Showing posts with label small group. Show all posts
Showing posts with label small group. Show all posts

17 February 2013

Leadership and the New Testament

Leaders in the church, Part 1
< No earlier items | Index | Follow my leader >

How should we manage and govern our meetings? How is church to be led? Everything changed in the 1960s and 70s as the Holy Spirit swept into the denominational church. Existing churches were impacted, the house church movement began, and new streams of church sprang up.

Leading and following
My wife and I have a long-standing difference of opinion about church leadership. Let me explain.

Donna is a member of Open Door Church, part of New Frontiers, one of the new streams of churches that, like others, has its roots in the Charismatic Movement of the 1960s and 70s.

The bursting out of the new wine of the Holy Spirit wasn't easily retained by the old wineskins of denominational church. What was known as the British house church movement began at that time.

New Frontiers and the other streams of the time were based on the view that new organisations were needed. Of course, some Anglican, Catholic and non-conformist churches did embrace the fresh outpouring of spiritual gifts. The pentecostal denominations were already active in that way. But there were many 'refugees' from old fashioned denominationalism and also many new believers who had never tasted a particular form of church. The new streams aimed to cater for both groups.

Staying small and open - But there were many others (of whom I am one) who felt that the new streams of church life took on far too much from the old ways. Having a leadership structure and meeting in a large building were the most obvious of these old ways (though there are many others). Used as we were to meeting at home without leaders, sharing meals together, and giving the Spirit complete freedom to lead us in praise and worship, we were quite unable to feel comfortable with any kind of organisation.

And that's the basis on which Donna and I have different views. She is very much at home in an organisation with a structure, a building, and management. I am at home as part of an organism with very little structure, no building, and managed and directed by the Spirit of Christ alone.

Another kind of small group - We do overlap in one important way. She is one of three leaders of an Open Door Small Group that meets every Tuesday evening, and I am glad to be part of that group. The meetings are in some ways rather like organic church. We meet in homes, we usually start with a shared meal, there is plenty of opportunity to chip in with a thought, a prophecy, a tongue, a vision or a prayer.

On the other hand the meetings are structured around three main elements and are managed hierarchically. Meetings normally begin with a meal, then worship led by a member of the group, next questions and a discussion based on the previous Sunday's 'preach', and finally a time of prayer on topics raised by those present. The Small Group leaders report to neighbourhood leaders who in turn are responsible to the elders of Open Door and in particular to the lead elder.

Donna is comfortable with these arrangements, I am less so. But we both enjoy the meetings and are grateful to be able to share in them regularly together.

The role of the Spirit - But it's not just a matter of how meetings are organised. There is also plenty of evidence that the Holy Spirit fills every available gap that we concede to him. I have a great deal of experience of this going back many years and also in recent times. Meetings that are completely open, not planned or governed by us in any way, are little pockets of time and space that he joyfully, even gleefully inhabits. Many times I have witnessed him working amongst us in amazing and unexpected ways, but always when he is given the freedom to do it.

It takes courage to attempt this. Things can go wrong. People can get in the way. We cannot come to this place without taking risks. But when we are prepared to step aside and let the Spirit of Christ move among us freely, he will fill the place. The more space and time we give him, the more present he becomes.

And I am convinced that out of such a place of blessing we are better equipped to go out and, in our going, to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

Profitless discussion - A couple of days ago Donna and I had a rather profitless discussion about church leadership. (I take full responsibility for my unhelpful attitude.) I'm going to outline it here because it pinpoints the issues, points to a way forward and may be helpful to others thinking these issues through. Here's how it happened.

We were about to begin reading James together when Donna spotted Hebrews 13:17 on the opposite page. She asked me a direct question, 'How do you explain this verse if you don't think the church should have leaders?'

Indeed the church does have leaders. But they are understated and not people who rule or manage. They are recognised by those around them, not appointed by other leaders or by a committee.

But instead of saying this I responded to Donna's question by digging into the Greek and pointing out that you must translate any passage in sympathy with the general thrust of the entire New Testament. What Jesus did and said and what we read in the other letters must inform and guide us. Translation is not an exact art. The flavour of the English words we select to represent the meaning of the Greek must depend partly on that wider context. So we talked about the text rather than the concept of leadership.

The discussion went pear-shaped and we never did make it as far as reading James that evening. Partly because of this I feel the time has come to study church leadership in more detail and to be clearer in my own mind about the biblical background and the practicalities.

There are other associated issues and I think I need to look at them as a whole, not piecemeal. So I plan to come back to this topic from time to time as I make progress with the study.

Meanwhile, I would be very grateful for any thoughts or feedback you might have on the different approaches to church leadership and church government. Please leave a comment.


  • Have you had similar or related experiences? Please consider sharing them in a comment.
  • What are your views on the Holy Spirit's involvement in your meetings? Is he fully present? Is he fully visible and audible?
  • If you could change one thing about your meetings, what would it be?


  • Try this at home. Meet with some close friends with no agenda and no preparation of any kind. Share a meal gratefully remembering Jesus' presence with you. After the meal sit in a comfortable place together and focus on Jesus. Don't mind silences, but share together anything  the Spirit shows you, including pictures, words, prophecy, Bible passages, persistent thoughts and more. What happened? Report back here with a comment.

See also:

< No earlier items | Index | Follow my leader >

20 September 2011

Loves Farm (SG) - Beatitudes

< 19th September 2011 | Index | 22nd September 2011 >

Tonight's word section covered the second part of the beatitudes, based on Ian Hoile's address at Open Door last Sunday.

Canal boatWe shared a meal together, the first time we'd met in Megan's new flat. It was cosy and fun but space really wasn't a problem. After coffee Roger turned our thoughts towards the meeting and we began with a time of praise. I'd been asked to prepare something for this, so I shared about praise and worship. The first mention of praise is in Genesis 1:4 where we read that Elohim 'saw that the light was good'.

When we declare something to be good, that is praise!

After that I spread out a selection of photos on the floor and asked everyone to choose their favourite. And then we considered what was praiseworthy in the things depicted - a sunset, a canal boat etc. We listened to Eva Cassidy singing 'What a wonderful world' and then joined in with 'All creatures of our God and King' and 'In every day that dawns'.

Then Donna turned to the topic 'Be radical' and the second part of the beatitudes (there are also notes on the first part).

We read Matthew 5:1-12 and focussed on verses 7 to 12. These verses seem to deal with the way we treat other people.

We should show mercy because we have received (and will receive) mercy.

Purity involves both the visible and the invisible aspects of our nature - we need to have pure actions and a pure heart. These two kinds of purity must match one another.

Peacemaking can be difficult because not everyone will accept peace. How do we deal with such difficult situations? Sometimes we need to go the extra mile.

And persecution will come our way if we stick to what we know to be right. We will certainly be criticised (or much worse). But we need to remain joyful despite the difficulties we face, as Paul and Silas did in prison.

And finally we spent some time praying for those of us facing difficulties of one kind or another as well as for other people we know with troubles or a need for change in their lives

(See also: Blessing or curse)

< 19th September 2011 | Index | 22nd September 2011 >

13 September 2011

Tempsford (SG) - Being radical

< 1st September 2011 | Index | 15th September 2011 >

It's been a while since I've been at a small group meeting so it was good to see everyone again. The theme was based on the beatitudes from Matthew 5.

Roger told us about various upcoming events including a baptism on 25th September and a car rally planned for 2nd October.

A waterfallWe listened to some songs and joined in with one of them and Roger read some of Jesus' words, 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest ... Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' (Matthew 11:28, John 7:38)

Leanne took the word section; it was based on the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-6 and referred back to Ian Hoile's address on Sunday, part one of a series 'Be radical'. (If the recording isn't visible from the linked page you may need to search for 'Be radical'.)
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
These verses are like a 'Kingdom manifesto'. If we follow Jesus we should be different from those who do not. We thought about this, in particular identifying ways in which we actually are different. We also  asked one another in what ways have we been blessed recently.

I suggested that it may help to reverse the ideas expressed by Yahshua. For example, if we are completely happy, how can we possibly be comforted? If, like the Pharisees, we think we are spiritually rich why would we want to enter the Kingdom?

And finally we separated into smaller groups to pray. Praying with Roger and Graham I had a picture of a waterfall. A wide, mature river was running sluggishly until it came to a cliff; then it poured over in a mighty, roaring torrent and crashed on the rocks below throwing spray high into the air. But the river wasn't destroyed, it soon returned to its placid, steady flow.

Father said that our lives are like rivers; time carries us along and like the river we can't go back. Along the way we experience all sorts of things, good and not so good. But sometimes he brings us to a place where we must face sudden change - a place like a waterfall. The flow is disrupted and we loose control. But it's an amazing place of noise and spray and only in the waterfall is there power and glory. We needn't be afraid of these times, he will bring us through safely. They are times of fundamental change for us. And, like the river, we will continue afterwards at a normal pace. It will be OK.

Roger was reminded of a time when he had walked behind a waterfall. He had not got wet, we need to be brave enough to take a step into the falling water if we want to be affected by it. Graham commented that when we stand on the edge we still have control, we can choose to step into the water or we can choose to step backwards away from the water. But if we step into the water we lose control and we cannot then change our mind.

The second part of the beatitudes group chat is also online.

(See also: Blessing or curse)

< 1st September 2011 | Index | 15th September 2011 >


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