the weblog of Alan Knox

All felt themselves an important part of being together

Posted by on Feb 10, 2010 in community, edification, fellowship, gathering, guest blogger | 4 comments

Art from “Church Task Force” left the following as a comment on my post “The weaker are indispensable“:

At what great cost have we gained so little. We have ruled out 95% of the life of a family in our formality and in our quest to keep up appearances that meet the world’s approval.

I think we need to look past sizing up the importance of contributions–and the methods of these contributions–based on how they make us appear in the eyes of the world (and the eyes of those who are careless in their journey). Is speaking the only way to function (must all be mouths)?

And we cannot do this without also considering the environment we craft and choose for our gathering. I mean both physically and the atmosphere we create by our level of formality. Just the idea that a meeting “starts” and now everyone must shut up, only 1 person may speak from here on, and everyone must give undivided attention, and no one must move or do anything without permission–oh how very weird for a family to act like this together! These have a great impact in shutting out the natural functions of these important members of His body.

Sure, at a family reunion, someone may ask for everyone’s attention for a few moments. But it would be rare. Most often, people cuddle up in groups and jabber away, sometimes dragging someone over to join in on some particular point. No one is excluded from functioning in the most natural ways.

Look around, and you will see love and tenderness being meted out generously. You will see the young caring for the old, the children laughing and playing with freedom and security, the men sometimes pulling aside, the women, too, but the gathering continues to flex and flow as everyone interacts, gives, receives, appreciates, enjoys, loves.

There was one family, but it was not a singular meeting in an artificial, formal manner, and so all contributed in constantly shifting collections of people. Think back and recall the family times together with uncles and aunts and nieces, cousins, and nephews and gramma and grampa. Remember the chaotic, ordered, joy of being together? Who has such thoughts of Sundays at 11 AM to noon?

In the end, everyone was fed a meal, everyone found acceptance, everyone contributed in many ways at various opportunities that presented themselves quite naturally throughout the time together. Service–caring for the needs of others–is highly valued and esteemed in these families. All felt themselves an important part of being together; all had a place. Even those unskilled in public oratory.

If the church is a family (and I think it is, not just metaphorically, but really), then shouldn’t we look and act like a family, even when we meet together? One of the great things about what Art said above is that it is often difficult to tell where he’s talking about a family reunion and where he’s talking about a church meeting.


4 Comments

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  1. 2-10-2010

    Yes, I remember coming to the point of discovering that much of our faith is wrapped up in cliches and meaningless metaphors. It was when the Lord revealed that he actually means for us to live this way that we began to take steps away from organized Christianity and move toward Christ in familial relationships.

    I would also add that church as “family” is different than our earthly families. The church is a heavenly family; heaven touches down on earth in the life of the church. Therefore, this kind of family doesn’t just meet to enjoy each other’s company as a “reunion” of scattered members… but as a “union” in Christ and God’s Triune fellowship. That union is taking place even as we leave the presence of the family and minister Jesus in the world.

    Our purpose as God’s family is found in being built together in Christ as local spiritual dwellings for God. In that sense, the church moves above and beyond the life that is known in the earthly family.

  2. 2-13-2010

    I would love to know how Art applies this…. :)

  3. 2-14-2010

    Hi Darrell,

    Actually, I was simply describing what I’ve experienced in two very different types of fellowships.

    One was a bit more formal on Sunday mornings in a regular church facility with a pre-selected speaker who dominated the hour. But in the evenings we met in a small chapel, and we were all encouraged to bring something to share–whether a teaching, a song (and why this song meant something special to us), or some questions for the whole group to “kick around.” It was such a warm time of sharing, very intimate. We also very frequently (weekly at least) met in each other’s homes to share a meal (and the bible and learning to walk with Jesus were the dominant topic of conversation), as well as having picnics very often together (it was a warm southern climate). That group was about 85 people when we moved away.

    This group also used Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion very successfully. Nearly every week someone led a Dentist or a neighbor or a coworker to faith in Christ.

    The other fellowship had no set schedule. Nothing started at some specific time or day. There were 14 families, most with young children, but a few singles. But we met so often it was like being room mates. Most Friday evenings or Saturday afternoons we would go over to someone’s home based on a few phone calls, “what are you doing?” “Want to come over” Hey, we’re going over to Stephen’s.” We would get together, dig into the scriptures together while some played with the kids, or cooked, or sat in another group and talked about a different area. By midnight, most would have found a place to sleep on a couch or in a chair or on the floor. A few were still huddles and talking, praying.

    We’d wake up in the morning to the smell of toast baking on racks in the oven and something cooking on the stove. This group struggled with outreach, though several did come to know Christ as savior through someone in the group every month or two.

    I’ve also visited a house church in Vermont for a week that lived together similarly, and had good ministry to the poor in their community.

    Presently, I’m working to start a church with this same DNA in North Raleigh, NC. I don’t know exactly what forms it will take as it develops, just as long as the forms take shape to fulfill the unchanging purposes of being together (like mutual ministry, like being members of one another who have a sense of acceptance, like having multiple pastors who care for the saints without suffocating them, etc.) in the world as witnesses.

  4. 2-14-2010

    Oh, sorry, that house church in Vermont was about 120 people.