Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pillars of the Church: Elders

Since the beginning, Jarrod and I have been concerned about church growth. We couldn't seem to figure out which came first: converts or elders? In "chicken and the egg" argument, this question goes unanswered. In house church, it's a question of balance and wisdom which is why all throughout the book of Acts we see the apostles fast and pray...and then send out those God told them to anoint as the pillars of a work in the area to which they would be planted.

While Jarrod and I don't consider ourselves baby Christians, my parents have been the only true elders; both because of age and maturity in the Scriptures. Since mostly our meetings only held three to four families, this didn't seem to be a problem.  The "ratio" however didn't seem ideal for growth and personally, I hoped for elders that I wasn't related to. I've seen "mom and pop" churches in error and scandal because they were literally "family" and basically built an impenetrable dynasty that was so sick, I shuddered and ran from it.

Back to the ratio of elders to babies. The more babies you nurse, the more elders you need. It would be like one daycare worker trying to watch over a passel of children by himself. That worker becomes exhausted, frustrated and eventually gets burnt out! Our vision has been to "go into all the world" like Jesus said and we were ready like a gunshot to hit the streets but we also knew if we were going to really grow, we would need some pillars upholding the work.

Quite unexpectedly, we got ourselves some elders! Two couples, both long time disciples of Christ, have joined our meetings. Both are deeply rooted in the Scriptures. One couple had enjoyed a  house church fellowship for ten years before moving to Oklahoma. The other has spent his life defending the faith regarding science and the scriptures all over the world.

Wow. I mean....wow!

You can't imagine what it's like to have someone who's actually done church this way when you've only done this for two years. It's exciting and it just continues to reassure us that God is working in us for His purposes!

At our last meeting someone spoke up about something that was kind of hard to discuss authoritatively or definitely for the lack of scriptural information regarding the subject. One of the elders spoke up, gently and simply:

"That's something that needs to be shelved until we can discuss it."

He was referring to a commonly held rule in house church: don't teach a doctrine unless you've got solid Biblical basis for it and it's been discussed and examined by the elders. We all know the basics (creation, atonement, eternity) but the extras (what will we be like with a glorified body) have to be examined first. The reason for this is not control but order. It's relative to keeping the meetings, especially for the young followers of Christ, within the boundaries of simple-tried-and-true teachings that edify everyone. Speculating about things where the Bible falls silent makes for great conversation but not teaching unless it has been proven and accepted by the elders for teaching. Notice I didn't say by THE pastor. Not one man calling the shots here...elders provide checks and balances, an opportunity for God to confirm through each other, whether something is acceptable or refutable.

(Personally, where the Bible falls silent...I fall silent. Where the Bible shouts again and again...I direct the whole of my energy. Seems the most important things Scripture emphasizes should be emphasized.)

That moment when the elder spoke up brought order in a way that was gentle, humble, and loving. Rather than barking: "You're not going to teach that here until I say so," it was more of, "let's visit that sometime in private."

Huge difference.

That's the kind of experience an elder brings to a meeting that balances it out. So, we are looking forward to future meetings as we share "the inheritance that is in the saints in Christ Jesus."

Thanks for reading Thank you to Rusty and Sara Wimberly for your many prayers and gentle guidance!

God bless you all.
Jarrod and Mindy





Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fruitful...

It's amazing to watch God work when you think He's not up to very much at all. We are a small house church. I've often wondered why we rarely have more than three families in a our meetings at a time when we have this large home and all this furniture.

If we'd gotten our way, we would be living in a humble home in the country. God kept us here and gave us a large home in the middle of town and we love it.

The first family the Lord sent us was a single parent family who had been dragged through abuse and trauma. We hardly knew what to do when she got saved! For six months we worked to help her find a job, get on her feet, work out issues with her kids and then suddenly she moved back to her husband to work on a restored marriage. I heard from her recently and they are still in church, and though she admits life isn't perfect, it hasn't been the same since she came to Christ and realized just how much He loves her and her family.

The next family the Lord sent us had been through broken relationships, so fractured and painful that they were truly forced to move. It was hard to see them go because we'd really become much closer to them now that they were meeting with us (we've known them for years) but we knew God had spoken to them and they were trusting Him. They are now happily settled in a wonderful home, a good job, and great community. We visited them last Sunday and will be introducing them to house church communities in their local area soon.

Through that transition of these two families, we have had down times. We even went for a few weeks without meeting at all. Our AC wasn't working properly (a big deal in hot Oklahoma let me assure you). Then we had to deal with fleas (who can subject friends to those infernal blood suckers?). There were times last summer I wondered if we had failed but through it all, we were learning.

We've learned that house church is so simple you think you're not doing it right because it looks nothing like institutional church!

We've learned to teach people to hear God's voice for themselves rather than hear the voice of God for them, that showing love is demonstrating His love, and that just because you don't meet for a couple weeks doesn't mean God isn't working in your fellowship of believers.

House church is just living your life in Christ and through Christ together. After we eat our meals, we pray to open the meeting. Sometimes we sing. Sometimes we don't. Someone pops up a Scripture or makes a declaration, asks a question, confesses a personal fault or injury or presents a personal crisis. But always..our discussions come back to the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Everyone leaves with something, even if you shared a lot of personal testimonies. Sometimes we sing and have those moments when you can almost touch Him. It's really different every time...so we learned not to plan too much. He's running the show. Not us.

Two weeks ago Sunday we had a visitor who is interested in starting a house church and it was a great time of sharing like mindedness regarding church. It revived our own excitement about this expression of Christianity we feel called to live out.

We're doing well. God's growing us, changing us, and God help us in spite of us...He's bringing fruit out of it too in others!

Thanks for reading!