Establishing a simple church/missional community is the exciting initial step. However, it is important that the missional community is healthy, flourishing, growing deeper, and making more disciples.
If it is not healthy It can degenerate into a happy little club meeting in a home that is no more effective than a larger established church meeting in a church building. Jesus said “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself, the soil produces corn, first the stalk, then the ear, then the full kernel in the ear. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts in the sickle to it, because the harvest has come." Mark 4:26-29 (NIV).
If the DNA is correct, then there is natural growth, just as a plant given the correct ingredients of good soil, nutrients, water, and sunshine, and is protected from pests/predators will grow and reproduce – “all by itself”.
For many years my attention has been drawn to the description of the early church community found in Acts 2:32-47. I recently saw this represented diagrammatically with a simple drawing which was helpful. The main summary of the key characteristics of this early church are found in verses 42-46. However, the preceding context is Peter’s preaching to the crowd, amazed by the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, hearing the gospel about Jesus proclaimed in their own language or tongues and being convicted by the call to repent and be baptized. This gives a fuller picture to this early gathering of disciples (the church).
Church Health Circles
Some call this a church health circle and I have found it very useful as a diagnostic tool in looking at a church community. A church community is a covenanted community where followers of Jesus commit to each other as part of the body of Christ.
1. ”Repent and be baptized, every one of you” v38, 39. - This was the response of some 3000 of the people that day. This response grew from the preaching of the good news of Jesus the Messiah and his death, burial and resurrection and of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:22-24, & 32-34
Q. Is the Gospel regularly being shared with new people? Are people regularly repenting and being baptized and becoming followers of Jesus?
2 And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit– v38-39. Simple churches that are alive and vibrant, have ample evidence of the Holy Spirit’s activity. If this is missing the church is likely to be spiritually dead.
Q. What evidence of the Holy Spirits activity is seen in the life and witness of your simple church? Is the Holy Spirits presence and power found in the life of your church and gathering?
3. They “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching” v42.
Q. Is there regular commitment to hear, read and obey the scriptures, especially the words of Christ and the apostles?
4. Regular fellowship and Gatherings v42, 46.
Q. Are members of the group regularly gathering in the name of Jesus and loving and caring for each other?
5. The breaking of Bread v42.
Q. Does our group regularly celebrate the Lords Supper?
6. Prayer v42
Prayer features strongly in the life of the individual members and of the group when it gathers.
Q. Are believers equipped to pray individually and in groups? eg conversational prayer and how to listen to Gods promptings and leadings.?
7. Awe, and the miraculous v43.
Q. Is there regular evidence that God is at work in signs and wonders, lives being changes, healings etc?
8. Sharing of financial and practical resources v44-45.
Q. Are the needs of the more needy members being met? Is there generous giving and sharing?
9. Eating together in homes with glad and sincere hearts v46.
Q. Are members sharing meals together in fellowship with hearts full of gladness and sincerity?
10. Praise & joy v46,47.
There is joy when people experience the presence of Jesus and his Spirit
Q. Is there a sense of anticipation, joy, and praise in the group?
11. Community impact. v47
“Enjoying the favor of all the people.” This usually is the result of being loving, genuine followers of Jesus and from serving the wider community and contributing something valuable to it.
Q. Is there a positive impact on the local community?
12. Multiplication and Growth ”And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” V 47. Some 3000 people were added to their number that day. V41
People are regularly coming to faith and being discipled, and there is multiplication.
Q. Has your simple church multiplied in the last 12-18 months? If not there is the danger of stagnation. The goal is to reach 4th generational multiplication where the founding simple church multiplied another group who multiplied and other group and so forth. Once the 4th generation and beyond have been reached, there is the beginning of a movement
As we look at this amazing experience of the early church we can explore where our simple church/missional community is strong and what needs prayerful and focused attention.
In a prayerful, non-legalistic and non-works orientated process, the Group can focus on allowing the Lord to grow them in any areas of deficiency. As the group becomes healthier and whole, growth will occur just as plants naturally grow given the right conditions.
How is your church progressing in terms of the church health circle??
This discussion can be facilitated by representing these features in a diagram as follows: You can be creative and may improve on this drawing – but its part of the fun - and great learning experience!