The Good Thing About a Bad Meeting

When believers seek to gather around Christ in simplicity it is suddenly made clear how well they are really knowing Him. Take away the clergy, take away the guy up front leading the meeting and handling all the ministry, and now there is a dynamic in place which will result in a true expression of spiritual life.

Now, to unpack that a bit, let me explain what I mean. It is easy for a congregation of Christians to look spiritual and strong as they shout amen to the roaring sermon of their pastor. What is not so easy to come by is that same group of Christians functioning together in a coordinated way that reveals Christ in His fullness through every members’ supplying their portion of spiritual life and experience.

It was about five years ago I began to understand that for the church to really be the church than God’s people, when they assemble, must gather together unto Christ and not unto a man or a ministry. In other words, Christ must be the practical Head of their gathering. What this means is that there must be no intermediary class of ministers (the clergy) standing between God and His people (the laity) who minister His word while the rest passively receive it. At the time I was part of a ministry team whose very job was to travel around among different churches doing just that-being the clergy for the laity. But my heart was becoming more and more conflicted as I saw the purpose of God, so in one meeting I decided to try something new. After I finished speaking there was more time left in the program, so they asked me to go on. Instead, I asked everyone present to arrange their chairs in a circle and I opened the floor for dialogue about what the Lord was doing in each of our lives.

The result, as you might guess, was a lot of long stares and loud silence. 🙂

Now, what good is a meeting like that? Nothing, unless you think that a true expression counts for anything.

The purpose of the church meeting has been lost and buried among the rubble of 1700 years of man-made tradition. What is the purpose of the church meeting, you ask? Well, it could be stated in a number of ways. Mutual encouragement and building up, yes. The proclamation of God’s Word, yes. Fellowship, yes. The exercise of spiritual gifts, yes. But there is something very unique about the purpose of God’s people gathering together that is often overlooked, and it is found in Ephesians 3. Here Paul makes a very mystifying statement about God revealing His many-sided wisdom to principalities and powers in heavenly places through the church. But what in the world does that mean?

Every believer in Christ has been given a portion of Christ to show forth. The uniqueness of the gathering is that in the church (or, in the “assembly”) there is an opportunity for all the members of the Lord’s Body in a given town to come together and, as one, give expression to this rich, multi-faceted Christ who indwells them, to the end that there may be a resulting display of Christ as the All in all. This is why Paul calls the church “the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

I know this calling goes beyond the meeting alone (of course!) but it also entails the meeting itself in a very unique way which is often overlooked.

We need this dynamic as believers. We need it for our own spiritual health, we need it for the salvation of the world, we need it for spiritual warfare in order to show principalities who is Lord of heaven and of earth!

I’m getting way ahead of myself, now, though. Dismantle the clergy system and you have made an important step in the direction of God’s purpose for the church, but there is much more than that which is necessary. For the church to really be the church it takes a people who are relentlessly pursuing His presence in their daily lives, who know His headship in a real and living way.

As opposed to the way I once knew and practiced “church”, now I am part of a small gathering of believers who seek to gather around Christ in simplicity. And to be fair I have to say that sometimes our gatherings are pretty pathetic. (Sorry for any of you who are reading this, I indict myself along with you :).) When ministry is in the hands of all God’s people then it becomes the responsibility of every last member to function as a priest in the Lord’s House, ministering both to Him and to the other members. No longer do we wait on a man or a pulpit to fill the need that no one man or pulpit could ever fill. So if Christ is not real to us in our day-to-day lives, and if we are not experiencing His life in a fresh and living way, it will show in the meeting when we all sit down and stare at each other with nothing to say.

But, like I said, if you are one of those who count a true expression of spiritual life as something worth having, then there is at least one good thing about a bad meeting. What we have may be weak and sometimes pathetic-looking, but it is ours and by gosh at least it is real! So instead of being discouraged that our efforts to rebuild the house of God in our city are falling so far short, let us seek after the Lord Jesus and settle for nothing less than His reality in our lives.

And in conclusion, may I take Paul completely out of context as I say “comfort one another with these words.” 🙂

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About Joshua

Writer, husband, father, friend. View all posts by Joshua

11 responses to “The Good Thing About a Bad Meeting

  • Douglas

    The Real Church is beginning to show itself like God designed it originally! Praise God! Let the Church, be the Church!!!!

  • Michael Young

    I’m so glad that the body of Christ isn’t just something we go to to be entertained for an hour. Instead, it’s a place where Christ is glorified and His expression is made visible on the earth! His church is both living and breathing. Thank you Lord for that. Say goodbye to our individual Christian lives. Say hello to the community of God.
    Thanks for the post. I only skimmed through it due to lack of time, but I liked it.

  • j kreider

    how freeing! there are several families in our social circle who follow Jesus (to different extremes, of coures!) but do not attend a traditional service; we’ve been tempted to “call a meeting” and just get together and minister to each other, but I’ll admit… i’m feeling fearful about having “a pathetic meeting” as you have so aptly named it, and that fear has kept us from initiating a gathering. Also, the vast differences in our friendships makes for an awkward mix.. we have a pastor’s daughter who watches R-rated zombie movies and enjoys her vino, and other friends who are Mennonite-ish and live on a dairy farm. The Spirit has been tugging at my sleeve, but I envision a gathering of such varied lifestyles and… I allow myself to quench the Spirit with fear.

    We’re a little overwhelmed and haven’t come as far as you, but we need to meet on a regular basis. We want this for ourselves and our kids. I just told Aaron yesterday, I want Xander to see Christ “outside the home”, but I don’t want to throw him in a Sunday school and have him get a yellow star for memorizing Romans Road. We don’t know where to plug in, how to reach out, or if we should find a small country “already in a church building” gathering and just keep quiet about our “death will be abolished” and “as in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be made alive” ideas 😉 I guess you don’t have to agree with people on theologies in order to gather, right?

    I’d ask you for some bullet points to follow, but I’d be shooting myself in the foot… I’d rather be given a format than be led by the Spirit.
    Guess I should just start by inviting those few families over here and we can sit around and stare at each other, and Praise God, anyway!

    • lawdawg23

      Very exciting to hear your thoughts, Janae. I’m glad you benefited from this post.

      Variety is the only way to go, in my opinion. It’s a sure sign that believers are gathering around Christ and not their own pet doctrines. And the world we’re living in is in sore need of such a testimony, if you ask me.

      Like you said, there is certainly no “format” for gathering. Down here we spent a whole lot of time just hanging out, doing fun things together before we ever attempted anything close to a “meeting.” That may not always be necessary, but I think it’s good for believers, especially those coming out of the deadness of formal Christianity, to be able to gather in a truly informal atmosphere. Otherwise things can get stiff and religious really fast. 🙂

      It’s an adventure for sure. Dare to trust Him, and don’t be afraid of failure!

  • Patrick

    Hey Bro,
    My regret is…that i am now starting to read your blogs. I wish I did sooner. Of course you know I have something to say. don’t i always. lol. i first wanted to say your love and depth with Christ is encouraging and a blessing.
    i want to be careful the way i present what i have to say. it’s easier for me to present it more like a question. i don’t know if i am fully right on this but these are my thoughts as i have seeked God about “organic church”. first i will present my thoughts and perhaps follow with questions. i notice you stated the past 1700 years have been filled with man made traditions. i know the common time frame spoken among christians is Christ lived on earth about 2000 years ago. so my question is if you hold these years kinda accurate? if so then are you saying it started good the first 300 years of church and then tradtion of man came? i guess what i feel is this. i know “organic church” has a more small home group culture and its very important to keep it kinda small and non institution like. ultimately inspired by the early church found in acts and so on. i know many home groups look to that eg as a good proper eg of how church should be and thats found in the early church. i know as we read the new testament it wasnt short after we started seeing these churches got rebuked if it wasnt paul rebuking them then it was Christ himself rebuking the church found in revelation. so my opinion is even the early church had it wrong sometimes. they needed letters written to them. rebukes sometimes. even paul had some issues sometimes. in revelation the ultimate message i get from Christ is “thou has left your first love” proving like you said we need always focusing and centering around Him. i think before some of the strange traditions came they were already around in the early church. some struggled with their cultures around. some came from strict jewish law and couldnt let go of some of it immediately. some still had wierd pagan views etc. so even the first “organic church” from time to time had issues needing rebuke.
    when we see people in china today get saved we see the birth of many “organic churches” and in even arab worlds. among these cultures its needed. even back in the earlier years in acts etc, they were under persecution. rome and surrounding nations had major issues with christians. it was so new, fresh and a conspiracy at that time. the goverment and religious leaders where actually intimidated by this new movement. it wasnt like they could build huge places to gather. they were being hunted and thrown in prison and forced to fight in collisuems.
    we at the moment are not under such persucution here in the usa, but its probably around the corner who knows. i don’t have much to say regarding the roles of clergy and pastors or any body named with titles. but on both issues you speak of here regarding smaller church at home and clergy it is my personal conviction at this hour of history i’m not sure if God is trying to raise up organic churches for them to try to present to the “institutions” they are wrong. i believe many of our churches today are here as a result of our culture. religous freedom. one thing is for sure no matter how we view america with all its agendas and conspiracy we do have freedom of religion as of now. if the early church saw places like tsc, brookly tabernacle, sovereign graces, many Aog’s, lutherans, southern baptist etc. i think they would be shocked. what no persecution. they can worship in places like temples.
    i know we learned a lot as of more recent on our own persutes that our history is not really what it was. how ever i do believe that the very early settlers who were at peace with the native amaericans came to escape what you are speaking of. the “church”. they came to worship freely and be able to seek God for themselves with out only hearing the word from “clergy” i do agree many of our churches are a mess, but i don’t think they prevent others from reading the word for themselves. and most good pastors don’t put themselves in a pope like position as the only mediator to God for their personal walks. hey moses was a leader, joshua, david, paul, etc. the problem today is unforntunately we are a pridful nation. a prideful bunch of people who are filled with ambition. we tend to look at pastors like kings. we tend to put them on throwns. a lot of this is our own issues of the heart.
    like i said at this hour i do belive God is trying to get at His people institution and organic. not to tear each other down but to re build like entitle your blog. you are an excemption and many smaller groups are, but i know many others who leave their bigger churches because they are nit picky and bitter. thats also found in bigger churches too. today we are so easily offended by each other. we need to let the church be the church where ever it is at in this hours history. i speak of the remenant. i’m not speaking of the obvious crazyness out there. God wants our hearts to be ready for a day when persecution comes in physical violent form here. hey maybe thats why there is smaller groups like yours. for us instituion people like me. i’m heading to your house dude when it comes. 🙂 but wait if all the big churches go to the smaller homes we are just going to have bigger churches again. lol. circular reasoning. lol.
    in all honesty i’m blessed at my bigger church tsc. i’m blessed by my “clergy” i’m also blessed because this place has not left it’s first love. smaller groups or mega, the heart cry of God is don’t leave your first love. once that happens then its a mess like we see among so many places. we see it in mega and small.
    i end with a question. because i am presenting my views as my views only, so that being said i can be totally wrong on this whole presentaion. question is
    what do you think at this very hour of history the Holy Spirit is trying to get at in “church”? what should our main goal be? after you answer the first 2. would God be blessed if all the churches closed down today and the congregations got with each other and tried to figure out who lives in each others neighbor hood so they can meet at each others home? (sounds confusing..sorry) (i guess they would firt have to form a institution organization to try to arrange this..lol i’m just kidding.
    my last opnion where my heart is.. i would love to see a mass amount of churches close down or downsize. i would love to see us go solve the orphan problems, feed the poor, cloth the poor, visit the sick and do radical things. then maybe we would see the early church like acts. then maybe we would intimidate nations again. then maybe we would see persecution again here. then maybe then the organic church will form.
    love you bro
    patrick

    • lawdawg23

      Wow brother. Your responses are always so thoughtful. I’ll do my best to respond in a worthy manner. 🙂

      To answer your first question, I think God’s intention for the church is the same in this hour as it was in the first. He is calling out of the nations a people for Himself whom He can build together as His house in order to gain an expression of the life of His Son in every city on this planet.

      Thus, I believe the church exists primarily for the Lord’s own sake. Our first goal is not ministry to the lost, evangelizing the nations, feeding the poor, or anything else, but to minister to the Lord Himself. To pursue Him as a Lover would. Of course that pursuit will entail many things getting done, such as the things I listed above. But our primary purpose is ministry to the Lord, and I have found that the above things may be present when ministry to the Lord Himself is not.

      In essence, what I believe is on the Lord’s heart more than anything else is what Paul called His “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3). This purpose preceded the fall of man and it will extend beyond it. I hear very few men talking about the Lord’s eternal purpose, let alone find many groups of believers who are giving their lives in pursuit of it.

      Brother, the issue of the day is not “organic” v.s. “institutional”. Not to me, at least. I am where I am today because the Lord led me out with a vision. Yes, I saw some things wrong with the “system”, and still do, but that’s not the first thing on my mind when I wake up every morning. And I too am blessed by many institutional church men, including pastor Dave and Carter. That’s not the point. The point is for God to get what He is after. And I say nothing is so sacred that it should not be let go of if that’s what it takes to bring us to the place where the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the very life we live, morning, day and night.

      In case that sounds like I have everything figured out, you can be sure that I don’t. We’re struggling to find our feet on most days down here bro. But you and your wife should come for a visit sometime. We have the two things you desire the most: good fellowship and lots of poor people. 🙂

      Love you man. As always thanks for your challenging thoughts.

      • Patrick

        hey bro i read this recently and it blessed me it goes along w/ your comment to me on your blog. perhaps you have read it before “Remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee–it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that …saves thee–it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument–it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou doest that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down…There is one thing which we all of us too much becloud in our preaching, though I believe we do it very unintentionally–namely, the great truth that it is not prayer, it is not faith, it is not our doings, it is not our feelings upon which we must rest, but upon Christ, and on Christ alone. We are apt to think that we are not in a right state, that we do not feel enough, instead of remembering that our business is not with self, but Christ. Let me beseech thee, look only to Christ; never expect delieverance from self, from ministers, or from any means of any kind apart from Christ; keep thine eye simply on Him; let his death, His agonies, His groans, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look for Him; when thou liest down at night look for Him. (The Forgotten Spugeon, Iain Murray, 42.) (patrick) i belive in scripture memory but this one quote i want to memorise. i put this on your fb page. which ever you get first.

  • craig

    Josh you’re a very thoughtful and thought provoking guy. There were many elements of this post that both comfort and disturb me at the same time. I remember when i first learned that other people had the same questions and concerns about our church formations and structures. I felt liberated and crushed at the same time. I’m still stuck in the “I know this isn’t right, but what now?” phase. Call it the wilderness or whatever but outside of my family and some great friends that live hours away, I still don’t have that Church community to grow with. I suppose it’s a waiting game and a time to detox and let all the anger, frustrations and bitterness sweat out of my system before I find a community and drag all that junk in with me.

    Something else you said that I think we all deal with is the practice of keeping your eyes open and heart tuned into God’s presence throughout your day until he becomes a reality in everything we do. I’ve been studying ancient and modern Judaism a while now and they still say blessings every day called the Berakhot. They are in effect just simple statements that start by blessing God for “_______” and it’s a way to keep ourselves aware of God at all times, good or bad. It’s been a good practice for me thus far. Thanks again for the writing Josh. I share your heart brother.

  • lawdawg23

    Hey Craig. Have you ever read Practicing His Presence by brother Lawrence? There’s a new edition put out by Seedsowers that includes the testimony of a guy named Frank Laubach. Very good stuff. Goes right along with what you said about the Berakhot.

    • lawdawg23

      I just realized that every time I respond to one of your posts I hit you up with a “recommended reading” list. Sorry about that. There are a few writings out there that have been a great help to me in my journey, though, and I like to pass them along. Hope you don’t mind. 🙂

  • craig

    Josh, Practicing the Presence of God was a transforming book for me. It’s beautiful in it’s simplicity and yet it takes a lifetime to perfect.

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