Making the Most of Life comes down to some items which will give form to what takes place in a Home Fellowship. I have some fear that what will now be included will be taken with the same value as the study of the Word and prayer. Let me assure you, it is not. What these next few pages represent are some tools we have found to be helpful. They are not to be considered as a rigid format. It is the Holy Spirit who will guide you into all truth, including the manner in which you should conduct your fellowship gatherings.
We have already discussed the need to worship our great King and eternal Savior. Because of our love for God, we want to study the revelation of Himself which He provided for us–the Holy Bible. Jesus also commanded us to love one another. By example and teaching, He and the apostles have led us into a life of prayer. Since the 1st Century Church was devoted to the fellowship, we also desire to live in a loving and supporting relationship with our Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus’ mission is to seek and to save that which is lost. As His representatives, we can do no less.
From what we read in the book of Acts and the epistles to the churches, we notice that there was some structure. Paul admonished the Corinthian believers that “God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” (I Corinthians 14:33.) What had happened there, of course, was their meetings were becoming an arena for ego satisfaction. They were interrupting each other, clamoring for attention by various devices and conducting a generally sloppy meeting. In their attempt to honor themselves, they were dishonoring God.
On the other extreme is the super-controlled, down to the minute structure which has invaded some 21st Century churches. I don’t know if that is any more honoring to God than the Corinthian problem. In both cases, the Holy Spirit is shut out of our gatherings for the sake of a standard or goal outside of the teaching of Scripture. With that dual admonition to us, how can we allocate time and still be open and willing to have the Spirit of God enter into His role of leading us into all truth? That balance is essential.
Part of this appendix is a meeting schedule for Home Fellowships that is spread over a two-hour time period. There may be some situations where a three-hour gathering is common, while in another fellowship, it may be an hour and a half. Each case would change the amount of time set aside for each part of your fellowship gathering.
Here is the caution: Don’t allow the schedule to dictate what is going on in your fellowship. It may be that routinely you spend more time in prayer than indicated on the schedule. One thing we have learned is that the longer a fellowship group has been together, the longer they want to pray. That’s great! You may also discover that on a particular portion of Scripture, the Lord is speaking in such a way that the discussion goes beyond the “allo-cated” time. That, too, is great!
The purpose of the suggested schedule is to keep you away from talking and chatting so much before you begin your time of worship and discussion that you end up not praying. All the time is gone. That is not good! So, my counsel is to use discipline, patience and the freedom of the Spirit’s leading in determining how the time goes each time you meet.
People meeting in a Home Fellowship are going to talk about something when they first enter a home. It may be helpful to have someone prepare a question to which each person can respond. For example, you may be in the book of Acts, looking at Paul’s journeys through Asia and Europe. A good opening question might be, “Which of the cities Paul preached at would you like to visit and why?” Perhaps someone in the group is leaving on a trip to a foreign country. “Where would you like to travel on vacation and what would you do there?”
If you are studying one of the gospels and you are at a passage where Christ heals a blind person, a good Opening Question would be, “What would you miss most if you lost your eyesight?” If there is a graduation from trade school, high school or college, an appropriate question might be, “What did your parents want you to do for a career and how did that match your interests?” These questions are just ideas. The purpose is to get each person to talk for a short period of time so that when the discussion begins, they will feel at ease. This takes little time but has value in that each person contributes.
Worship is a time of honoring our Lord. Recall in the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, He said, “Our Father Who are in heaven, hallowed be your name.” How do we “make holy” His name? How can we dishonor His name? I have found that the Psalms are full of praise to God. They are reminders to us of the greatness of His love and actions. Make generous use of these. You do not have to sing to worship. A quick reading of the gospels shows that often the worship of our Lord was silent. People bowed in adoration.
As an example, I opened my Bible to the Psalms. Reading through a few in the middle of the book were ten excellent Psalms of praise: Psalms 57, 61, 62, 63, 65, 66, 67, 71 73 and 77. Reading any one of these together will bring your fellowship to worship. There are many other Scriptures as well as the Psalms that will unite your hearts and minds in worship of our Lord. Make use of these as well as other hymns and songs. Then take a few minutes to allow those in your group to offer their own praise to the Lord.
As we stated earlier, the greatest book ever written is the Bible. For your discussions, stay with God’s Word. You won’t be disappointed. Included in the preceding section is a study of the book of Philippians. This is a sample study of which we have a number. Our practice is to make these available to each person the week before our gathering. Everyone is expected to go through the study guide so that when the group meets, each person can make a contribution to the discussion. That encourages everyone to participate.
There are several reasons for each person going through the study. First, the Lord sent the Holy Spirit to “lead us into His truth.” Was that just the apostles? Only pastors? Not at all. Jesus’ promise was to each of us. Allow the Spirit to exercise His presence in your meeting. Second, people may not remember what the “leader” said. They will remember what they wrote and what they passed on to the group. It will help each one to make God’s Word a part of their lives. Finally, people like to make “discoveries” in the Scriptures and talk about it to others. Don’t deprive them of that experience. If the “leader” always supplies the “right answer,” it will kill the discussion.
Each time you meet, spend significant time in prayer. You have focused your worship to the Lord, you have studied His Word and you now want to take time with Him in prayer. Each person is encouraged to be open with their own lives so that the others can hold them up to the Father in intercession for them. This may take time to develop. People may have been hurt by others when they asked someone to pray for them about a private issue. Be sensitive to that.
Depending on the size of your group, you may want to have the men and women form smaller groups to pray. It may be easier for a gal or guy to talk about their own needs with members of their own gender. In any event, it is not necessary that every person pray. A new Christian or an unsaved person in your group may be awkward in praying. Give them time to develop.
It is critical, however, that each person write down the requests of others. There must be a commitment to pray for each other during the week. A convenient “Prayer Partner” form is in this section. That can be used during the week as a reminder to pray for the others in your fellowship. When you meet again, you will want to inquire about how things went. That is a good practice. We also encourage people to telephone or talk with each other during the week. Find out how others are doing. This encourages people and strengthens the bond of love within your group.
People and groups will not grow in a steady pattern. It would be nice if they did. I remember when I was sixteen years old. I was a skinny 5′ 4″ high schooler. By the time I graduated from high school, I was over 6′ 2″. I spurted up. My pants didn’t cover my legs. It was an awkward time for me.
You will find that your group may follow a similar pattern. It may appear that you see no progress in spiritual maturity. Then, all of a sudden, you will be amazed how individuals are contributing to the group, showing growth in their relationship with the Lord and in prayer. At another level, no one will join with your group for awhile. Then in a matter of weeks, it will double in number. Don’t worry about growth in either dimension. That is God’s business. Just be faithful to honor God, His Word and His will in your own life. The other things will take care of themselves.