Foundations 4 – Group or Meeting?

When I was a young Christian, the question ‘Group or Meeting’ was an easy one. I was brought up in a church that I perceived as having a meeting mentality, where people met each week, but did not really know each other. After my ‘conversion experience’ I was convinced by a theology that said that Church is a community of redeemed people working out how to live out Christ’s way together. Accompanying this was a sense that outside the Church there was only evil and false dealing, but inside we work things out together under God’s appointed leadership. I think/hope that most churches have rejected some of that attitude. For those that have not, consider the following:

  • The maximum time that the average churchgoer spends with the church is seven hours per week as opposed to 35 plus hours at work and a similar amount of time with the family
  • The nature of churches generally is that time in church is mainly not spent relating to people, and when it is, it is generally about trivia. The nitty gritty is in home life and family life.
  • When you have experienced your first church split, it becomes difficult to rate church leaders as effective arbitrators

Even after you have filtered out the rhetoric about Church communities you are left with problems. Groups tend to quickly develop an ethos, derived from the interests and personalities of those involved. Groups develop around one or more people who had the initial vision. New initiatives are approved or rejected according to their conformity to the initial vision. In these ways, the establishing of groups within the wider church and society retards diversity. It would be better if we claimed less and set up meetings to pursue particular interests. You could see the current church model as a soviet-style planned economy, in which all the product is commissioned and authorised by the church commisars. There is a growing black market in spiritual materials, but the restructuring of the economy to enable local entrepreneurs is yet to happen. What is needed is a free economy, where initiatives can be launched and live or die based on commitment and response.

In this context, launching a group is counter productive, but developing and holding meetings, becomes my contribution to the market place.

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