Participating With My Wife In Simple Church

Walking through the emptiness of the house I miss her, especially on this day – Sunday. Beth is getting to spend two awesome weeks with out daughter, Kerre, who is seven months with child. The past four days the house has been pretty empty, but it is today that I seem to miss her the most.

Why? Because in a few hours I get to gather with other members of our church and share a little life together and she will not be with us.

For the first 30 years of our our marriage we would “go to church” and not talk with one another for about three hours. When we arrived I would head off to some duty near the church office and Beth would make her way to teach a children’s Sunday school class. Later you could find me getting ready to  go into the worship center and she would be warming up her voice to sing in the choir. When the service ended I was meeting and greeting everyone while she was gathering her teaching materials. Finally we got to sit together in the car on the way home to try to talk a little about what we experienced. Something similar happened on Sunday evening on again on Wednesday night.

One of the joys of simple church is the way in which we are able to participate together with our friends. Here are some of the things that mean the most to me.

  • Together, we are in the same room
  • Together, we drink a little coffee
  • Together, we participate in mutual edification with the body of Christ
  • Together, we hear the Holy Spirit speak to us and through our friends
  • Together, we see and hear what God is doing in the lives of the children
  • Together, we share the overflow in our every day lives

I love participating in our simple church with my wife and with fellow believers.When we gather today, I will miss her, but I will enjoy being with my friends.

Grace and Peace,

Terry

Balancing Fellowship And Mission

Balancing Fellowship and MissionI love the close, loving fellowship of my simple church. We take time to be together eating and laughing and sharing life. But this fellowship can create the danger of neglecting to reach out to those who are not part of the body of Christ. We can get so snug and comfortable that we forget the mission of Christ – redeeming and restoring that which is lost.

Each week the good folks over at House2House publish an article or story that is relevant to those involved in simple church. They recently posted Are we Eating with the Right People? Thoughts from 1 Corinthians 5 by Jon Zens. The article deals with what the author calls the “doctrine of ‘separation’” which he says seems to have been “translated into church practices which flatly contradict both the example of Jesus and the teaching of Paul in l Cor. 5:9-13.”

Let me try to summarize three ways Jon believes we miss the truth of balancing our lives between fellowship and mission:

  1. We miss the truth when we believe we should have nothing to do with unbelievers.
  2. We miss the truth when we seek to separate ourselves from the world and yet openly fellowship with deliberately sinful believers.
  3. We miss the truth when we condemn those outside the church building but do not go and to minister to them.

I agree with his points and summation that “we will not change this perverted image of the church until we become a compassionate people who will step out of our comfortable edifices and reach out to the needy.”

I want to suggest at least four ways we can balance our fellowship with believers with the mission of reaching out to those who need the very fellowship we claim:

What are some ways you and your small group, cell group or simple church practices living in proximity to those who need the Savior?

Grace and Peace,

Terry

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When You’re Smiling

God desires to fill his children with joy. But God’s joy is not simply the personal possession of individual believers. It is relational and something God gives us when we share life with him. He also desires that we share this joy with others.

Joy is one of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. It is that inner delight that is produced by God’s Spirit for our benefit but this fruit is also for others to eat.

Like smiles and laughter, joy is contagious.

In his book To Laugh Again, Chuck Swindoll writes,

“I know of no greater need today than the need for joy. Unexplainable, contagious joy. Our country seems to have lost its spirit of fun and laughter….” – Chuck Swindoll

It worries me a little that you might think that I believe possessing certain things will produce joy because of this video link to the advertisement for the new Apple iPhone 4G FaceTime. That is far from the truth, but I do believe that the ad captures and illustrates the contagiousness of joy.

Get your coffee ready and watch the video right now, then come back here, finish reading and let me know what you think.

Our joy will be incomplete and fleeting if we see it only as something to have for ourselves. Our joy will be full and lasting when we allow God’s Spirit to produce it as fruit so others can have a taste.

Has there been a time in your life when you were able to eat the fruit of joy produced by the Spirit in in the life of someone else? Why not share it with us?

Grace and Peace,

Terry

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5 Characteristics of Kindness

Being part of a simple church makes it possible for us to better live out the “one another” passages of the New Testament. In Ephesians 4:32 we are told to “be kind to one another.” As Christ followers, kindness should be a characteristic of our lives directed toward everyone and specifically should be expressed among members of the family of faith.

Being kind to one another is not a random thing. It is something that is to permeate and flow from our lives regularly on a daily basis.

Kindness is more than restraining from doing unkind things. It is a positive, outward and practical demonstration of our love for one another.

When the body of Christ gathers together kindness should be visibly practiced. It should also be present whenever we do life together. It is to be evident wherever we go.

Here are 5 characteristics of kindness:

1. Kindness is being aware of the needs of others and meeting those needs

(Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:4 NIV)

2. Kindness is using words to build up one another

(An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up. – Proverbs 12:25 NIV)

3. Kindness keeps the peace

(And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. – 1 Timothy 2:24 NIV)

4. Kindness is always looking for an opportunity to do good

(Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. – Galatians 6:10)

5. Kindness does not retaliate

(Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. – 1 Thessalonians 5:15 NIV)

When someone who is seeking to know what it means to follow Christ comes into our meetings will she see us being kind to one another?

Be aware of opportunities to show kindness to one another then next time your simple church, cell group or small group gathers.

Grace and Peace,

Terry

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9 Reasons A Good Welcome Makes A Difference

Most of us don’t have any problem knowing how to gather for a time of informal fun and food, but what can we do in a simple church gathering when we need a little structure? We have discovered that one of the best ways is to use a little outline that some call the 4 W’s – Welcome / Worship / Word / Work.

Welcome

4 W'sGood meetings happen when we are linked together and everyone present feels wanted and welcome. Even though we see and speak to one another often during the week we need some time to reconnect. The Welcome time should help us transition from informal chatting and visiting to a more focused time of edification.

Here are 9 reasons why I believe that a directed focus on welcoming one another into a small group, cell group or simple church meeting is important:

  1. We reconnect with the group no matter how well we might know the other members
  2. We get involved from the beginning
  3. We participate in an atmosphere of listening
  4. We feel valued as others listen to us
  5. We learn some fun things about one another
  6. We hear our own voices in a group setting
  7. We develop a sense of belonging
  8. We are reminded that we are the body of Christ
  9. We strengthen our “one another” bond before we direct our attention to God in worship, look into His Word and seek to see where He is working in our world.

What reasons would you add to the list?

Grace and Peace,

Terry

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Many cell groups, small groups and simple churches use the 4 W’s as a simple and adaptable framework for their meeting times. Learning to implement and practice these four steps has greatly improved my ability to facilitate small groups.

Here are the 4 W’s with some simple insight as to how they might be implemented.

Welcome –

After everyone has arrived and spent some time in informal conversation the leader can ask an “ice breaker” question. This question is usually a “fun” question where the answers give us some insight into the personal tastes, preferences and backgrounds of those present. It is a question that everyone should be able to answer no matter their age or level of commitment to Christ. The icebreaker helps build community and allows everyone to participate from the beginning.

Worship –

At this point the leader or other member leads the group in 10 to 15 minutes of worship. The worship section might include singing, reading scripture or some other type of activity that helps us focus on the Lordship of Christ. Prayer can be offered acknowledging the presence of Jesus with us as we meet.

Word –

I have found that a good way to transition from worship to a time of letting the Spirit of God speak to us through the Bible is with another question. I choose questions that can be answered from the life experiences of those gathered. It is a question that requires no Bible knowledge to answer. After one or two have responded to the question we read the selected scripture passage. Rather than telling the group what the scripture means, the leader facilitates discussion through a series of questions. We trust that the Spirit of God will speak to the hearts of the participants through interaction with God’s Word.

Work –

The purpose of this step is to turn our attention from ourselves to those who need the very Word we have been talking about. It is a time to ask questions about those we know who need this truth we have discovered. We discuss where we see God working in the lives of those in our circles of influence. We look for ways to join one another in taking God’s Good News to our friends and family. We close this step with prayer and then engage in laughter, fun and fellowship.

We benefited greatly by following these steps pretty closely when we first started our group. Now we are able to adjust what we do when we gather. The 4 W’s are not “hard and fast” steps that must be followed every time the group meets but they help keep us focused on Christ. They can be our guide but should not be our master.

From time to time I will post some thoughts on the individual “W’s.”

Have you ever used this structure for a group meeting?

Grace and Peace,

Terry

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