Description of a Spirit-led simple/organic/house church gathering #1

I've been involved in churches that had open participation and attempted to follow the Holy Spirit now for around 30 years!!  Over this time, a number of gatherings stand out.  Looking back,  they were when the Holy Spirit was clearly leading.  I'd like to describe a few of them for you.

We started a church in a low income housing project.  Our times together were unusual, to say the least.  Here's a description of one of them.

We usually took plenty of food to our gatherings.  It was a way of giving to them in a non-financial way.  And of course, they provided some of the food too.  There were maybe twenty of us there on this occasion, and we were just finishing the meal when a commotion broke out outside the tiny apartment of the person of peace where we met.

One of the adults, James, went out to investigate, and the usual trouble maker, a boy of 9 or so, was fighting with one of the other kids.  So James dragged the offender upstairs and started talking with him, telling him if he behaved that way and cussed out the wrong adult in that environment, he was likely to end up getting shot or beaten up.  Then Rosa, our person of peace went upstairs to join the fray, and she and James started arguing about how to bring some discipline into the boy's life.  (This is church!)

Finally things settled down, and the adults gathered indoors while the kids went outside to play.  James opened things up by asking, "How does a Christian handle it when he really hates someone?"

Was this the Holy Spirit?  We thought so, and the next half hour or so was spent in looking at some Scriptures on this topic, with everyone sharing from their experiences, and contributing to the discussion.  We also touched on how to discipline kids, and how followers of Jesus handle it when they disagree with each other.

Someone suggested we pray about what we had learned.  Was this the Holy Spirit's prompting?  Of course!  So we spent time praying for each person there, laying hands on them and making the prayers relevant to their situations.  They were short prayers, so each person prayed several times.

Then we invited the kids in.  They love to sing, and so we spent time in worship and praise. At one point I looked up, and there were two kids, aged maybe 7 and 9, singing their hearts out, faces raised, eyes closed.  It may have been loud and out of tune, but I thought to myself, "Jesus, you love this!"

Facilitating a Spirit-led gathering: Idea #4

First Corinthians 2:16 says this: 

 For,    “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?

      Who knows enough to teach him?”

   But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

The body of Christ often has the mind of Christ.  It is not something that is experienced so much individually as corporately.  Together, we have the mind of Christ.

Therefore, if we are facilitating a gathering there are some key questions that we can ask.  For example, someone may mention a need.  The person helping to facilitate may say, "Does anyone have any sense as to what the Lord wants us to do next?"  Someone suggests, "Maybe we should pray about it."  "Do others sense the same thing?"  Usually there is agreement, and so you go ahead and pray.  But maybe someone will suggest that you do something practical.  Does this have agreement from those there too?

Here are some other situations when a question may help to bring out what the Lord wants from the body.

Someone reads a verse of Scripture:  "Does anyone have a sense of what Jesus is trying to say to us through this passage?"

A time of prolonged silence (sometimes the silence itself is from the Lord):  "Is the Lord saying anything to anyone as we listen to him here?"

A picture or prophecy: "Let's weigh this and see what the Lord is saying to us through it."  Or, "Does this picture speak to anyone here about a situation in their life?"

Questions to the body will often lead to following the Holy Spirit.

 

 

Learning to follow the Holy Spirit with not-yet believers: Idea #3

We love to start with groups of people the majority of whom do not yet know Jesus.  Right from the start we have them talking about what God is doing in their lives (a concept know as prevenience–God is at work in the heart of the unbeliever before they know him) and praying, and we encourage them to listen to what God might be saying to them.  I have never known any unbeliever to have a problem with this, and if they are encouraged to do this before they become believers, it is never a problem later on.

In the past few months I have come across some ideas for working with new groups by David Watson that facilitate this.  He asks each person in the group to share:

  • What has gone well lately that gave you joy?
  • What has caused you, or someone you know, stress lately?

As people share, it is easy to move from the first question into saying, "Let's praise God for this,"  or "Let's talk to God about this situation."

You may ask, "Is this following the Holy Spirit?"  If someone brings up a problem, do you think God wants to deal with it?  Of course he does.  And it is easy to ask people to give any impressions they think God may be giving them as they pray about the situation too.

An example of how teaching can be led by the Holy Spirit: Idea #2

The comments below were a response by April Sellers  on the Arkadelphia Simple Church Network site (www.arkadelphiahousechurch.com) to my post on listening to the Lord in meetings.  

We don't often talk about teaching in house church.  Within simple churches, we most commonly learn from the Word in the context of an interactive Bible study where everybody participates and is learning from the Word together.  But 1 Corinthians 14:26 does talk about teaching.  So how do we handle it within the simple church context if the Lord gives us a "teaching"?

Bible
I thought that April's comments were a very interesting example of the "teaching" mentioned in this verse, and a great example of following the Holy Spirit.

"I recently read this great, short article by Felicity Dale on how to hear God in the context of a gathering. The article is really short, but I’ll summarize it anyway. If we really want to let Jesus be the head of His church, we have to let Him lead the meetings.  The way to do this in a meeting is to listen to the Holy Spirit, fully engage in the meetings and share the spontaneous thoughts, songs, scriptures, etc.  that God gives you. Don’t try to force it by thinking, “Hmm…what kind of song or scripture would go best with this?” Just share what God gives you.

For example, at our meeting last Sunday, I (April) brought a teaching that God have given me earlier in the week. As I was sharing this teaching,  different people would speak up and share scriptures, insight, convictions and experiences that the Lord brought to mind from the teaching I was sharing or from something else that someone said.  We had a really great time as we learned from and encouraged each other. I wasn’t worried that we “strayed” from what I had brought to teach. Actually, I hoped that would happen. I hoped that God would take what I had brought and weave it together with what everyone else had shared.  God did weave it together, and he built us together, as a church, in the process.  As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of this scripture:

When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (1st Corinthians 14:26)"

 

Ideas on how to follow the Holy Spirit in a gathering: #1

This is the first of several posts that look at how to follow the Holy Spirit when we gather.

Everyone spends some time (10 minutes or more) on their own seeking God for what he would like them to bring. It might be a Bible passage, a thought, a picture, a song, a prayer need etc. Then as each one makes their contribution, respond to it and see what the Lord does. Is there a theme in what people have brought that you can follow?

We have seen God move in remarkable ways when we have done this.  For example, one time a group of us had gathered just to listen to God.  As each one came back and shared something, one of the prophetic people in our midst condensed what each person said, and presented it at the end as a prophetic "tapestry" from the Lord to us.  Even the person who said, "I got nothing" was included!

How do you hear God in the context of a gathering?

Jesus wants to be Lord of our times together.  He is not the honored guest but the Master of Ceremonies.  If we are to follow the Holy Spirit in a gathering, it is important to know how to hear him in a group context.  How do you know what is the Holy Spirit and what is your own thoughts?

The best way we know of to do this is to participate fully in what is going on, making it your own vehicle of communication with the Lord.  Then what comes spontaneously to mind (a flow of spontaneous thoughts) is likely to be the Holy Spirit communicating with you.  So for example, if someone is giving a praise report or praising God in prayer, and a certain song comes to mind, that is likely to be the Holy Spirit.  So you suggest that the group sings it (or if you have the confidence, start the song).  Then maybe that song prompts someone else to bring a word of prophecy, or reminds them of a Scripture.  As one and another trusts the Lord and speaks out as he prompts, the Holy Spirit leads.

What doesn't work so well is to sit there thinking, "I wonder if anyone is going to say anything.  Maybe I'll lead out in prayer," or "Is there a song that would fit in with that Scripture?"  These are not spontaneous thoughts, and although the Holy Spirit can lead in that way, he is much more likely to do so as we join in fully with what the Spirit is currently doing.

 

 

What are Spirit-led meetings

Chris Jefferies posted the following comment to the last post I wrote, and it reminded me so much of when we learned the principles of following the Holy Spirit back in the UK.  It was so good, I thought it worth posting as a main blog.

"Felicity, you and Tony will certainly remember times in the 1970s in the UK when the Holy Spirit really had control. He'd be pouring his life into each one – a tongue here and an interpretation there, a song, some verses from the Bible, a prayer, praise, worship, prophecy. And at the end we all went home encouraged and built together with the theme of the evening fresh in our hearts. And depend on it – there was always a theme. Often we couldn't see it creeping up on us, he would surprise us again and again.

But somehow we let all that go, we lost it, many of us thought it was necessary to add structures and leadership and so we built our own houses and gave them names and left his house broken and abandoned (Haggai 1:2-11). Your post reminds me of those times. We still have them sometimes. But when it doesn't work out we think, 'What did we do wrong?' But, as Paul Young likes to say, it's not about what we do, it's about who he is. If we could remember and really believe that it's all about who he is we'd come before him with hearts full of praise and worship and we'd let him run the meeting. Much as John White explained so recently as a guest on your blog. And if we could apply the principle of 'who he is' to our lives (not just to meetings) he might break out in awesome power 24/7! He wants so much to build his church, but often we will not let him do it."

Like Chris, I remember those times very well.  The power and presence of the Holy Spirit was almost tangible.  I remember running to get to the meeting because I couldn't wait to get into the Lord's presence with the rest of the body of Christ.  No one dared go in with unconfessed sin because the Holy Spirit was likely to address it publicly.  I remember times when everyone was on their faces on the floor, lost in God's presence.  

It was in that kind of context that we learned to follow the Holy Spirit in a gathering.  Week after week we would watch the Holy Spirit lead and guide in his own unmistakable fashion, drawing out whatever theme he had for us.  

Things may not be as dramatic in this current move of what God is doing (the house church movement in the UK was very tied in to the charismatic movement).  But the Holy Spirit still leads clearly, and I'm spoiled for anything else!