If you’re interested in starting/trying a New Testament style fellowship here are some foundational keys to help you get your bearings. I have previously laid out some NT practices in my earlier Reformation articles and you will have noticed they vary greatly to current “church” practice. The format and structure of the NT ekklesia is extremely different – hence the need to shift to a “home based” model. To try and force these New Testament style changes on an existing “church” will only degenerate into arguments and chaos - we need a completely new wineskin for the ecclesia.
Who is your Covering?
One of the first things someone who leaves the established church is likely to be accused of is “not being under someone’s covering.” But what exactly does this mean?
This is quite difficult to determine biblically as the concept of covering does not exist in the New Testament. It usually means you are not under someone’s control, i.e. you are “in rebellion” or some other equally loaded moniker. It runs along the lines that there is some mystical power given to those in “authority” that can protect you and others and that if you are not under their “covering” you are somehow vulnerable to spiritual attack. The next question is “Who gives them this power to protect?” If you follow this logically it goes that you are covered by your pastor/vicar who is in turn covered by their denomination etc. The challenge is to find where in the bible anyone let alone a denomination is given this magical power to protect others. The only One given this power is Yeshua, so this whole concept of “covering” collapses when challenged biblically. So who protects you? the same person who protects your pastor/vicar – Yeshua.
If a believer asks “Who is your covering?” you can biblically reply, “The same person who covers you, Yeshua.” He is our head and has all authority, so He is the sole authority we answer to. Anything less is control and manipulation.
But wait a minute, what about loose cannons? People need to be accountable for their actions don’t they? And to that I agree whole heartedly, however “covering” and “accountability” are completely separate subjects.
In a home based fellowship where you live relatively closely with other believers, you will get to know each other quite well. This is the perfect environment for accountability, for confessing of sins one to another, repentance and seeking forgiveness. This is not some sort of cultish practice where people gather every week to salivate over each other’s sins, but rather a place of mutual accountability with trusted believers who are helping each other along the discipleship road. It is an act of mutual humility.
Culturally transferable, safe and relevant environment
Because this form of fellowship happens in homes with families, it is culturally transferrable eg people from other nations living in your town can do it in their home. It can happen on a marae as easily as in a home. It is in the relaxed non-threatening atmosphere of someone’s home that people can come, be loved on and ministered to. There is no “going to church” - we are the ecclessia!
Connecting you into a Community where you can get involved and grow
It is about people getting together and sharing Christian love and community on an authentic day in and day out basis, not just showing up once a week and having the potential of not even being noticed.
In home based fellowships, everyone is known, has a voice, a ministry and something to contribute. People engage in authentic loving relationships with each other and truly “do life together.” It is the perfect breeding ground for discipleship, there is no room for passengers, all the saints are armed and dangerous. Even in decision making all members are expected to hear from the Lord and participate in the decision.
What happens when member number 21 arrives?
One of the challenges is what do we do when member 21 is added to the fellowship? If this is not addressed, continued growth will be limited. Unfettered numerical growth will eventually require a larger building for meetings and the atmosphere of intimacy, fellowship and participation will start to break down - we will be headed back to Babylon (church). So the trick is to agree that once membership rises over say 20 adults, the ecclesia multiplies into two groups.
This does not mean that you suddenly cut the other group off. You will still have contact with each other. You may even gather in larger numbers (as the ecclesia of your town) on occasion. It’s just that the fellowship, accountability and opportunity to minister to each other gets lost as a group grows larger.
A key feature of these multiplying fellowships is that they are built for exponential growth and under the right conditions will naturally produce the myriad leaders required to maintain and feed the many believers. If we continue to grow just “one” fellowship we will limit growth to addition and stunt the supply of new leaders because of the loss of intimacy, fellowship and participation which effects the required discipleship training.
Can’t we just send them off to bible school for leadership training? Well no, because firstly they don’t teach this stuff there and secondly if you have an exponentially growing ekklesia, you need exponentially growing training organisations and that’s not physically possible so your growth will grind to a halt and/or go off the rails through bad doctrine/poor leadership. The true training ground of the future leaders is in the very fellowships they will one day lead (as they multiply).
The trick is to multiply the fellowship into two and keep on growing and multiplying so now your town has two “fellowships.” This doesn’t have to happen at a magical number of members, however as numbers increase, the opportunities for intimacy and participation will decrease and the need for multiplication will become obvious. It is likely that growth will not be just in ones and twos but in whole families at a time. Growth is organic, indigenous, messy and won’t necessarily happen in a nice tidy planned way.
As with all other activities of the ekklesia, any change must be led by Yeshua through His Holy Spirit and not at the whim of man seeking to force multiplicative growth according to some formula.
If you decide to try a New Testament style fellowship, do not be fooled into thinking you are God’s true anointed. All believers in Yeshua make up the ecclesia whether they gather in homes or churches. We are called to love all our brothers and sisters. Any large corporate gathering should be open to all who name Christ because we are bound together by love (John 17:20-26).
More to come next article…
Shalom and Blessings,