THOUGHTS

ON

GATHERING TOGETHER

Before we gather we need to take time, every so often, individually to get alone and ask the Lord what our motives are for gathering and refresh ourselves as to the scriptural reasons for gathering. We need to maintain a relationship with God ourselves during the week, so that when we do gather with our brothers and sisters that we have fresh manna. Even if it sounds really good, “canned” manna isn’t as good as the fresh and may actually get in the way of what Jesus really wants to share that day. We also need to learn to recognize when the Spirit is encouraging us to share something and when it is just flesh, intellect, agenda, and emotion driving us to share or “steer.” While we can be thankful that we have jettisoned much of what the institutional church has allowed that denigrates our gatherings, we may not realize just how much of the IC system is still in us. In house church circles we may find that our new way of doing church can become another method of gathering in ways that hinder the Holy Spirit from doing church the way He wants. Another issue is that often the person who is most spiritually sensitive to what the Spirit wants to do in a gathering is often not the person or persons who have the most influence in the group. That is, sometimes those who are the most verbally assertive aren’t necessarily the most spiritually sensitive. At other times, people get in a habit of looking to the most spiritually gifted, rather than allowing the Lord to use them. We don’t need pews and a steeple-topped building to succumb to pulpit vision. Last week I watched another house church video that had Jon Zens and some of the other well-known people we know from conventions. One of the things they said is that “We can’t forget the centrality of the love feast.” (Jon wrote a paper on the centrality of Christ, so I know he understands my point that “centrality” is above any other focus.) It’s not that I disagree with the statement, but I think that if we are not careful, that we are just as apt to fall into error as the early church. I’ve never been at a home fellowship where some one has become drunk, as in the days of the apostles, or where the richer Christians ate all of the food, before the poorer Christians arrived, but I have committed gluttony. And I don’t think that inordinate amount is always the problem. An inordinate focus on “The Sunday Buffet ” may also cause problems. It’s not a terrible thing, but I think that it would be best if we didn’t compartmentalize the meal and make it so rigidly separate from our

teaching and sharing times. Neither do I think it is a great sin, if during the meal, someone talks about fishing, football, quilting, scrap booking or the latest novel or movie, but I think that most of our conversations during the meal, should focus on Jesus, our brothers and sisters, and things that are going on in our lives and walks during the week. Many times - and we’d never want to admit it - there is more concern about who is going to bring what dish or the lack of culinary variety than spiritual issues. We also forget that in some gatherings, stale bread dipped in olive oil or wine, to soften it, or faith and wind pudding, as my grandma used to say, is all that is available to share. We also tend to forget that early Christians also shared spiritually with each other while walking, going to market, at work, or when at the local well or water hole, while fetching water or doing laundry – not just during the love feast gathering! Just as a toddler doesn’t learn to walk overnight, and takes many tumbles, before learning to walk, young Christians, of whatever age, need to learn to share. Gifted teachers need to teach, but they and the rest of the group need to learn that the world isn’t going to end if they sit back quietly during a meeting and let someone less skilled or qualified teach. Those that aren’t as gifted need to relinquish fear and not let thoughts of embarrassment or inadequacy keep them from sharing. Gathering frequency. I have heard a number of groups pointing to scripture and crying, “The early Christians met daily. We have to meet daily or there’s something wrong!” If we are not careful, in home church circles, we can trade one type of once or twice a week format for another less institutionalized form. But we can also go the other route and force a daily meeting format, which is all flesh and intellect, and leads to religious bondage rather than freedom in Christ. I have personally known groups that push the “meet daily” scriptures and fall into control and religiosity. I think we need to remember, if we are pushing the meet daily scriptures, that the Lord Himself, after a certain amount of time passed, used persecution and other means to send His people out of Jerusalem and into other areas. Also we tend to forget that even though the early disciples got together daily it wouldn’t necessarily have to be the same group, in the same house, using the same format for meeting. I think the most important thing we have to remember is that meeting (every day or not) needs to be a byproduct of our individual relationship with the Lord and our brothers and sisters. If we try to do this by our flesh and independently of the Lord, either it will blow up in our faces, or we will be forced to use control and religiosity in place of His empowerment and anointing, to keep the meetings going. As humans we tend to get in a rut or become creatures of habit. We may

start out trying to be sensitive to the move of the Holy Spirit, but after a while it becomes easier to follow a routine rather than Jesus. Even for some of us who actually try hard to love and serve the Lord, the difficulty comes when the Lord wants us to do something different or new. Sometimes it is merely that we lack sensitivity or have a hard time truly walking in genuine, unselfish love and grace, with our brothers and sisters. Other times we are standing strongly on something that He once told us to do, but flounder when He changes our orders or wants to shift our ministries or priorities, whether for the space of one meeting or for a longer, indeterminate amount of time. In general, the more we forget our own personal agendas and the more we try to stay sensitive to the Lord, and attentive to His leading, rather than “doing church,” the better our gatherings will be.
(Wayne O’Conner October 07)

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