Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Simply Experiencing The Church

I realize that I have never blogged about my church. I've had this post rolling around in my head for more than a year and even had a simple outline written out. I'm finally getting around to completing my thoughts and sharing them with you, since I sense that it is now the right time to share this.


I have a confession to make.

I don't go to church.

Gasp!

Now. Before you run away screaming or write me off because I'm a heathen, hear me out.

I don't go to church.

I do however, meet together with other believers every Sunday and sometimes other days, too. 

I am the church.

Three and a half years ago, our church, which was following a similar path of the traditional contemporary church made a change.

Well. Actually God made the change.

He literally took the building we were currently meeting in away from us and then did not make any other facility available to us.

Since we knew a move was coming, the leadership had made plans months earlier and meeting together in homes was considered as a temporary option, just in case no other meeting place was found. It was in fact, referred to as Plan C.

Instead, our Plan C became God's Plan A. And this one was long term, not temporary.

One Sunday we packed up all of our church possessions and the next Sunday we were meeting together in homes around the county.  All we had was God, each other and a desire to follow Him in this new venture.

We had no idea where He was taking us.

Acts 2 : 42-47 became the blueprint for the paradigm we were moving in:

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The first thing we had to grab a hold of was the concept that Christians individually and collectively  are the church.

I've broken it down into two simple truths.

Simple Truth #1: We are the church. It's not the building we worship in. 

Simple Truth #2: If I am the church, then true worship can take place wherever I am.

No longer are we bound to a building, a specific structure or special programs and gimmicks to draw people in on Sundays.

Now, instead of funding a building, our tithes and offerings are directed towards helping people in need.

It is so freeing!

We now meet in Home Fellowships. We currently have three fellowships meeting on Sunday mornings across the county. The size of each fellowship ranges from about 10-20 people. We come together to share what God has done in our lives that week, to discuss what He's shown us in our weekly Bible reading, to minister to one another and to share a meal together. The children, youth and adults are all together in one living room. Sometimes we have music and sometimes we don't.

Each group has a facilitator (not usually a pastor) who oversees the fellowship to be sure it is functioning properly and is responsible for keeping the discussion going. We all read Scripture through the week from the same Bible reading schedule and come prepared to share our insights from the key chapter. Instead of hearing one sermon, we get to hear lots of mini-sermons from each person who shares, which is really awesome! We often have special ministry times during our fellowships to minister to someone's specific needs and special prayer times. It's so powerful to see even small children going to lay hands on and pray for someone.

After the fellowship time, we continue to build relationships through sharing a meal together. Each Sunday we all bring food and share a meal potluck-style. We fondly refer to our lunch as "Holy Spirit Potluck", since we are encouraged to ask the Holy Spirit to show us what we are to contribute to the meal.

Through all this, we have learned as a church body to really rely upon the power and leading of the Holy Spirit. Individuals are growing in their personal relationships with Jesus and are learning to truly live a life of faith, hope and love. 

1. Growing my faith in Christ.
2. Passing the hope of Christ on to others.
3. Building a love relationship with the Lord and people.

I know that I have personally grown so much spiritually since moving into the Home Fellowship structure. In the old structure, we were so busy doing music and children's ministry that we didn't have time to build relationships with other people in the church. We were so busy focusing on our roles or our chosen areas of ministry that we didn't get to focus on the people we were supposed to minister to.

Instead of concerning ourselves with the nitty-gritty details of kid's crafts, sound board personnel and enough ushers for the offering, it is so refreshing to just be in God's presence and simply experience being the church.

Simple church definitely works for us!

**This post is part of Works For Me Wednesday.

**Please feel free to ask any questions you may have concerning the Home Fellowships. I will try to answer to the best of my knowledge. I only ask that we keep the discussion respectful to one another. Thanks!

12 comments:

Lisa Heuermann said...

I just read An Army of Ordinary People which was about simple church's, very interesting. I think this is the way church should be done, meet people where they are. Thanks for sharing this!

mary bailey said...

Mary Ann, I love this post and I love how your church does church. It sounds like y'all are a true family. Since you don't have a building to maintain, what sort of things do your tithes go to? Also, do you do VBS or other activities just for kids? Thanks for sharing with us.

Debbie J said...

Hi Mary Ann, thanks for sharing about your beliefs and I definitely don't think you are a heathen!!! :o) I've never blogged about my specific church either. Maybe some day.

Abbie Byers said...

You explained it very well! I have really enjoyed and learned a lot since we have joined the group. I look forward to our church and fellowship time each week.

gail said...

this is so cool! thank you for sharing this post. with our move, maybe we'll seek out a church that is structured this way. fellowshipping and meeting each others needs sounds so refreshing.

Mary Ann said...

Lisa,

I'll have to check out that book. Another popular one is Houses That Change The World.

Thanks for taking the time to comment!

Mary Ann said...

Mary Bailey-

Those are great questions. Thanks for asking!

Our tithes go to these different areas. We have several families in desperate need right now so we've been able to help them financially through our giving. We support several missionaries. Our head pastor receives a salary. We rent a church office which includes a meeting room for large gatherings, workshops and space for counseling. Other things such as renting a pool for baptisms would also be funded this way.

As far as kid's activities and VBS goes, no we don't generally do these things. We have done some Family Fun events where we had some activities for the kids such as a Bouncy House, snow cones, some games and water balloons where we could invite friends and family.

Hope this answers your questions! If you have any more, please feel free to ask!

Mary Ann said...

Debbie,

I'm glad you don't. That was an attempt at humor, of course.:-)

Mary Ann said...

Abbie,

I'm glad. Once I got started, I realized there were a LOT of details and some of it was a bit difficult to explain. I guess some of it just can't be explained, only experienced!:-)

I'm also so glad you are a part of our family. I just wish you were in our group so I could see you and the girlies more often. We'll have to get together one of these days!

Mary Ann said...

Gail,

I'm praying that your family will find the right church family to connect with. A while back when you shared about your frustrations with finding a church suitable for your whole family, I immediately thought that this structure could be beneficial to you.

((Hugs))

Rhonda said...

it is very encouraging reading about your satisfaction with your church, you are right that church as refered to in the Bible is not a building, but the church refers to all New Testament believers.

Ramble with Carole said...

Mary Ann, I have to say that I have learned more and grown more in the past three and a half years in our Fellowships than I have in all my years as a Christian!! I love it. The Holy Spirit is the teacher and we never know quite what to expect - but it is always right. It has been amazing having my Grand Daughter grow up within our setting. She stays with us all of the time and loves to join in when we pray for each other. I have found that our Church Family have invested so much time into our little ones on a regular basis. She is constantly lifting everyone up in prayer. Well, I am sure you remember when you made her "list"!! LOL! Once you are on it - you stay!! One of the exciting things is that I see each one of us, at all age levels, growing and becoming who Christ calls us to be!! It is an amazing journey that I look forward to moment by moment. Andy and you are a true blessing in my life and I thank you for being part of my family. You too Abbie - I just don't see you enough!! LOL