Some comments on a recent post inspired me to think about participatory gatherings... how difficult they are, yet how essential they are.
These comments brought up the issue of spiritual gifts.
John writes: "It's tragic that so many shun spiritual gifts or simply fail to embrace them...." St. Valdez comments: "the people who are pew sitters, seat fillers, class attenders and not much else...they... don't seem to care or give a second thought to how they might be gifted and how they could use that giftedness... We have been trained (if we grew up or went to church even a little) to think that being a Christian is a spectator's sport and that our 'reasonable act of service or worship' is showing up and watching or listening."
The transformation to simple/organic/house church, for me, centers on this very issue of every person is a minister, every person has essential spiritual gifts for the Body to be healthy, and thus it is essential that we gather in a way that truly makes room for every person to participate. Let me say it again, it is important that we gather in a way that makes room for every person.
This is challenging. It, first of all, requires a type of facilitation that is servant-based, others-focused, and truly interested in seeing every spiritual gift employed. This means "leading" from the background, guiding without being seen, shepherding without anyone noticing. It requires people who truly are comfortable keeping the spotlight off of themselves, sharing only as God leads, and inviting others (especially the quieter ones) to bring what God has given them.
In one of our gatherings, almost every time we are together, someone will turn to Gabe and say, "Bro, what do you have to share." We have learned that Gabe will often remain quiet while others jump in and share their hearts and insight. Yet when Gabe finally speaks (usually only after being asked) he brings a depth and perspective that no one else has touched on.
Ahhh, but there are so many challenges to participatory gatherings. What about those who use this format to dominate the gathering? What about those who, without realizing it, simply talk and talk and talk leaving little room for the whole Body to participate. This is not easy. Everyone present has to learn to take responsibility for keeping the premise in place: everyone matters, everyone shares, everyone has gifts.
BUT, here's the payoff. True, participatory, whole-Body gatherings automatically develops and encourages the spiritual gifts of every Believer. It just happens! The format itself promotes this healthy flourishing of life. The participatory format itself is biblical, powerful, and empowering. It's difficult to do, but worth the effort!
Thank God I no longer stand in a pulpit in front of face-forward pew-sitters and preach to them that they are all ministers who should employ their spiritual gifts. Yet I was modelling the exact opposite. These poor folk, whom I was asking to employ their gifts, were also asked to come in, sit down, and pay attention to one or two others display only their gifts for one or two hours. What sense does that make? How can we blame people for being "pew sitters" when that is exactly where we asked them to place their behinds?
I no longer, ever, never have to "exhort" people to use their gifts. The participatory gatherings I take part in releases the Body to do what it will naturally do if given the opportunity... express life from every member! People just "get it." They really are the church. They really are the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is, in the participatory setting, purposefully looking toward every person to share in the full expression of Christ in our midst. Everyone there knows it; everyone there feels it; everyone there begins to simply do it. It is so awesome (even when messy)!!!