In Pursuit of Ecclesia - By Dene McGriff - Parts 4 & 5
Number 4 - Isn’t this just another home meeting? That is what many people think. Ecclesia is not what we think of a home meeting to be. I know people that cringe at the thought of a home meeting. Few, including me, have rarely attended a really good home meeting.
Many times, a home meeting conjures up some of these characteristics:
It is not a meeting where you discuss the Sunday sermon.
It is not a place to gossip.
It is not a place for one person (aka a flockless shepherd) to take over the meeting and push his pet doctrine.
It is not another top down meeting run by one person where you read through a book or do a “Bible study) and discuss it.
It does not need leading questions, a study guide, etc.
It is not a place to tell old stories.
It does not need to have a subject, theme or agenda.
It does not need a leader (at least in the traditional sense of the word)
It does not belong to anyone person. It is neither a work or a “church.”
It does not have to be a particular size.
The same people usually lead and talk. Sharing is seldom something fresh and new but scripted just like the bigger meetings.
There is always the fear that they will get out of control.
Why do most Home meetings fall flat and seem boring and lifeless? 1. They reflect us. If our relationship with the Lord isn’t vibrant. If you aren’t getting something fresh from the Lord. If you are sharing the Lord with people regularly. If you feel dead, you probably are.
Folks, I’ve been going around the barn for decades. I can act the role of super cool Christian and be empty as a bucket full of holes. We reflect the Lord to the extent that we spend time with Him, confess and obey His leading. A living and joyful Christian life is not something we can fake.
2. The sad truth is that the steady state of the average Christian is to be a spectator, not an active participant unless called upon. We go to a home meeting with the same expectations we have when we “go to church”. The professionals or at least “semi-pros” will take care of the meeting, give it a theme, structure and control.
So, home meetings reflect our walk with the Lord, our low expectations for nothing to happen and our ignorance of what constitutes ecclesia. Most Christians are functional illiterates when it comes to the spoon-fed environment they are raised in. After all, what would the paid pro’s do if all of a sudden, the average church member came to life and began to minister to others and in meetings? Number 5. So - What Happened to the Dream? As I mentioned in my first three blogs, I experienced the real church – ecclesia – where everyone participated, everyone came to a meeting with expectations of what they could bring, and everyone added something from their previous week, not the retreat they attended 5 years ago when they last really touched the Lord.
A real ecclesia meeting is just saints coming together, anticipating what they and others will share. There is no positional leader. (There may be some more mature saints who will help expedite the meeting). One person does not control and Lord it over the saints. The idea is to encourage everyone to participate and that starts way before you come.
We had ecclesia with just a few people and sometime with a hundred or more. We were trusting the Holy Spirit to set the theme, prompt saints to sing, testify or share. Many times, we were amazed to see a theme emerge, Saints with wonderful revelation from the Word, in their experience or sharing with others.
We had many New Testament experiences where everyone brought something – a song, a Psalm, a testimony, a word or an admonition. We had people get saved because they sensed God’s presence in our midst.
Just like many in the Jesus movement, things began to fall apart and organize – into churches such as Vineyards or Calvary Chapels and many unnamed or unknown groups. But these lost the vibrant outreach, the informal meetings. They began sharing and growing into little churches with cooler music and worship but gradually added the trappings of the modern church and even mega church along with the full-blown clergy/laity, the sermon and all. Pretty soon the beautiful, spontaneous movement was swallowed up by the organized church.
It ended more abruptly for me. The Army finally caught up with me and I was pulled out of this wonderful corporate life. I missed my brothers and sisters so much; there were nights when I would cry myself to sleep. My heart ached for the experience of ecclesia or what we called back then, the “church life.”
So, as a post-script or maybe I would say postmortem, I got out of the army in 1972. For the next several years, we tried to put the dream back together again but what worked beautifully at one time, fell flat. The magic was gone. Even moving into the same neighborhood with others didn’t work. We tried. In 1978, disillusioned and disgusted, I left California and kept searching.
It was like when the Jews who remembered the first temple, went back and cried when they saw the next one. No one in the organized church showed any interest in what we had experienced. The sermon, the order of worship, Sunday School and all was a pitiful substitute for what we experienced for a decade, but our inability to recapture the dream ended in failure and disappointment.
So here we are, 30 years later, running out of time, wondering if God can do it again, raise up a people, 100 percent committed to Him and one another. No doubt we are in the last days. The decay of the church in the past 60 years is evident, but the question remains, when He returns, “will he find faith on the earth?” What kind of testimony will there be? Dene McGriff