I recently received an email that led to a discussion of how to "re-train" Christians to experience participatory, Spirit-led gatherings. Of course, it is always easier to avoid the re-training process altogether by gathering with brand new believers who are able to naturally enter into a participatory environment. Nevertheless, we often find ourselves trying to re-program ourselves and others who have been trained well in presentation church services.
There seems to be a two-fold paradigm shift that has to really take hold in our hearts:
- God's Word, by His Spirit, is capable of instructing people, and
- People are transformed when they discover that they have the ability, and primary responsibility, to hear from God directly and learn truth from His Word.
If people can catch the vision of this, then working toward a 1 Cor. 14.26 type gathering becomes very exciting and motivitating.
Having come from a "presentation service" background (in which I was doing much of the presenting), I LOVE participatory gatherings in which every person engages in the process of digging into Scripture and drawing out of God’s word His teaching and His living message for the moment. I so enjoy seeing people recognize that he/she is fully capable of going to Scripture, encountering God and truth, and sharing that truth with others. I love seeing this process take place within community and am constantly in awe of the way in which God’s word is expressed through every person present.
In discussions about participatory gatherings, the question is often raised about the need for "trained" teachers in order to avoid "error." In responding to this issue I recently wrote this emai:
Some would argue that we need “trained” Christians to do the teaching or believers will not learn what is needed, at best, or fall into error, at worst. However, there is much evidence that when God’s Word is preeminent and the Holy Spirit is present that God is able to work quite well. There are a couple of books that are very helpful in describing rapid church planting movements that have actually taken place (or are taking place) around the world: The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, and Church Planting Movements, by David Garrison. Both books reference the ability of new believers to gather around the Word of God, learn accurately, and pass truth along to others who, in the same manner, pass it on to still others. The beauty of this is that it elevates the individual believer to the true role of priest and also allows God to rapidly pass His truth and life from one oikos to another. In other words, it works! There is an "oversight" that takes place via relationship from one believer to the next, but the heart of disipleship is the ability of every believer to hear and learn truth from His Word.