An Anglican priest heard me sharing in a small group at a Baptist Church "Changing World - Changing Church” Conference. She told me with some feeling, "I'd give my right arm to be involved in something like you are." Then she asked, "How did your church get from where you were to where you are now?" My reply, "We slipped, stumbled and groped our way along like we were in a scary dark tunnel." Why should this be? Mainly because we had no pattern to follow and didn't know any one who could help us. Here's a list some of the things that caused us at times to wonder if we were “deserting the faith”.
- We slowly changed by meeting with little or no plan for our gatherings. This was the scary bit for some of us who had been in church for most of our lives. But, we slowly learned to trust the Holy Spirit to be our Guide.
- We began to include less sermons. This was because 1 Cor. 14:26 was now being practiced with noticeable profit.
- We began to sing less regularly. But when we did sing it was unplanned, non-stage-managed, spontaneous and extremely moving.
- We began to meet with no visible leader. Our four elders are largely invisible. But we began to recognise the leading of the Holy Spirit.
- We began to spend lots of time drinking, eating and talking together. And we found this deepened our relationships with each other.
- We deliberately embraced a policy of no pressure to give money. But because we had no building and no paid staff, we had adequate finances for local and overseas missions.
- We have no expectation that everybody will be at every gathering. Important family issues, for instance, can be more important than being at a particular church gathering.
- We began to do things on Sunday other than meet for what we formerly thought of as our worship time. Some examples of our enlarged Rom. 12:1 worship has involved us attending a tangi, (a Maori funeral held on a marae – a Maori meeting place), praying through a non-denominational ministry centre, cleaning up a garden for a struggling octogenarian, working together on a week-end (including Sunday!) house and section makeover.
An example of God's faithfulness to us in our 'reaching for light' happened one Sunday when we were meeting at El Rancho – a local Christian Camp. While having our morning coffee two pastors turned up looking for a coffee. (They must have smelled ours!) I had previously met both of these brothers and knew they both, in different NZ cities very involved in simple/house/micro churches. I invited them to stay and talk to our church about their experiences. They did and although their stories were very different, they brought light and encouragement to us for our journey. One of our brothers said to me later, "Jack, I breathed a huge sigh of relief after hearing those talks. Thank God we're not the only ones traveling this way."
Another change is our understanding of vision. We are learning that every believer has, to a lesser or greater degree, a vision from God that they are called to follow. And, like the well-known USA "Mosaic" church we desire to support every member's God-given vision in every way possibly way. While we can't hold up lots of spectacular examples, it is worth mentioning one our friend's vision for an early childhood centre. The vision started with very little in the way or resources and wasn't long before those resources were seriously threatened with extinction. But the vision survived. It broke through devilish opposition. The church prayed, encouraged, rolled up its sleeves investing time and effort while Kay clung tenaciously to her vision. Today there is not one, but four integrated centres that are blatantly Christian and are exerting a positive influence on around 100 families that are being touched with care and compassion.