Here you will find resources of knowledge to help direct you in the desire for community in your life. The focus of this blog is to concentrate on practical advice that reveals insights into how human beings were designed to live and function together. When applied correctly, this information should bring forth a rich and effective experience of community in your life.
Summary: At the beginning, organic churches need help with establishing purpose and culture. A gifted facilitator is able to do this. They will first lay the foundation of God’s eternal purpose as the reason for their existence. Then, they will guide (not control) the group in discovering their local purpose and culture as time goes on. These two things act as healthy boundaries, filtering what’s acceptable belief and behavior to be a part of the group.
In the last post, we learned that a facilitator is someone from outside the local church. They help groups to learn the process of making Christ the functional Head, as well as the center and circumference of their existence. God designed this role on purpose as protection for His body from its individuals supplanting Him as the functional Head. The gifts of facilitation are contained as a smaller subset of the gift of apostle that is described in the New Testament.
The goal of God’s eternal purpose
At the beginning, a gifted facilitator will be able to help the group lay the foundation of God’s eternal purpose. Although it may not be plainly evident, churches and their individuals meet for a variety of reasons. Churches may meet to expand their religious influence. Some meet to consume intellectual stimulation from a gifted speaker. Individuals may meet to “get fed” or have a sense of meeting their internal religious requirements. Some individuals meet out of guilt for the lives they live.
How can you tell what a group or individual’s purpose for meeting is? Just look at their accompanying actions. Does a church take a huge loan to build a bigger building to fit more people when they don’t have the cash to pay for it? Is the only time you see an individual when they attend church services? Does a person get drunk every Saturday and show up to church every Sunday? What do these decisions tell you about their purpose? (Ignore what their missions statements say.)
Summary: A facilitator is someone from outside the local church. They help groups to learn the process of making Christ the functional Head, as well as the center and circumference of their existence. God designed this role on purpose as protection for His body from its individuals supplanting Him as the functional Head. The gifts of facilitation are contained as a smaller subset of the gift of apostle that is described in the New Testament.
In the last post, we learned that if Christ is to be the functional Head of church meetings, groups need special training and practice at the beginning. To do this, they need a facilitator (not a positional leader) that will gently guide the process until they are ready to do it on their own.
It’s someone from the outside
But this person or persons should not be a member of the group. They should be someone from the outside who doesn’t stay for the long term. They also shouldn’t get involved in the content or daily workings of the group. Why not you ask? Because if they have any “skin in the game” so to speak, the temptation to use their facilitation skills to manipulate and control processes and situations to their advantage is too strong. What may have been intended to be facilitation turns into manipulation and control. It’s not necessarily a conscious-intent thing. It’s just what happens when you provide humans with the opportunity.
Even the holiest of Christians are too fallen to truly facilitate Christ as the Head when they are also a stake-holding member of the group. Take the apostles in the New Testament for example. When they were present in their home churches, they weren’t in charge. They were just another brother or sister. It’s only when they traveled to help other churches that they operated as apostles, part of which is facilitating the group process.
You are either a group member that stays, or a facilitator that leaves. There are no group members that leave or facilitators that stay. One reason God developed this pattern was to protect the body against its individual members. He’s brilliant, isn’t He?
You may be thinking…”Why don’t we see facilitators in the Bible?” Actually, you do. Again, the gifts of facilitating develop in a person as part of the Christian spiritual gift of apostle. An apostle also has other gifts and functions, but acting as a facilitator is one of them. (I’m using the word “facilitator” here instead of “apostle” because it is more descriptive of the specific function I’m talking about.)
Summary: If Christ is to be the functional Head of church meetings, the people will need training and practice at the beginning. To do this, they need a facilitator (not a positional leader) that will gently guide the process until they are ready to do it on their own.
If Christians are going to ever learn how to function as a body in our culture, to have full participatory meetings when they come together that exude that all believers are priests unto God, to truly treat each other as equals functionally, to make sure everyone involved in the Church has a say in decisions that affect them, and to come to full consensus before decisions are made (the Kingdom’s way), they need to be trained how to do it. For a long time. And they need to practice…hard.
New small groups need equipped
Sorry. A group can’t just get together and say “Now tonight we’re going to let Jesus be the Head of the Church and guide us in our meeting.” While the intentions are right, the execution likely won’t be. You can’t just give or hear a sermon series on Christ and His body and voila!, put it into practice right away. Theologically, the motive is right and you’ll learn some things. But if you try to practice what’s being preached without first being equipped, you’re in for a disaster.
Most people aren’t very good at listening to others, or the Lord. Some people talk too much. Some people don’t talk enough. Some people will always try and fix others. Some will take you down never-ending bunny trails because it feels good to share. Some will carry fears that keep them from sharing at all. Some will come with an agenda. Some will come with a need to be the celebrity of the group.
The issues that keep Christ from being the functional Head of gatherings are many. Unless someone is there at the beginning who is equipped to facilitate an atmosphere that doesn’t allow these issues to grab a hold of a group, fuhgeddaboudit! You might think the meeting went well, but it’s likely nothing compared to what it could have been if everyone’s issues yielded to Christ. Eventually, you want a group to get to a point where they can do this on their own. But, it doesn’t happen just because you want it to. It doesn’t happen because you told the group to do it.
For the past 8 months, I’ve been writing about the Church as a family. We’ve lost sight of this practice in our culture, but the Lord is bringing it back. Some are calling it the 2nd Reformation. The first Reformation was about correct theology. The 2nd is about correct practice. Here are the links to each post, along with their summaries. May the contents change our mindsets about how to live the Christian life together. But more importantly, may it change our behavior.
Kingdom community is the soil in which discipleship should take place. Because we live in an individualistic culture, it’s hard to find Kingdom community. But if we catch the vision for how we are meant to live collectively, we can be instruments that bring back a Kingdom community way of life to our culture.
Humans were designed to operate in the context of family. American culture has abandoned this mindset. Until family (physical and spiritual) is once again first priority, we’ll have tremendous difficulty understanding and practicing the Christian life.
A Christian’s spiritual brothers and sisters are supposed to be the most important relationships in their life. But to understand what that means practically, you have to understand what the sibling relationship was like in the culture in which the Church was born.
Summary: The Church has a leadership problem. It mirrors the world. Theologically, Christ is the Head. But not functionally. Until She gets back to organic Kingdom leadership principles, She will be largely ineffective in Her mission.
In the last post, we learned that current Christian preaching and practice focuses almost exclusively on the individual. But the gospel is more than that. It’s the creation of one new man. For the church to be effective, it must reverse the dominant cultural mindset and behave like one new man.
But if it’s going to do so, it must address and correct its problem with how it handles and executes leadership. Currently, it’s in a passionate love affair with the world’s top-down hierarchical leadership model that undermines everything the Church was created to be about. As Joseph Hellerman points out in When the Church Was a Family…
…the problem rests with both the number of leaders and the nature of leadership…the two principles God has given for leadership in His surrogate family are plurality leadership and servant leadership…these provide safeguards against functional, spiritual and relational disaster… (paraphrased)
There are no human heads
Christians concede that Christ is the Head of the Church, but only theoretically. He is also meant to be the Head practically or functionally. This means there’s no humans between us and Him on the authority ladder. What’s that you say? Weren’t there leaders in the early church? Aren’t there supposed to be pastors, elders, etc.? Why yes, but not in the way that you’ve become accustomed to where they’re stacked on top of each other in a hierarchical manner. That’s the world’s way of doing things, not the Kingdoms.
In a righteous Kingdom, there are no special classes of citizens. There’s the King and there are citizens. Every citizen has the same access and standing with the King as any other. A good King does not show favoritism, but makes Himself and His resources available to all. Christ is a good King.