Structure of an ecclesia and connected expenses
We have come to a turning point in Christianity, because of the many scandals today in the Roman Catholic Church. Care has to be taken that those who leave that church do not lose their fate in God. They now ought to see that the moment has come to turn the tide. For those Catholics who leave their church it is not easy to leave their familiar surroundings to walk and in a quite new world of religion perception of a lot of smaller denominations in Christianity. Those who flee their own Roman Catholic Church, we should offer a springboard to a fresh warm church community in which they can feel themselves at home. We should show them that all Christians ought to form one unity under the wings of Christ Jesus. We as Christians ought to be part of the limbs of Christ which form the Church. We should let them see that all of God’s people make up the church. We are the church together. ‘Church’ is people. That is the view the earliest Christians had of themselves. ‘Church’ is loaded with so many connotations. Let we therefore get them to see that the basic unit of the church in the first three centuries was the ‘household’ or ‘oikos’ (Greek). Oikos refers to the ‘household’ rather than just the building. Households, in New Testament times, included wider family, slaves, servants, clients and in fact one’s ‘sphere of influence’. We as brothers and sisters in Christ should feel bounded together and should not feel that there are any differences between us in rank, colour, and age. Everybody in the community should have the same value. Our binding element should be Christ Jesus, who died for us all. Important is that as his followers we should be like being his brother or sister and should share the love with others as he showed his love for all those around him, and others should be able to notice and to feel that. Jesus went into different houses and showed in them how people could come to his Father. In one upper room he also showed the apostles how they should continue his work and have a meal together with other believers. Around the table he asked them to do in remembrance of him a breaking of the bread and a sharing of the cup of the New Covenant. Jesus did not do that in the temple, but in a hired room in a normal house. We also can either hire a room, use an open or public space or better still, use a living or other room in some ones house. Jesus was reared in a home in a family and as a family man he loved also the atmosphere and fulfilled his ministry often in homes. The house was, as today, the place where the basic unit of society lives – the family. Note the many times we read of Jesus eating with His disciples and with others – in homes.
Disciples were sent out on a door-to-door mission and Jesus also told them to continue their way in case they were not welcome at a certain place. After Pentecost, Christians met in houses. In Romans 16:3-5 and in several other places in the New Testament, reference is made to the church that meets in a home. Work and ministry in homes was part of Paul’s mission journeys. So people of today should get away from that picture of that gothic church building with a church tower, they should see that there are other forms of churches.
We should warm up people to study the Bible. And now when the big buildings, cathedrals and tower churches are left empty for most of the time we should try to bring the people together again to study God’s Word and to worship our Father in heaven. Today the time has come to show who we want to honour. We should take steps and follow in the footsteps of Jesus and his apostles. We have to go out and spread the Good News, but we also have to meet with each other and give honour to the One and Only God, Jehovah/Yahweh. A house church will offer more the occasion to feel part of a group than a big institutional church building or cathedral. There one is more quickly concerned by the event. Being church can more easily become experienced because everybody is concerned more closely.
In Jesus name, we can ask God to be able to build up a church community. He will give us support and also bring us in contact with the right men. But He let us also feel how we still are a part of the world. The worldly worries, concerns and troubles will remain circling the municipality. We always are hanging or fixed at the worldly standards and expectations. Where one stands or goes must one pay something. Stay load, gas and electricity, expenses for materials, moves and so more.
To start off in a village it’s possible to do that just with two or three friends – have a meal together, and share your vision. Plan to encourage one another, share you lives, pray together to seek God’s way forward to be and to do what He wants for you as a gathering and for the community around you.
In our small community it is important to be open to new comers. But we always do have to be aware that we all come from many different experiences in our Christian journey. The ecclesia does not have to have many people; it is more important that those who are present are people who want to share the Good News and want to serve God. However small it is important that they are willing to encourage one another, share life, pray together, read the Bible together, seek, find the truth ans stick to it, and enjoy God and one another.
We must let newcomers know that it is not necessary to have a set ritual or Mass with a missal. We do not need a book containing all the prayers and responses necessary for worshipping God throughout the year. Perhaps a certain order can be seen in the timing of a service. Like having first a welcoming moment, an opening, next a centre part with lots of time to be taken for the Word of God with Bible reading and exhortation, the Breaking of the Bread and then a closure. But there should be no strict format you have to follow or for everyone to agree on minor matters of doctrine for this to happen. It just can be inspiring to have every time a different service. Also we should avoid any regular uttering of preformed repeating texts. For newcomers it can be strange that we should not have to be afraid to create prayers or moments of meditation on the spur of the moment. Having such inspirational moments can bring perhaps some texts that would not be brought fluently enough when it is not a set text, but members should look over that and hear the message. Members of the community should be sympathetic to anybody who dares to open his or her mouth. Understanding has to go out to all those who bring something into the service. To speak out or to sing should be welcome for everybody. Sharing ideas, praying and singing together can make the fire burning in the persons present. And it shall construct of the way of feeling and being part of the church. A worship service has to be one of action and everybody in the ecclesia should be part of that action. All, young or old can contribute.
We must have consideration for the fact that many from the institutional churches often felt at ease because they were not noticed in the mass. In a certain way it is easier to be somewhere in the shade in a big church or behind the pillar in a big building. Sometimes people do not want to be active and we certainly may not force any activity on a newcomer but let him see slowly that as real pupils of the Messiah we should know that we have to follow the master’s example. Though if they do not have the desire to put oneself under the power of a “king” or an institution they should want to belong to the body of Christ, which is the ‘Church’. But we should let them see that the Church of Jesus is not one of keepers of tradition and not one of holders of the worldly thoughts and Hellenistic ideas. The desire to hold faith in a way that allows greater celebration of one’s real life is what should keep together those who form and come to an ecclesia. A hunger for whole-life spirituality. (A wonderful Puritan value.) A hunger for expressions of Christian spirituality and ways of operating that should engage the particular strengths of all those who want to have the feeling to be part of the same body of Christ.
We all should have the desire to explore more deeply aspects of our faith-heritage beyond the particular basis-of-association of a particular church, and to draw upon other traditions and ways. The desire not to be sucked into patterns of displacement activity in the face of a clearly focused “Great Commission”.
The experience of the Risen Lord was an ever-present vibrant reality within the individual and amongst the followers of Christ as they encouraged, blessed, taught and enabled one another, and as they joyously spread the Good News of the Gospel from household to household. Today is should not be different. We all should spread the word and that beautiful message of the Good News the New Covenant and the coming of the Kingdom of God.
By coming together in one place or other we can give each other a moment of blessed time. For us it can create an opportunity to build one another from the teaching we received from the time we could have free to read in the Bible. We should be aware that not everybody has the same chances to spend the same amount on reading the Word of God. Also not everybody has the same gifts to read and understand easily. So we all should help each other to see the light. We should give each other the possibility to bring forward some questions on all sorts of matters. All the questions brought forward can then be answered in the light of God’s Word. By bringing forwards different interpretations everybody can see and hear how others think and understand certain phrases in the Bible. Everybody can also share the experience of the ways of God in each person. Teaching and admonishing one another, all can look at and share prophecy, tongues and other gifts.
All those different gifts of the many different characters in the community should be carried by faith that is rooted in the obedience to the teachings of Christ without parenthesizing whole tracts of Christ’s commands and abdicating their obedience to the professionals! All members of the Christian Community are members of the church and are the Church. So all present should have, in their right the same say. Except that there has to be made a certain order to have the service, or other activities, created in good order and to avoid chaos.
Giving way or opening up an ecclesia is a way of faith that recovers the priesthood of all believers and the church-hood of the believing family.
We should not be afraid that every worshipping service is different. What happens arises from the experience of God that each member has. Growth happens as the encouraging and enabling one to another takes us further on the journey as individuals and as a group. In the ecclesia we should enable and encourage the gifts of one another for the building of the Body. And this is easier to do in a smaller community, so it may not bother us that we are such a few.
To come to the growth of an ecclesia it not to bad to have a policy plan. Together conferring which way one want to go is there the big concern. We must hold in to account the general un-churching and the disinterest for God, but it may not discourage us. Greying and secularization are individual characters of our environment which we must hold in mind. To have eyes for the current situation of this world is essential for the surroundings. But we may never wish to sacrifice the individual character of our belief to come towards the time bound position of men in the neighbourhood.
In first authority a neutral meeting place is indicated best, but furthermore house meetings are ideal. The house church is the mostly close-fitting with the Christian tradition. Meetings of formation and equipment must become foreseen. Provided that the members who come to our beliefs community mostly did grow up in this believe, we must see the difficulty to bring them round from their community in which they grew up, so far to get it that they also want to visit our ecclesia once in a while. For this purpose it becomes important that they feel themselves welcome and that they also become aware that we are a community of men of this time.
Unworldly things must in every respect be avoided. And those things that at first sight look strange, especially with the eye on the accepted affairs, must be clarified on the first view with the Word of God. The Biblical explanation must lie on the foreground. Visitors have to be aware that for us the Word of God stand on the first place and is our most important guide. For some men can that well appear peculiar that always is referred to Bible verses, but that those Bible quotations are considerably important to bring the understanding of God’s Word.
The church has to show others that it is part of this world and that they themselves already are anchored in a particular culture. The church or ecclesia can show that they stand open for contemporary influences and trends. In some affairs, the community can go along but it may not disavow with it its own individual character. In the Church it must be possible as in the society having cultures live together and lead churches together. That variety can only feed the church community, when everybody holds them self to Gods Laws and follows the teachings of Christ Jesus.
If the church will wring itself into different positions to grow then the church becomes in danger. We can see this in the institutional churches who twisted them self in all sorts of curves to bring about that growth. And that can have unwanted effects. The attention for ‘outsiders’ can swallow so much attention that the care for the members of the municipality with it shatters. One can go so far in adapting the ecclesia to what one thinks that outsiders expect or wish that members of the municipality become hit and get a feeling of alienation. Many institutional churches became crooked and many churches become empty. One has given too much attention to serve the others to their wish so that the individual character of that church went up and down as a yoyo on and changed as hygienic men change of underpants. This was however not the manner to hold the Church clean. Purity in the belief community can be there only as it holds clear belief points and keeps to them.
Each Church community her future stands or falls with the extent in which the church there will succeed in the future in come closer to the spiritual needs of the younger generation without that the older generation gets estranged. Therefore it can be important to bring the discussions or subjects considerably in line to points of interest for both parties.
We however may not forget that it always is considerably important that we let our neighbours see that we are inspired are through the story that God is committed with men and has for them a solution in store. The Plan of God lies affirmed with us on the furrow plan and in the bringing to existence of the ransom or peace offering of Jesus Christ in which we got the hope of the New Covenant. That Story goes for thousand years, and still each day million men are inspired by it. It tells us of a loving God that gives security to men in this seeking world. It tells us also of Jesus Christ, who brings reconciliation in a world fully wounded and hurt men. It tells us of the Holy Spirit, the Power of God, that our men – and this world – can renew. This Story is the origin of the church in her many figures, the ground under her feet, her largest joy and fixed hope for the future. We must at the outside world let see that we believe in this and also find the power to share together and to go forward together to go in this world full discomforts making it so more bearable for everybody.
The Holy Scriptures, the texts from the Old and New Testament give us courage and summon us to seek what connects us actually in the meeting with God and with each other. From the hope that we can get from the Bible we must get the power to bring others to God, from love for them. This love for them must we let them feel them also. If they are conscious of our, without wrong intentions, openness and love, and our honest inspiration we can perhaps convince them. Through our words and acts, we must be an example and worthy to be called Brother of Christ. Not only vocal must we let it come to expression, but the onlookers must be able to find it also in our meetings and celebrations, in which we want Gods errand to be known. From the inspiration of the Story, we experience a pressing need in this time visibly to out ourselves and to be of meaning. As a community, we must direct therefore to the outside and have to be hospitable.
Our activities must be easily accessible but have really to try to involve everybody by the service, there that is one of our individual characters that we together make service and that everybody is equal. Therefore we should try to involve everybody to read together the Word of God and to discuss it. We must let feel everybody that how small their contribution would be that this would be a valuable one and be welcome by the whole community.
In each meeting or celebration must be preserved a time to have an active participation for all members, and time for reflection and silence. At the participation of municipality members all those members should be open to any other member, accidental visitors or invited ones. Everybody must be made sensitively to seek renewed and to have an eye for the interpretation form men outside the church. All must want to learn to come forward for our belief to become so an animated and recruiting community. In which we want to be careful as a community, self concerned round destitute people, nearby or far away, and prepared to stand up to them and to help them.
As believers who want to go together on the way it is important that we want to share the Good News with each other and want to show others that we make all part of it. That means that we want to know each other, not only recognize. Hereby is it necessarily that we work at our self, to form a right character and to get the right attitude. So we do also have to work on our respect for the whole belief community, show respect for other opinions and show that we want to listen to each other. Through showing to others that our brotherly love is not feigned but from sincere concern or sympathy, can we them brotherly take up in our community that we want to put open as a spot of reflection were men can discover who they truly are and what God of them asks.
It comes there on to build at a feeling of unity. Let us hope that everybody that holds a warm heart to the belief shall be able to work together. Each can and should contribute a stone, and that can be on all sorts of manners. They that can find no time to invest actively can perhaps feel happier by contributing financially. And how one turns it, we cannot do it in this society without pennies. Money is now a time a necessary wrong.
One of the problems which the municipality encounters is her invisibility. For many is the church no interesting and contemporary conversation partner. If the community want to do her missionary task, it must seek to start this conversation herself. Not only through getting her own activities better be known by these groups, but also through associating with other activities of the municipality or village. To operate well in the field, equipment is necessary: the municipality must well keep for eyes that the conversation with men, of little Christian belief, begins with a reflection on what belief itself has to offer in their life.
Men see today the church more as a provider of services than as a community of which one shares and take part of. Though it is important that we convince that giving love to one another and realizing that we all want to belong to Jesus is our main focus to the way to god and His coming Kingdom. We should try to get everybody involved to become devoted to one another in brotherly love, to edify each other and to build one another. (Romans 14:19; 15:2) Now the time has come to make every effort to be at one and at peace with one another (Ephesians 4:3; Colossians 3:14, 15). Jesus has given us the task to teach one another (Colossians 3:16) and to admonish one another with wisdom (Colossians 3:16). In such a meeting when we take time to study the Word of God we can do that. It is also an excellent occasion to do the same things as the first Christians did at their study and gathering together moments. Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God one with another brings life in the house and let each other feel that they can be united. (Colossians 3:16)
The municipality shall have to receive the outsiders with hospitability without to disavow the own character of belief community. We must therefore examine in which extent we can accommodate. Being aware that identity gives security we should try to cloth our community with a clear identity. Every ecclesia has the freedom to choose its own form or identity, but it has to keep to the Biblical teachings in all ways. We cannot avoid that men in this post-modern time is more directed on relations. Churches have to form a community. The dividing of the meal is just as important as the listening to a sermon. But for us Christadelphians the Word of God is the most important and the Word part or reading of chapters from the Bible should take the most time of the service and be the central focus. All the texts in the meeting can be centred on the Bible chapters that are read for that day.
Men of this time have difficulties to be quite or to listen for a long time. Therefore it is most advised that each member of the community also is actively involved with the service, a.o. by reading each some verses from the daily reading. They are no longer been directed on the listening to a long sermon through one person, but the reader of the exhortation could try to have it enlivened with examples and changes in his voice. It can also help that when an exhortation from somebody is taken that all the members read successively. Men can sometimes learn more in a service through to participating more active and more creative.
To Plan for and to realize an ecclesia in a village or town a good communication is necessary between all the concerned, and for the belief community it is best as the entire community would become involved by all the projects. Together we must make it happen. There may not be ‘solo-tripping’, collaboration in teamwork and close cooperation can give possibilities to reach the goal.
Concerning the expense plate it should come to it that everybody can have a ready view on the worldly worries of an organization. Everybody should have a good eye for the worldly obligations to organize a church community. All have to look at the accompanying obligations in the right perspective. Tasks can be divided and those that are skilfully in a certain task can take that up. Every member can offer his professional guidance.
There is so much to do in an ecclesia. One can contribute to furnish it; taking care of the flowers, hall decoration, keeping clean the common meeting rooms, foreseen of the delicacies for after the service, etc . It are all, even sometimes likely small tasks which would become too much for one person to do, that must be done in the community, and where one mainly must count on voluntary co-workers.
Any occupation practice, that can be subservient for the church community can be shared with that ecclesia. Expenses can be saved in that way, through putting yourself to disposition for the community. So it will be ideal when someone that has a large space where he or she can receive men would put this to disposition for the expansion of the belief by giving it to be used by the believers on particular days to have their Bible study or to hold a house church service.
In particular churches there one counts on it that the members of the church community from their own conviction voluntarily give up a tenth (tithe) of their wage or earnings at the church community, as contribution to the expenses of the church community so that the costs of the congregation can be covered. By some churches, this (tithing) is seen even as something obviously and then we no longer can speak of a voluntary contribution but of a tax collection on the income. This collection or ‘Tenth’ becomes then used to pay the priests, pastors, ministers or preachers and to support the religious establishment. But we should persons, coming to our services and asking for our services, let them know that we receive freely from our God and that we also should give freely. Nobody in our Christadelphian community is paid like in the institutional churches. Because we are doing the work for our Lord we may not obligate people to give a financial contribution. But because we cannot do without the money to cover the costs we can leave the free choice to people to give some financial support as they wish.
For us the mostly suitable form for financial contribution is a collecting-box or basket behind or on an inconspicuous spot were anybody that wishes, can discreetly give a voluntary financial present. Or to make it possible to the members to present a gift by money transfer or by direct debit.
Only also through gifts within the church community, the ecclesia or parish can on her turn then again contribute to the commune, the town or environment. Churches have shown a long tradition in showing them in the middle-class commune. In the Anglo-Saxon countries we can find the custom that churches offer (offered) all sorts of people’s activities through the year. In our regions we do not have such a tradition, except when you take into account the renting out by the Catholic church of the parish house where then all sorts of eat festivities and other affairs are offered and local people meet.
But there have always been churches who try to be to the disposition for the needy and try to offer help where it can. For that lasting presence, also called ecclesiastic presence, according to some men professionals are ‘indispensable’. For them it is too much asked of the volunteers to have to do all that work in the districts alone. And actually is that well so, only one person cannot do this all, but in mutual cooperation of the church members that will well possible to have a roll of duties. Together all members can, under a particular leadership, spend attention at the problems in districts. Any respecting ecclesia should try to do the full task Jesus has given us. Helping others outside the believers group is also one and the role that the belief municipalities can play to improvement of those problems of its surroundings is an important contribution it has to play.
Were former parishioners quite narrow concerned on the ecclesiastic life, now it has become difficult to be find volunteers. Many people can find no time to invest with activities in the church community. For them, the financial contribution appears the easiest manner to support the church community.
When you are interested however in belief, you cannot escape to fix your relation unto the developments in the church community. Everybody on this earth must come till self research. Asking yourself: in what do I (want to) belief, what do I want to do with my belief, for what do I need the church community and which contribution can I furnish that church community? Because belief and church are not obviously anymore, it is also difficult to receive answers to these questions. We as Christadelphians should try to reach out our hand and be prepared to try to give sufficient answers and to give people a place where they can come together and feel at peace.
God needs men. He needed Jesus of Nazareth. But also does He need us to give ourselves to the world, giving the love hands and feet. In our actions should it be able that God’s Light can break through has been expected. This besides is what is expected of Jesus his supporters, that they spread and carry out the gospel further but also that indispensable love. Each other giving life… that can we! That we do by walking away from our own world and by giving each other attention, to take each other serious and listening to them, to their stories, their requirements. By letting each other feel our commitment: I am sympathetic towards you.
By coming together on several places every believer can carry out his or her belief and be support and crutch for others. The social contact that can be given in that community of that belief group then becomes of very large interest, a contribution not to be neglected.
For small belief communities, especially those who are not under institutional churches, it is more difficult to stay upright, to remain and to be able to cover the expenses. Because they already have lesser means to live on they are limited by what they can do. The mutual solidarity between men in the small belief community can certainly remain – how small in number the community also is, if this is been built on true belief. It there then becomes important for those small groups that they can remain enthusiast and that they remain searching to forms which suits their making church together.
As local believers we only can hope that by more men more understanding will come that the different part activities to service stand for the structure of one community and her mission. That more people would become more concerned and actively involved by the structure and the maintenance of the church community and may realize that a ‘large’ number of small branches are necessarily to bring everything to fulfilment. Everybody in the beliefs community must be self conscious that the church community must fulfil a positive striking and at the same time recognizable role in the towns community and that activities and projects of the church community can give a larger acquaintance at the belief community through which on her turn the community also again will be able to grow and so on her turn will get a good return.