Much has been said lately within the Messianic community of our need for unity and the need to learn to walk at peace with brothers who may not see eye to eye on non-essential issues. We’ve written a couple times on this topic, including Learning to Color Within the Lines and Shooting Ourselves in the Foot. Clearly, the usual thoughts on ‘division’ are contrary to ‘unity.’
Another topic recently broached is the need for the Messianic community to study and further understand home fellowships as a model for growth and community building, particularly as it seems that persecution is on the horizon.
One article I wrote on the topic, Church as We Know it is Over, presents the thought and promised some continuing articles. As I have further pondered the topic this week, I have to admit that my thoughts have remained in an area that in my mind does not seem to be the most important part, yet I am compelled to explore it….
Division for Growth
A fascinating and under-utilized aspect of home fellowships is the opportunity to decentralize and train leadership. Yeshua, and the Hebraic model He used, would make disciples, then send them out. Conversely, Church, as a model, has largely been, ‘let’s see how big we can make this thing and hold it together.’ The two plans are diametrically opposed! Consider:
Big allows or encourages people to,
- hide or do nothing
- shuffle work to the 20% of doers
- avoid learning and exercising Spiritual gifts
- turn finances and ‘ministry’ over to others
- let a paid staff do the Kingdom work
A small home fellowship encourages,
- personal, close relationships and ministry
- utilization of every Spiritual gift in the room
- development and growth of leaders who otherwise would never wear the mantle
- flexibility with resources and in ministry
- personalized outreach
- community dynamic
(I would love for you my dear readers to add to both of these lists in the comments… seriously, the lists are, I think, almost endless.)
I hope in our articles to touch on the above lists and more, but my thoughts this week have had more to do with division and thoughts around the importance of maintaining a small environment for multiple reasons. The really big picture would be simply this:
|Many small fellowships in an area or region that meet weekly in homes, rotating from house to house so that no one family carries the burden, and then on an agreed upon schedule, gather together for BIG days of worship, teaching and celebration. That (agreed upon) schedule could/should focus on the feast cycle but may also include fifth week Shabbats or quarterly gatherings.Resources could be pooled regionally to grow/feed a Yeshiva for in depth training of growing leaders.Regionally, fellowships pool resources for special speakers that benefit the larger Body and build bridges of trust.
Leadership of the home fellowships should develop and maintain a network of communication for encouragement, information, prayer and mutual support.
So, what does all of this have to do with division?
Group dynamic is a funny thing and without delving into myriad thoughts and experiences, I can tell you, there is an optimum home fellowship size in the 25-40 range where in people stay involved and challenged, not just to participate, but to bring others along. Likewise, below 15ish, it is sometimes hard to get great dialog and interaction moving and over 40 can get to a place where people choose not to interact and instead simply be observers.
Something else happens with over 40+ in a home. Unless the home is exceptionally large, the crowded nature makes most visitors feel a bit uncomfortable, and members are less motivated to bring a guest.
The bottom line is that in the 40-45 range, it is time to think about dividing a group into two fellowships. Much like an amoeba, growth usually follows right after the divide.
The benefits of division include,
- forcing, in a non-confrontational way, others to step up and take some leadership responsibility
- making room for more visitors
One item that area leadership really needs to focus on is fostering and developing new leaders, then helping to place them in groups that may need them. Generally, leadership is Spirit selected and comes from within, but once in a while it may be necessary, through prayer and gentle help, to place a particular leader couple in a particular fellowship….
Area leadership should also have a number of teachers who can visit and/or guest teach wherever needed to help grow/train/mature fellowships. More thoughts on this later… Back to division.
When dividing a group, the parent fellowship should hold them close for a while as they ‘learn to fly.’ This includes lots of prayer and communication as well as having the newly formed fellowship break away for every other or every third Shabbat initially until they are ready to be ‘full-time.’ Like a mother bird that kicks the chick out of the nest, but then helps it a bit with protection and even a few feedings to insure survival. We can be very intentional in this regard.
Honestly, my mind is swirling with thoughts and additional considerations, but this provides good fodder for discussion and consideration. Division, for the purpose of growth, in a home fellowship is a good thing… It is a difficult time for the familial and emotional attachments, but it is also an exciting time as we see and benefit from the work Abba is doing in our midst.
Shalom and blessings,
Love it. Re-blogged.
I really like how you’ve laid this out.
I’ve seen that church as we know it can be an unhealthy, co-dependent family, not allowing the children to grow up and keeping them dependent on the parents. (Not a good scenario for kids or parents when raising children) While the home fellowship model you speak of is like a healthy family that raises up mature adults to then go out and be fruitful and multiply, while still having the parents, grandparents, etc., to come back to for wisdom, and support as needed. Then at times the greater family comes together for celebrations. This is regeneration and multiplication. That seems like Yah’s way :).
One thing I’ve seen with home fellowships is that they can sometimes be a bit loose, lacking in structure needed and people not stepping into leadership that is needed due to no one wanting to take on that responsibility and also fearing going back into the church model.
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Great illustration with the family model. Agreed on the looseness so we must be intentional in helping people understand what proper leadership looks like.
Just what my husband and I were looking for , as we are planning on starting a group in a coffee shop possibly… This info was right on point and brought confirmation as to how to do it right.
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What a very good article for such a time as this! My mind is also swirling with thoughts and questions while reminiscing about home groups. My first experience in a home group was back in 1982 and I have been a part of around 8 or 10, and some as a leader since then. As I was reading through the part about group size, I wondered what is the ideal size or even if there is one. I thought of Exodus 18:21 and wondered if this applies. It reads: “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.” Then I thought of Yeshua and the 12, Paul’s journeys to “churches” (really synagogues) which possibly some of them might have been home groups, and then my own experience in home groups. I remember some of them as large as Pete described (25-40) but most of them seemed to be probably 12 to 20. The smaller groups seemed more intimate. The larger seemed a bit too large. Maybe one of the important questions to ask is what is the vision and purpose of the group? For each leader and group as a whole it might be different. What was Yeshua’s vision with the 12? What was Paul’s vision? What should our vision be today?
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