In my last post, I discussed the importance of evaluating your simple church. Today, I would like to suggest a guideline to help simple or house churches evaluate their communities. Once again, the attitude and heart behind any evaluation is the most important part. If not done with humility, love, and a desire to become all that Jesus desires for your community to be, attempts at evaluation can easily slide into a discouraging time where harsh judgment and legalistic remedies prevail. Nonetheless, just as it would be important for a couple to communicate about ways they can improve their marriage and family, the same is true for the people who are the simple church.
We can evaluate our simple church by examining the Church in the New Testament. A passage that paints a picture of the type of church I long to be a part of is in Acts 2:
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
One way to evaluate your simple church is to look at it in light of this passage. Below are a set of questions that could serve as a guide for you and your simple church to have a “check up” meeting where you would devote the majority of your time to the consideration of how Jesus wants you to grow in light of this example. These questions are “I” questions. Every person in the simple church can answer for him/herself with a willingness to share his/her responses with others.
1. What am I doing well ?
As with any evaluation, it’s important to highlight all the wonderful things that Jesus is doing in our midst. Remember that the church gathers in order to build up one another.
2. Am I devoted to breaking bread?
How could I grow in my devotion to our gatherings? Could I be clearer in how I communicate with others about our gatherings? Meals? Am I active in hosting simple church gatherings? Are there any logistical changes I could help facilitate that might enable others to be more devoted to our times together?
3. Am I devoting myself to the apostles’ teaching?
Am I a self-feeder on God’s Word or do I show up expecting to “get fed”? Do I know how to read and take part in discovery Bible study? Am I actively reading God’s Word with another person, growing together as we dive deeply into what Scripture says? Am I part of an LTG?
4. Am I devoted to fellowship?
Do I take time to fellowship throughout the week with others? Do I regularly spend time with believers who encourage me? Do I have friends who are committed to Christ and with whom I enjoy spending time? Do I have places in my schedule where I can be available to others who are looking for fellowship? Do I fellowship with an LTG partner regularly?
5. Am I devoted to prayer?
Do I regularly pray for those in my simple church? Do I regularly pray for my lost friends? Do I know how to listen to God? Do I make time regularly to listen to God? Do I offer to pray in our simple church gatherings? In what ways does God want to grow my prayer life? Do we make prayer for the lost a priority in my LTG?
6. Am I growing in generosity?
Do I give of my resources to those in need? Do I know of any needs presently to which I could generously give with a glad and sincere heart? Is anyone in our simple church have a need I could help meet? How am I presently sharing what I have with my simple church?
7. Am I seeing miracles?
Is there any steps of faith that the Lord is asking me to take? Am I engaging non-believers in faith that God can demonstrate His power through healing and miracles? Am I trying to protect God’s reputation by intentionally not trusting Him to do miracles in the case He chooses otherwise?
8. Am I joy-filled?
Do I express authentic gladness and joy when I’m with my simple church? Do I find myself resistant to publicly praising God for what He is doing and has done? Do I have favor with those around me and if not, is there an area of repentance needed?
9. Am I seeing the Lord add to our number?
Am I confident in how the Lord could use me to lead someone else to Him? To disciple him/her? To help a person start a new church? If I’m not seeing the Lord add to our number, what is my role in that reality? Who was the last person I baptized? Am I willing and available for the Lord to use me in this way presently? Do I help our simple church family prepare for the harvest?Do we have a plan as a community to see our simple church multiplied?
I urge you to send this post along to those in your simple church and set aside a gathering regularly for honest and thoughtful reflections on these matters. Do not allow yourself to be discouraged by how far away from the ideal church you may think you are. All of us are growing as we are led by the Spirit. Therefore, be encouraged by this excercise as God uses His word and your time to lead you to be the person and the church He has created you to be. When you gather, if each person is able to share ways he/she desires to be more like Christ and more faithfully serve His Body, I believe you will find this process of evaluation to be a wonderful time of mutual encouragement!