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1 Cor 11:17-14:33 Gatherings

When we think about church our minds usually think about a gathering in a special building at a special time run by paid people involving music, singing, and preaching among other things.  Unconsciously we can read this experience of church back into the New Testament.  However, that was not the common experience of church gatherings.  One of the best pictures or descriptions of a church gathering in the early church is found in 1 Corinthians 11-14.

As we develop missional communities of 20+ people that engage with the local community, we will need to learn how we can gather together in simple, light weight and low maintenance ways that have meaningful spiritual content AND are accessible to people who are open to spiritual matters.  In other words to learn how to do gatherings in homes and other places that aren't typical small group bible studies on the one hand (which can be intimidating for non Christians to come to) or mini versions of a Sunday service with bad music crammed into a house on the other.

Here is an extract from ‘Launching Missional Communities’ p141

What might a typical meeting look like?

Very simply? It varies.

The quick answer is that there is a mixture of community, mission and training.  This is expressed  through the lens of UP, IN and OUT.  So, at one level, anything that honors Christ and falls within the vision of the MC is legitimate.

Of course that is a little too vague and, in practice MC’s do tend to do certain things pretty regularly, albeit in slightly different ways according to their context.  But before we list some examples, we again want to speak grace and creativity to you as you ponder what this should all look like in your missional context.  Take these principles and begin to play with them with your community.  Your mission context will greatly affect how you do these things.

Here are a few general ideas (not in priority order) to start your thinking process.  These are aimed at the Missional Community gathering where people meet to grow closer to God and one another and pray into their missional context.  A gathering might include:

  • Food, ideally sharing a meal together
  • Socializing/laughing/having fun
  • Breaking bread/sharing Communion (see further on for some comments on Communion in MC’s)
  • Story-telling (i.e. testimony), particularly things for which we are thankful to God
  • Bringing praise and worship to God
  • Offering prayer for healing to anyone who has a particular need
  • Studying the Scriptures together, especially from what God as been speaking to the leader (or whoever is leading that portion) about during the past week
  • Praying for the wider community that you are seeking to reach, as well as for your witness there
  • Planning practicalities for mission activities.

We would summarize this as a 1 Corinthians 11-14 model, which seems the fullest unpacking of how a church oikos would meet and express its life together.  From what Paul writes, it is also clear that such gatherings were led in such a way that people who weren’t yet Christians could come in and be welcomed, without it throwing all the plans into confusion.

As well, the MC will do OUT together in specific missional activities, to serve and witness to their place of calling.  Such events need to be regular and rhythmic, so that the group sees this as an integral part of its life together, just as eating or praying together would be.  For this reason, we would encourage a brand new Missional Community to start doing OUT activities from the get-go, so that they are included from day one.  Don’t wait until group members get to know each other better.  Our experience is that the groups that gel the fastest are the ones whose members share common battle stories and missional escapades (successful and less so).

David Wanstall, 31/03/2011