each other in exercising it, nearly impossible not to bear one another’s burdens daily moment by moment.
    It becomes nearly impossible not to see how God is moving in each ones lives and if one of us is running from or avoiding God and how best to help one another.

    Of course those twenty some odd people are not the extent of those we “church” with, we have many good friends who “attend church” elsewhere but with whom we share an intense God based relationship. We share much with them, our very lives actually, we listen to each other’s exhortations and encouragement and know and recognize each other’s gifts. Some we may see nearly daily and others we may be lucky if we see four times a year but all are dear and all are part of our “church” and all are part of the Body of Christ in whom we depend on to one another one another.

    (I think it is interesting your analogy of “recipe.” When we were in “regular” church we followed a lot of recipes to fix the problem that we now see is inherent in the unscriptural model of church.)

  3. 2-17-2009

    Steve and Lanny,

    Thank you for sharing your examples.

    -Alan

  4. 2-18-2009

    These are great examples!

    Our most meaningful times when we come together often center around service, especially service to those who can not repay. Cooking and serving food is one good example, and our trash pickup every other Sunday is another.

    Picking up trash in the neighborhood may not achieve all of the goals in Alan’s original post. But it is a start. Some of the things that happen:
    -We usually begin with prayer (Prayer)
    -As we work we share with each other – what happened that week, what is happening in the neighborhood and so on (Fellowship & announcements)
    -As we work, we talk about upcoming plans for serving in the neighborhood (How we can use our gifts)
    -People from the neighborhood approach us and ask who we are and why we’re picking up trash. It is very easy to reply that we’re followers of Jesus, trying to live like He did, and help out the neighborhood. (Message to interested inquirers)
    -People from the neighborhood thank us, and sometimes even tell us God bless (benediction)

    I always leave thinking that I was involved in meaningful “church service”. I suppose it’s not what is going on inside those church buildings in the neighborhood as we pick up trash on the streets next to them. Then again, their neighbors are not in there – they’re out in the street asking us about this Jesus person and blessing us.

    Sometimes I think maybe I’m reading too much into what happens. I’m thinking about this with a heavy bag of wet trash, wondering if I’ll catch some disease from that unmentionable item that just brushed my hand, when a woman who has been watching me comes out of her apartment, thanks me and asks me who we are and why we do it. Then I tell her the part about Jesus and from the look in her eyes I somehow think she understood.

  5. 2-18-2009

    Sam,

    Thank you for your example! When I was reading your comment, I thought about a post I wrote called “The Church Meets Here“. The difference is that my post was theoretical, while you are living it out.

    -Alan