Yesterday, on Dave Black’s blog (Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 7:48 a.m.), I read a snippet of an article on the website of Milipitas Bible Fellowship written by Brian Anderson. The article is called “Discovering Participatory Church Meetings.”
The article includes some great historical information, from the Jewish background, to New Testament evidence, into the second through fourth centuries, and even including the reformation. At each point, the author explains what was happening historically and how those events and circumstances affected the way that believers gathered together.
But, my favorite part of the article is near the end and is called “Our Journey in Implementing Participatory Meetings.” I love how the author explains some of the steps they took together to help each other understand why it’s important that they all participate together when they gather with the church.
For example, here’s one “step” in the process:
After a few months, as we became more comfortable with these informal home meetings, we began introducing more participation into our Sunday gatherings. I informed the congregation that anyone could participate by reading Scripture, praying during a lull in our praise singing, or starting a song that was on their heart. I brought the podium down from the platform to the lower level so that I could be closer to the people, thereby encouraging mutual interaction. We rearranged the chairs into concentric semi-circles so that we could look into one another’s faces when speaking, instead of the back of someone’s head. We bought a wireless microphone and began passing it around to those desiring to share what God had been doing in their lives or to encourage us by declaring what God had been teaching them from His Word. Sometimes these sessions included exhortations, admonitions, teachings, or the sharing of blessings or burdens. One woman revealed that she had recently been diagnosed with cancer. This allowed the whole church the opportunity to tangibly express their love and commitment by gathering around, laying hands on her, and praying. These changes felt a bit awkward at first. We had no previous model to guide us, and thus, felt a bit uncomfortable with them. Before long, however, many began contributing some very edifying insights and exhortations.
Take the time to read this great article, especially that last section. Many people believe that “traditional church” can never change. It’s just not true. It’s happening more and more.
However, in order for this kind of change to be effective, we must make careful changes, caring about the people involved more than we care about making sure we’re doing everything right.
For many of my readers, the quotation above sounds overly rigid and controlled. For others, it sounds incredibly freeing. For still others, it looks strange, alien, and completely impossible.
For me, the exciting part of this article is that they realized they needed to change, and they took the steps necessary to implement that change in a way that worked for them.