This is a follow up to an earlier post call “Stop the Building.” In that writing, I posed the idea that more often than not, a blossoming New Testament Community ultimately desires to have a building. If we continue to grow, an even larger building may be in order. In many cases, it is the building’s size, shape, location, and amenities that once-and-for-all validate us as a “good” church. You can read the post at www.douglasrea.com
Most would agree that one great thing about meeting in smaller groups is the interaction. Perhaps that’s why so many have Sunday school or other small group programs that feed into the larger gathering. The atmosphere in these smaller group settings is often more relaxed, less intimidating than a larger gathering, and everyone feels that sense of community. Questions are asked and answered, people are spontaneously prayed for, and no one feels a separation between clergy and laity although a leader is clearly visible. But rather than a lecture most of these teachers are more or less facilitators of the small gathering. Many churches start as a small group and we see these same characteristics in them. But isn’t it amazing how an increase of attendance and a building can change all that? It’s normally right about here when church REALLY begins.
There seems to be a point when we lose the interaction and “the one” begins to preach. Does it happen at 5, 10, 20 listeners or more? How many people have to attendance before we begin the separation of clergy and laity? When is a song from one’s heart subdued and replaced with only the trained professional, gifted, or talented being auditioned and permitted to sing? When does church REALLY begin?
Having a facility in which to meet is CERTAINLY not inherently evil. A close friend of mine teaches the concept that,” there is a difference between procedures and principles.” I interpret that to mean the “how” you do church doesn’t matter as long as the principles of the New Testament gathering are not violated. Everything I can gather from my reading of the New Testament seems to indicate that each member of the local church made a contribution to the gathering. Although we by no means have the market corned on proper New Testament church etiquette, Connections (a gathering of about 100) finds that allowing the microphone to be passed, and by permitting different people to talk or sing at different times during the meeting, and being open to His Spirit, seems to be keeping us away from the traditional gathering of spectators vs. professionals.
For us here in the South, church really begins at 11 and it end at 12. For me, church begins when 2 or 3 gather in His name. Ponder this over your favorite latte- see you next week.