Gathered and Scattered
Church communities all around the world are beginning to wrestle with how we could once again gather in time and space. Here in Colorado, we are all currently thinking about what that might look like as each county comes up with a plan for the summer months. Our own church community is committed to honoring the spirit of the law of the land and living in submission to the authorities established by man – primarily as an act of worship to God.
As much as I long for gathering our congregation in one place, I am reminded that we have been two congregations for several years. And if we include Compass Groups, we have really been gathering as 17 different congregations under the banner of HarvestDowntown for about a year now. We believe that each Compass Group is a representation of the body of Christ, and as such, should be a sending, shepherding, proclaiming, teaching, and sharing community of Christ.
Some may question whether this is a good idea, since people may only participate in a Compass Group and not “come to church.” I would argue that two times a week is barely enough community to keep someone emotionally healthy. Sure, you can get community outside the church, but isn’t Biblical Christian Community significant enough to draw us in? If not, what’s wrong? Something is either wrong with the community or with the participant. Which is it?
When the Church was first filled with the Holy Spirit, they fell out into the streets and boldly proclaimed the truth of Jesus as though they were drunk – they were loud and proud. Pentecost marks the fulfillment of a ten-day alignment with the heart of the Master after He had ascended into heaven, (we are launching our own 10-day alignment this Ascension Day: Thursday, May 21 @ 6PM). From that point on, we see the followers of the Way meeting together in each other’s homes and in the temple courts – they gathered at least twice a week and then were scattered into their circles of influence in the marketplace. And the Church exploded and expanded across the known world.
The book of Acts describes these Spirit-filled gatherings as having several basic components: a devotion to prayer, the teaching of the apostles, a meal, and shared lives. How is this any different than your Compass Group? What’s missing in your Compass Group? If you are not in a Compass Group, how are you engaging in this level of transformational community?
Some people are not able to yet practice these basic rhythms of community, and some may not for some time; it is up to us to creatively find ways to engage these individuals in transformational community. This may be as simple as a Zoom link, a one on one meal, a phone call, or an invitation to join in worship. Others are feeling isolated and wondering why they don’t have this kind of community during this season, most are not actively engaged in a Compass Group. If you meet with someone for drinks, why not meet with them for worship? If you trust a family member enough to eat with, why not join them for worship?
I know of several Compass Groups that are committed to being an expression of the body of Christ in their homes. They are meeting for VirtualHarvest on Sunday morning and sharing a meal together afterwards. Others meet for VirtualHarvest via Zoom and then meet later in the week for their regularly scheduled meeting. Another group meets for VirtualHarvest IRL and then gathers via Zoom later in the week. I know of others who gather for VirtualHarvest on Sunday morning but then meet with their Compass Groups later in the week.
How could we “fall out into the streets?”
What if every member of HarvestDowntown viewed their home as potential micro-church? What if we started to invite our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors into our homes to watch/engage in VirtualHarvest and shared a meal? Most homes can handle 8-12 people and still maintain social distancing guidelines between family units. What if these gatherings became a normal rhythm for some of our church community? Would that be bad or good? Could they stay connected to the larger community by participating at 411 N. Weber once a month? Could they submit to the authority of the elders in this way? Would this be good for the discipleship process? I suggest that this is potentially a good by-product from this season and our church community is flexing into a better ecclesiology.
I would like you to consider someone in your circle of influence who cannot participate in large groups – either due to personal conviction, personal health, or plain fear. How could you engage them in the community of Christ? How could you create a safe environment for them to participate and engage? I have friends who will only meet people outside with masks on – I will do whatever they need. I have other friends that are all about engaging face-to-face – I cautiously participate, (not dissimilar to meeting a friend at a bar as one who doesn’t drink alcohol). The point is this, we bring the community of Christ with us. How could you do the same?
I hope that we all admit that we need the Holy Spirit to mobilize and empower His Church. I also believe that if we are filled with the Spirit, we will gladly scatter into our neighborhoods, workplaces, and families with the good news of Jesus. I also believe that if we are filled with His Spirit, we will be accused of being drunk because we are loud and proud of the life and joy we have found in Jesus. Jesus told His followers, “Don’t try and accomplish anything without my Spirit – so wait for Him!” This Ascension Day, May 21st, we will be meeting via Zoom to seek Him. Then each evening at 6PM we will meet at a local school to walk each of our 6 neighborhoods asking for Jesus to pour out His Spirit on every person who is called by His Name. On Friday, May 29th at 6PM we will have another Concert of Prayer at 411 N. Weber (also broadcast via VirtualHarvest) and anticipate meeting together on May 31st at 9 and 10:40 for Pentecost Sunday at 411 and in our homes. Please join us as we pray for alignment with His Spirit.