I am (slowly) making my way through seven stages that people seem to move through in their journey into simple/organic church. I started this series here where I listed the stages as follows:
- Letting go of old paradigms of church life.
- Exploring New Testament gatherings.
- Re-boot to Jesus.
- A new missional heart and longing.
- Fresh discovery of our own passions, spiritual gifts, and calling.
- Integration of an organic, fruitful lifestyle with organic gatherings that support it.
- Our kingdom influence spreads and becomes reproductive in its impact.
I already discussed stages one and two, but wanted to share one more thing on stage two. I want to re-visit the subject of prevenience as it relates to New Testament gatherings.
This subject (prevenience) comes from John White’s writings and I have included one of his documents on this that is well worth reading. I highlight this subject because I believe it is so crucial to grasping how God wants to be fully involved as the initiator of all that takes place “when we come together.”
So, in short, what is prevenience? As per John White:
The word "prevenience" (rhymes with "convenience") refers to "that which goes before or precedes". The word describes an important aspect of God's character. He is prevenient. That is, He is always at work before we come onto the scene. He is always initiating. In our lives and in the church…
He is always initiating. He is always starting things. He is prevenient.
Our part? To see what He is doing and to respond. He is the initiator. We are the responders. How we "do church" must be based on the character of our God. So, what are the implications for ministry in general and house church meetings in particular?
The "prevenience model" for church is illustrated in the Old Testament.
"Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord's command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped...Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in the camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. (Numbers 9:17,18,22)
God (represented by the cloud here) is always the Prime Mover. He is always the Initiator. He is always proactive. He is always prevenient. He is always "before".
The people of God are always the responders. Their job description is simple: "WATCH THE CLOUD. If it moves, then you move. If it doesn't move, then you don't move. No matter how long it takes - two days, a month or a year." For some of us, learning how not to move is much harder than learning how to move…
Our culture says, "Be proactive! Don't just sit there – do something! Make it happen!" And that culture is reflected in the church. The values of the Bible are different. "WATCH THE CLOUD. Do what it does." God is God and we are not. It's His church, not ours (Mt. 16:18)…
The church that God is restoring is more than a church that meets in the home. Its a church made up of people who are getting really good at WATCHING THE CLOUD. And responding appropriately.
I hope I have whet your appetite enough to dig deeper into what John calls the “prevenience model” for gatherings rather than the “program model.” Read his entire article here.