Thursday, January 12, 2017

They Don't Know Where You Are


One struggle we simple church folks have is that we often don't know where other like-minded Christians are. We may as well be asking one another, "Excuse me, but where are you?"

I live in Savannah, Georgia. Our fair city has only one mega(ish)-church. This facility happens to sit less than ten minutes from where I live. Because it is so big, just about every Christian in Savannah knows where it is located.

My wife Alice and I don't have a sign outside our home. We don't have a website. We don't put on shows. We don't require police officers to direct traffic. The fact is that we don't "have a church." Rather, we simply gather with friends in our home a few times per month (other times we meet in friends' homes). Nothing about what we do stands out as unique. Therefore, nobody really knows where we are.

I find this predicament sort of sad. I believe there are other Christ-followers in Savannah who desire to gather simply, following the biblical model as faithfully (if imperfectly) as we can. However, I don't know where they are, and they don't know where we are. I don't have an easy answer for this.

When I look in the New Testament it appears that the believers who received Paul's letters knew each other. For example, when we read the epistle to the Christians in Rome the context implies familiarity among believers in that city. How did they all know each other? Were there so few that it was no problem? I do not know.

God has a mysterious way of bringing His people together. Alice and I have prayed about meeting others, and God has often delivered. Prayer is certainly critical, which almost goes without saying. Beyond that, however, what sorts of things do you do to meet others?

This post is not a lament, a complaint, or a temper tantrum. Rather, I'm simply curious and a bit confused. If you have any ideas I'd love to hear them. Thanks.

7 comments:

Peter Horvatin said...

Eric,

I will give this some thought and then give you a response in a day or so as I ponder your post.

Pete

Eric said...

Thanks Peter! I look forward to your ideas.

Peter Horvatin said...

Eric,
The thought came to me, "why don't you try to set up a network of simple church folks in Savannah via facebook as a community group. I don't want to sound mean or exclusionary, but I think it would be important to set the essentials of Christianity as the criteria for joining the community.
I don't know if you know of Richard Jacobson and his book unchurching. He has started a group on facebook and it has mushroomed and many have joined this community. However, it has grown so much that my concern is the acceptance of so many far fetched doctrines within in the group. How do you police that. Do you accept everyone and anybody who calls themselves a Christian? Please, give me your thoughts on that.

Pete

T Aagard said...

I go visit believers in their church. I ask God to direct me to a man or woman of peace. I sit next to some one and begin a conversation before the meeting begins. I ask some questions that help me know where this believer may be at in their walk with God so I can pick the seeds I want to plant. Or, during the stand and greet time I get some names of people around me and write them down so I can speak to them by name again after the meeting is over.
Diagnostic Questions:
1. How long have you been a member here?
2. Do you have any responsibilities that you do here?
3. Was there something in the message that was important to you that you could share with me? (I have something ready I can share with them -if I didn't fall asleep.)
4. Do you consider yourself a faithful follower of Jesus or a casual follower.
5. Are you part of a smaller group that meets in a home during the week?

I have a little 3x5 card stock card that has a chart on it that shows where the money goes when people put money in the offering plate. It is from an article in Leadership Journal on normal church budgeting. I show them that 84% of the giving stays in the building and only 16% on average goes out of the building. This is a conversation starter that calls them to consider the stewardship dynamic of pulpit and pew oriented church.

I've thought of mostly going to churches that don't have a pastor. There might be a greater openness to thinking outside the box. I haven't tried that yet but will.

Sometimes if I speak to a leader who is concerned about status quo corruption I offer a copy of my book that points to the scripture on why leaders should always be marketplace workers according to Paul's teaching and example. I often give my card that has my work phone and email on it.

This is a new ministry for me since my wife died. I am asking God to help me develop this approach in keeping with his desires. There is only one church, one body, one bride, one building of living stores that Jesus is building and preparing for himself. The current form of brand name divided "local church" bears no resemblance to the churches in a city in the NT times.

I also participate in Bible Study Fellowship which gives me an opportunity to connect to other men in mutuality. They all come from different churches. My group leader calls every one in our group every week to get prayer updates. This is great shepherding. I pointed this out on Monday to the men as we were talking about Jesus the "good shepherd". Each brother is expected to spend time in the word, answer questions in the homework and prepare to share. It's all done for free. No one gets paid, even though there is a 30 minute Bible lecture on the passage after the small group. There are groups all over the world. There are two women's groups in Savannah, so perhaps you could start a men's group. This seems to me like a great way to connect with believers in an organic dynamic who are compiled from varying brands of church.

Eric said...

Peter and Tim,

Thank you for your thoughts and ideas. I would appreciate your prayer about this. It's something I've been thinking about quite a bit but not sure how to pursue. I'll blog more about any developments as we go along. Thanks again!

David Rogers said...

I think in the early church the believers pretty much all knew each other for two main reasons. First of all, there were not that many of them. So it was not that hard to keep up with everyone. But, next of all, there were a group of elders who counted it as their responsibility to keep track of all the believers in town. How do I know this? I do not for sure, but I think it is a logical inference. Peter Lampe, in the book Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries, basing on archaelogical and historical evidence, defends the thesis that there were about five to seven different house churches in Rome in the period immediately following the NT and that the elders of these different house churches met together and jointly shared spiritual oversight of the city church on an informal level. Though it would be next to impossible to completely recover this dynamic, due to the amount of unbiblical that has passed under the bridge since that time, I do think it is important for believers in a given locality to identify themselves to some more or less officially incorporated group of believers with a recognized leadership structure, so that it will be clear which particular souls these leaders are going to have to give an account for (Hebrews 13:17), and so individual believers can be accountable in a more tangible way to that portion of the Body of Christ in their midst.

Eric said...

David,

Thank you for commenting. Sometimes it feels as if we are just so far away from Biblical times that it is nearly impossible to know exactly what the dynamic was. We've all seen abuse and poor interpretation of scripture, but I wonder if we've ever seen the church as it should be. When Paul writes, he seems to imply that all the believers knew each other. That is fascinating to me. Maybe it was the natural thing back then because there were likely not that many believers in any one location. Our situation is so different that it makes it difficult to know how to proceed.