Ever wonder whether your simple gathering of the saints should be open or closed?
Lori and I are in the midst of facilitating a “new” gathering of believers that will gather in our home. We are excited at the prospect, and interestingly enough, we have had interest from others, including people from Lori’s work and people on our street, about getting together, and all this “after” we decided that our particular gathering would be a closed one.
WHAT DO I MEAN BY “CLOSED”?
When beginning something new, it is often best to offer a place of security and safety, and an environment that is at once both inviting and creates an atmosphere for people to get to know one another. When a gathering continues to be open, it creates a tension that needs to be breached everytime people gather. Whenever the mix is different, the “atmosphere” is different, and it takes time to navigate and discover all over again how to engage, and what is acceptable and not acceptable.
Our desire is motivated by our love for the Lord and the Kingdom, and His desire to see the Kingdom expand, one person at a time. As such all believers are called into community, in a localized expression, and whenever they come together with other believers, they express the one-ness of Christ and the unity of the body, be it in a home, in a park, an apartment, the marketplace, or wherever.
Similarly, those we gather with are seen to be agents of grace, who will to forth, back into the culture, through work and their other engagements with the community, and release the Kingdom and they express the life of Christ in each situation they face. In essense these people we gather with, are all part of a “church planting team”.
FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE OF THE N.T.
It becomes evident from the reading of the N.T. that as they engaged, evangelized and saw people converted to Christ and baptized (usually as soon as possible, unlike today), it is these same new believers who became part of the church RIGHT AWAY! They then would be discipled in a small community of saints and would learn of Christ, of community life, and about the Kingdom, all with the goal that they too would go out and spread the Kingdom, and see other communities raised up. In the example of Paul, we see that at times he was with new believers from several weeks to several months in most cases and in a couple of instances for over two years!
We also have examples where Paul (in Ephesus, school of Tyrannus) taught particular individuals the basics of what it meant to be an apostolic church planter. People came from all over Asia Minor and stayed with him for a couple of years, and as the church grew in Ephesus, with multiple expressions of simple churches, where these people who were with Paul (such as Timothy, and Titus, and others), they too learned how to plant, nurture, and disciple as well as the basis of Kingdom expansion. In a sense here, Paul demonstrated BOTH, the “open” (seeing new converts come into the church right away and begin Kingdom living, and others added daily), and “closed” (those who were with him, learning what was being modelled as far as their walk with Christ, proclaiming the Kingdom and establishing Kingdom communities).
I believe that in order to set our hearts upon Christ, and what He desires for us as a community, and in relation to expanding the Kingdom, that we need to grow together, and become one together, and get the Lord’s heart on what the Kingdom should look like, feel like, and taste like in this season. This too will be a season of preparation for those who gather, to search their hearts and see how the Lord will use them to further the Kingdom (will they use their home, work place, market place, as a place to see Kingdom life breakout in community and relationship with new people?).
A TIME OF STRETCHING AHEAD!
We will be starting in early July. I am anticipating a lot of things. I am anticipating “unlearning” things that I have learned in what I call the “simple church” expression of body life. At the same time I will be learning “new” things, as well as “re-learning” things! This promises to be quite the journey!
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The above blog post was written at a time when I was eclectic in my theological & biblical views and understanding. As of 5 February 2017 I am a functional cessasionist, that is, I believe the spiritual gifts, in particular gift like the vocative, prophetic gifts as well as healing & miracles have ceased. This means that my understanding is that at the end of the apostolic era, when the last apostle died (that would be John who was at Patmos & Ephesus, the author of the Gospel of John, Epistles of John & the Revelation of Jesus Christ, with his passing, the need for these particular gifts, the oracles of God given to men through the Holy Spirit, were no longer required. With the forming of the Canon of Scripture, there came to be no need for revelatory gifts. In fact in Revelation, John himself records the words of Jesus, “18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. 19 And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city, which are written about in this book.” [Revelation 22, CSB]
God is sovereign, still heals, still manifests in the miraculous, but not at the whim or the discretion of men. We pray and ask the Lord, and then we yield and surrender to His will, echoing the words and the spirit of Christ, “Not my will but your will be done.” [Luke 22:42].
I embrace and hold to a Reformed understanding of theology & Christian living in the world. I have abandoned my other views entirely. I would be more akin to a Reformed Baptist (1689 Confession) type of Reformed theology. I used to be a continuationist (akin to John Piper) but no longer.
God bless you as you seek to know Christ and the power of His resurrection [Philippians 3:10 CSB].
In the eternal grip of Jesus,
Samuel M. Buick
29 January 2018
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