Monday, April 23, 2007

Unstructured (Fluid? Spirit Led?) Gatherings - My Responsibility

This past Saturday night I gathered with Alan and his family along with some other friends at Alan's house. For Alan's recap of this meeting see here. This was the first time I went to this gathering since Alan began opening up their home several weeks ago. My wife and I arrived about 6:10 and people kept showing up until about 6:45. We had dinner together and then gathered in one room to share with each other. Since this was my first time at this gathering, I was paying close attention to how it was structured. Having talked with Alan before, I know his desire is to keep these gatherings as unstructured as possible in order to allow the Holy Spirit to lead the body to encourage and edify one another. Though the meeting was less structured than most of the gatherings I have been to, Alan was still guiding the conversation throughout our time together by asking questions about some different things he has been studying. Even though Alan asked these questions there were still times of silence and awkwardness because no one was saying anything. As I have reflected on our time that evening, I have come to a couple of conclusions.

First, as I pondered the question of why I didn't have more to say, I realized that I would have more to share with my brothers and sisters if I spent more time in the Scriptures than I actually do. Now, I had spent time reading the scriptures during that week, but I had not spent time meditating on them, searching them out, and seeking to learn from God what he wanted to teach me. Hindsight shows that even though I read the scriptures desiring to hear from God, I didn't wait around long enough in reading them to actually hear from Him. I just read them and went about my busy life. So, if I am going to have something to build up others with, then the way in which I am relating to and learning from God must change.

Second, I realized that it is real easy to hide behind structure. A common example of this might be having one teacher who teaches the entire time a group gathers. Since the responsibility to speak, share, or teach is placed on only one person. The others who are there can either study up beforehand and listen actively or they can just show up and not really listen. It is very difficult to tell the difference between the two since there is no interaction during the gathering. (though the difference might become apparent in any interaction after the speaker is finished) It was pretty apparent as we gathered as to who had been studying and seeking God and who had not. Even though it was apparent that I had not spent the time needed to be prepared to edify my family in Christ, the fact that it was apparent has functioned as a motivator in my life to draw closer to God.

All this to say that my awareness of my own responsibility to come prepared when I gather with other believers has become much more clear to me this week. What are your thoughts on how the structure of our gatherings affects the way we live out our responsibility toward other believers?

9 comments:

Glenn said...

Hey Theron,
I appreciate your honesty. I know where you're coming from when you say that you haven't given the Holy Spirit much time to speak to you after spending time in the Word or in prayer.

I think this is largely a problem with our doctrine of prayer. It makes me want to go study the purpose of prayer throughout Scripture and compare it to the reasons I pray.

I'm pretty confident that my study would reveal a large amount of selfishness in both the form and the content of my prayers.

Steve Sensenig said...

I, too, have experienced this same type of conviction in our gatherings here from time to time.

However, I would also like to offer one other thing to consider, not to promote complacency, but what sometimes may happen (and will help us not look at others judgmentally if they don't have anything to share).

Sometimes, I think it is quite possible that the Holy Spirit has us remain quiet in a particular gathering time because He wants to speak to us through others.

Again, this is not something to justify our silence if it really is a lack of time listening on our part during the preceding days.

But I just share it to say that there are sometimes legitimate reasons to be silent in a gathering. Or at least not to share more directly.

Does that make sense?

Eric said...

Theron,

Thanks for your honesty on this issue.

On Saturday night someone (I think it was Cindy) said something that I have been thinking about. She talked about how we almost always have some sort of stimuli entering our ears so that we do not have time to hear from God.

It would be wise for all of us (including myself) to use some of our empty moments to meditate, for example when we are walking by ourselves or even driving. This would not be as good as setting aside time specifically for meditation, but might be a supplement to that. For example, I am determined to not automatically turn on the radio every time I get into the car.

I need to meditate on how to meditate more effectively.

Theron said...

Everyone,

Thank you all for the comments and encouragement.

Glenn, I agree that how we pray is often one of the issues. I would love to hear what God teaches you through your hopeful study of prayer.

Steve, I could not agree more. I think that is what we see in 1 Cor. 14:26 and following (being silent to allow others to speak).

Eric, I certainly see what Cindy was talking about in our culture and in my life. It is as if we have been trained to bombard ourselves with some sort of stimuli all the time.

Theron

Alan Knox said...

Theron,

I am so glad that you posted this. Not only was your honesty and openness encouraging to me, the comments have been amazing as well. This is a wonderful example of how a "live conversations" can continue online. I pray that this happens more and more - and in both directions.

-Alan

Aussie John said...

Theron,

I followed Alan's link to your page and am glad I did. I too thank you for your honest comments, and agree with the sentiments offered.

As a long time teaching elder I know that the expectation of our traditions is that the elder will have the say.

Whilst reading the blogs of you and your blogging brethren I am encouraged to realize that the miracle I prayed for, to awaken older established folk to their mutual ministries, is actually happening amongst you younger ones.

Most of the pastoral elders of my acquaintance are terrified to allow others to speak, teach or otherwise. As one such elder said to me, "After all,they are only sheep. I'm the shepherd!"

I trust that our Father will give us many more of your ilk!

Theron said...

Aussie John,

Thank you for the comment and encouragement. It is truly exciting to see the work the God is doing in his people as he teaches us how to mutually care for one another.

Theron

markandmeg said...

Theron,

Good stuff, man. Thanks for your candid assessment. I have also been considering my lack of "speaking-up" when given the opportunity and your point on meditation strikes me as the key to my struggle. So, thank you. I hope to be overflowing from my meditation this coming week.

I will also submit a reason, that I submit is a wrong one, that often influences me is that of inferiority or irrelevance. Okay that is two reasons. But let me explain the latter. If the Lord does impress something on my heart regarding "A". But "B" has just been taught on and seems to be the predominant theme, it feels awkward to shift gears to my sentiments.

This issue may be mine and mine alone, but it is what I struggle with when I do have something to share.

I open the door for response, rebuke, and direction :). Thanks in advance.

Joel Spencer said...

This is great insight as my wife and I are about ready to launch out into the Ekklesia waters in our own home.

I'll be back!