Last night, in my backyard with a bunch of friends sitting in a circle, my husband and I enjoyed discussing with a new friend and traveling evangelist (who has been excellent at equipping others) …some of the things around church. Our friend shared how the Greeks were the ones who introduced the lecture sermon, whereas in the Jewish synagogue, people were sitting around in the circle and anyone could enter in and read Scripture. Like a Discovery Bible study! Anyone could read the Scriptures in the synagogue. (Perhaps, this is why Jesus could read and teach in the synagogue as a carpenter?)
So basically, the way that we usually do church is not God’s original way of teaching. Lectures came in and moved things in a different focus. (Notice how with a lecture, the focus is usually on the human teacher?)
When you read Paul’s letters to the churches, there’s instructions on how to gather together. It’s much more community-driven than listening to one talking head at the front. Each person is invited to contribute in different ways.
The way the rabbis taught was with exploration questions (like I do as a Life Coach in my coaching circles) or like how Jesus asked questions, and with apprenticeship (modelling/mentoring). I love coaching small groups and inviting people to meet together and interact. They learn from each other’s stories. (One of my gifts is networking. I love introducing people to each other. My friends tease me about this.)
The synagogue had different scriptures they were given to read at specific times. (Think for a second – how often is the Word actually read in church? Usually, the sermon is merely a motivational message, or someone talking about what the Bible says and sadly often taken out of context.) When I gather people around the Word, I have us all go around reading aloud portions of Scripture. Faith comes by hearing the Word.
God’s people told their children the stories of their ancestors. (Testimonies! We rarely hear stories in an institutional church because we are afraid someone might take more than 3 minutes). The Bible says the enemy will be defeated by the Jesus’ blood and testimonies – stories of God at work! (See Revelation 12:11). Often, when I gather with people, I ask them – since we last met, what are they thankful for? Out comes stories of God’s provision and healing!
The Jews also had festivals (gatherings to celebrate together and eat together). Eating together is enjoying food while facing each other and visiting! As a family, in our house church, I also have deeply loved taking communion at our dining room table facing each other – in community. We have relationship with each other. We look in each other’s eyes as we reflect what Jesus has done for us. So often, when we take communion in church services, it’s as we sit side by side without any interaction with each other and there’s no celebration.
Our discussion last night reminded me of the book that I once read on Pagan Christianity where the author looks at the ways we do church. Most things we do in churches today did not originate from Jesus, but sadly from the world. As a result, so much of the DNA of what Jesus intended for His family has been lost. Today, you will find ads on how to market the growth of your church. Yikes. Jesus never did it that way. We have more to unlearn. (In fact, Jesus’ message – which always included powerful miracles – turned MANY people away!)
After last night, my husband went and did some more research on the Jewish synagogue. It was all in small groups sharing together in community. Basically, it sounds more and more like what Holy Spirit has been leading my family and I to do weekly in our house several times a week with various groups who come in. (However, I still need to shift more to GOING into other people’s homes like a true Disciple Making Movement does. I’m still learning to shift culture within my own mindset of GOING to church for over 40 years!)
I currently have 3 more people interested in doing a Discovery Bible Study (besides my core group)… so I need to plan now to go into their homes and coach them for 2-4 weeks and then turn them lose listening to Holy Spirit… I have a group (4 of us) that I have been meeting with for 2.5 years and they wanted to add more people. I said, “No. Go and start new groups!” 😀 One woman has started about 2 groups in about a month!!
Our little core group is made up of long time believers raised in institutional churches. Together, we have been unlearning together in order to re-learn how to let Holy Spirit teach rather than follow a video curriculum… and then do nothing about what we are learning. :0 lol… we have been having to break the temptation like crazy to add more people to the group… rather, we want to multiply!
Are you in a typical institutional church and hungry for more disciplemaking? Roy Moran does a great job of teaching churches how to do this in a hybrid style in order to get back to Holy Spirit being our Teacher.