To win the follow up battle is a major victory. .
People absent themselves for a variety of reasons but once they become members or indicate an interest in attending the Eldership need to know why they are not there.
If they are sick prayer is indicated, if they are hurt, offended, bored, tired, lazy, attracted by some other interest in fact for whatever there is a need to do something about it immediately. Later is not good enough. A week of lack of care can lose a novice forever and send a message of lack of caring.
How can this be done is the question on many Elders hearts as is the problem of having the ecclesia assembled for a long enough period of time. The gospel cannot be imparted to empty seats.
In larger ecclesiae, even as small as thirty to fifty members, it is impossible for one or even two persons to follow up on the non attendees or provide for them, that they might learn and grow effectively. But it must be done …! How is the question ! ?
Clearly the way these problems are presently approached needs more thought.
How many can one person really care for in terms of pastoral care? Depends on how much time they have to spare but even given unlimited time there is a social interactive component that limits the number. Our very humanity needs closeness if the shepherd role is to succeed. Given the anointing I would think that five families would be more than enough if the task is undertaken properly.
Leaders who can relate in this way may be developed if the organisation in which they operate is supportive and well organised. It can be done.
Leaders are made, not born
Ideally each group of families should be linked with/by a capable leader/s in order to establish spiritual and practical security. Eldership needs to able to exercise their bishop/shepherd roles within the organisational structure of such groups without undermining or superseding this leadership function. (Elders need not be the leaders of home ecclesiaes and pastoral care groups.)
Given five families for a P/care group, two such groups could be put together to make up each home ecclesia meeting.
A tentative structure
This structure in the long run depends upon the underlying beliefs and attitudes of the Eldership and secondly the ability and willingness of the people both to learn and participate. In regard to beliefs it is often found that long established custom and traditional attitudes still have difficulty in accepting the idea that people can get along quite well without “professional ministers” The idea of the body ministering to itself is both strange or not proper in some way. The ability and acceptance needed by the people being a taught function guided experience can soon develop their talents and gain their acceptance. The idea of a prophetic community is sometimes strange to ecclesia building oriented assemblies. Never the less the ecclesiaes of the book of Acts began and flourished in homes not public buildings.
(1 John 2:27 NIV) As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.
This verse helps to explain why. What then are the guidelines to establish such a structure?
First and basic for any local ecclesia is an accepted understanding that if you are a committed member there are a few minimum obligations. The basic one is that you are expected to attend with all your family at least two meetings per week. These meetings are Sunday morning and Home Ecclesia. To establish this principle is the work of the Eldership. Not a simple task and it has to be preached, exhorted, cajoled, pushed at every opportunity until a cultural habit is established. WE EXPECT !!!! is an appropriate attitude.
The structure of having the pastoral care leaders will reinforce this principle if they do the job conscientiously. In fact their input is critical to success, as is their skill in follow up. As above each care PC/group would consist of two leaders, (ideally husband & wife) and five families. The leader’s task is to follow up all who are not present at Sunday and midweek meetings. Ideally visit personally and deliver newsletter & make inquiry as to health, needs, etc. Also follow up on any “new” in their geographical area be they just visitor or interested person is part of the task. Not intrusive but to show the face in the case of members and interested ones. With some a letter, then another letter about two weeks later can bring surprising results. Everyone must come to understand that the ecclesia is a family and we are ALL concerned about each other and desire to care for and support one another in our corporate growth, worship, and assembling together as obedient servants of the Lord God. This method will take care of a big problem of oversight; the ” Who needs help???.” Far too often the member sits at home too timid or embarrassed or fearful or a number of other reasons, afraid to call for help, angry that no one cares and the Elders never hear about them except a final realisation that they are no longer coming to meet with the ecclesia. The bigger the ecclesia the more often this happens.
Two such PC/groups come together for the midweek meeting of the Home Ecclesia. This will result in four leaders heading up the group. Ideally: a “Paul” couple who would mentor and a “Timothy” couple. If these pairs are married it simplifies things but there is need to remember to leave space for singles to work in pairs at this ministry.
There is a reason for mentor pairing. When the group becomes too large the “Timothy” leaders become the “Paul” leaders for the new group.
Geographical location of each group is important. There should be no option about where members attend. It must be understood at the beginning that the geographical boundaries WILL be changed as numbers grow and needs expand. Teach that folks go to the group allotted regardless of previous associations and friendship groups. Our calling is to spread the Gospel through out the community, to extend the mantle of the Lord over this city and claim the land.
ALL should attend. This is a family ecclesia and so all the family go. Children can and do contribute and minister and should be involved. If the folk use imagination and enthusiasm it can be a wonderful experience for everyone.
The only variation that will be found necessary is the musicians. One per group is an important ingredient. Not necessarily one who plays at ecclesia but one willing to go as directed and can provide music of some sort. A good singer may sometimes lead in the absence of music.
The home ecclesia concept is not a closed study group. Far from it. This is a time to invite friends, to be a worshipping family, to demonstrate the reality of the prophetic community. We sing together, pray together, share our experiences in the Christian walk, hear from the young ones their experiences, seek advice, hear a Word from several who have been given insights into the Scripture, share communion, prayer, moving in gifts of the Holy Spirit, receive a visit from Eldership for a “special” word and most importantly get to know each other as people. NO pre-planning apart from physical practicalities but let the ecclesia be guided by the Spirit.
Being gathered in His name Jesus is in the midst and a remembrance is needed about the times He spent in joyous social occasions.
Underlying Home Ecclesia must always be the Pauline teaching
(1 Cor 14:26 KJV) How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
It not a matter of “Go and get” but “Come together and give”. An essential task of the leaders is to make sure that everybody is given a time and a space to do this. More blessed is he who gives rather than receives and our inner spirit knows this. It is a powerful motivation to attend.
Within the Home Ecclesia the idea of taking turns is an accepted idea. This would wherever humanly possible include being the host household and physical refreshment such as tea and bikkies. The less able need to know their state is accepted just as the more fortunate need to learn gracious acceptance.
The when can be a choice given by Eldership and made by the member families. Wed or Thur. Perhaps. So also with time of starting. Leaders need to note that beginning and finishing on time is vital. No matter how people say it doesn’t matter, it does. If the time decided is 7.00 p.m. START. Leave the front door open and get on with it. Finish means completed and out the door. NO excuses, it must finish and start on time..
The senior leader has one other duty besides leading the Home Ecclesia. He/she should be given a small report sheet supplied by the Eldership. On it is to be noted, how many came, a sentence or two as to how things are going, any cries for help. This goes into an envelope already addressed and stamped and is posted ASAP. (That night if possible) No slip ups!
Ideally this reporting back leads to a meeting of all leaders fortnightly with the Elders. This is the opportunity to share the good and bad happenings, receive guidance, pray for one another, share insights and perhaps receive a short teaching word. If this is not done the leaders will float away from the BIG family and the vital touch from more mature ministry.
Pastoral care leaders as earlier mentioned are responsible for follow up and this begins at the Sunday service. Each leader needs to touch base with the members of their group and be welcome their special family. Visitors & new faces also come into their brief.
It would help a great deal if nametags were used in the ecclesia meetings. Visitors could be given a coloured circle with their name and P/care leaders taught to follow up on recording address etc.
The advantages of developing the Home Ecclesia concept are….
a. Sunday morning services can be refined down to having more emphasis placed on the Pastoral and Teaching ministry. Less time given to praise, music and song, communion and much more on feeding the flock. With thought, it is possible to have two periods of spoken ministry in the two hours normally given over to a Sunday service. 30 mins each given on the one hand to Pastoral Guidance and the other to direct structured Teaching Ministry from and about the Scriptures. The general wide ranging content can be narrowed a great deal and time used much more effectively providing the Home Ecclesiaes are being what they are planned to be.
b. Sunday night services may be held lightly in the sense that people would come as they felt led to do so and no attendance follow up is needed. If meetings were held they would be as seems appropriate and could include a range of “special” kinds of gatherings. E.g. Youth, Ladies night, Men’s night, etc It would be a “We’d love to see you tonight”. Come and enjoy … (whatever is going). In regard to the Sunday night meeting there is a need to rethink the format and break away from the audience and speaker process. As an example the participating members might share a meal together, perhaps a barbecue or Smorgasbord, hear a short introductory guidance talk and then break up into discussion groups on the topic for the night. One from each group to give their findings if appropriate.
Alternatively a pithy, short summation from one of the Elders, share a cuppa then close. There are many variations of this but the basis is participation by personal involvement and contribution. Members of the New Testament ecclesia are Royal Priests and need/must have a place to exercise their priesthood.
c. Given that reality has shown that four hours a week is the best that can be expected from busy families, using the time in the Home Ecclesia way does cover all the essentials needed for healthy Christian health and growth.
d. Eldership is released to do what they are called to do. “Labour in the Word and Doctrine.”This function is always first. Then comes the bishop (overseer) function and Home Ecclesia planning does allow Elders to visit around the ecclesia groups and input to them all. In both Sunday ecclesia and home ecclesia the Ephesian instruction (that the ministries given by the ascended Christ are to perfect the saints in the work of the ministry) becomes possible.
e. Groups of five pastoral care families geographically placed in the community have great potential as prayer centres and evangelistic powerhouses for drawing in the people living around them. In this respect the ecclesia must be constantly aware of the responsibility to plant new local ecclesia and each individual member alert to a call from the Lord to do so.
f. Always the two central meetings of the ecclesia are/and should be, there to lean on, run to, find help, cry out for. Because they are a provision of all the spiritual needs, these two places become the backbone of the local ecclesia. Only on very, very special occasions should they cease their activity.
Re. “f” I incline to the idea that if one of the two meetings isn’t held, that both be closed for that week. The ecclesia needs to feel they are one experience and we cannot do without them BOTH
Re “b” No need to have a Sunday night meeting every week. This would further highlight the importance of the basic two gatherings. The “Events” of Sunday night need only be decided and announced on Sunday morning.
Pastoral guidance will need to include ways and means that the folk can grow and contribute to Home Ecclesia. The picture of the dynamics of the system need to be gone over till all are familiar and it becomes part of the family life. Regular habits of “doing” are the stuff strong families are made of.
Leaders might be given a chance to share their HC experiences with the whole ecclesia.
Interesting quote from Derek Prince in his article, “The Local Ecclesia”: ,”I would suggest that one Elder cannot effectively shepherd more than ten families at the most. If there are twenty families they need two shepherds.”
Regular time tabled visits to each group by the Eldership is very important. Hosting the Elders is another way of growing family identity quite apart from the Bishop function.
I wonder about the practice of so structuring the ecclesia to give the idea that “young people” whatever that means are in some special way so different that they require to be almost totally separated from the corporate life of the ecclesia. Special activities that cater for their vigour and bubbling enthusiasm by all means but never so structured in a way that allows them to think that the corporate gatherings of the ecclesia are less important than these young people’s activities. Anyone (past primary school age/has been filled with the Holy Spirit/redeemed…for example) is well able to participate in the corporate worship and home ecclesia activities and I believe should do so. Activities taken together, enjoyed together are the cement that holds a family together. Young people activity may need to be more casual and from time to time to underline the need to participate in the central life of the ecclesia.