Although at times change can be hard, it can also be a very good thing. A number of months ago my wife Lori and I pulled up stakes and moved our family back to the West coast. On our trek west I reflected on our situation as we followed the historical Oregon Trail, the route that American settlers seeking a new life in the West followed more than a hundred of years ago. Fortunately, unlike those early pioneers, we didn’t have to worry about food, water, disease or Indian attacks. Not only could we traverse many hundreds of miles in a single day, we did so in the comfort of air conditioning. Amazingly, despite our many modern blessings, there were still times when we found things to complain about. This time instead of taking the fork in the road that leads over the Sierra Mountains to the golden state of California, we turned our modern wagon-train northward to our new homestead in the great State of Oregon.
One of the hardest parts of moving is not necessarily all the packing and lifting, or even the physical act of moving, rather, it is the mere fact of change. Us humans are all creatures of habit and moving demands that we have to break our routines. A significant relocation equates to new—new home, new neighbors, new grocery store, new schools—new everything! In our case it even meant new time zone, new weather patterns and, of course, the mandatory new coffee shop. As hard as all the unfamiliar physical and mental terrain can bring, the “new” can also bring a sense of “re,”—rebirth, regeneration and refreshment
One of the best benefits of our move was that Lori and I got the opportunity to plant a brand new simple church. We never questioned that once we got settled we would once again embark on hosting a “church” in our home. My sister Teresa however made it very clear to us that she believed one of the purposes of us moving to “her town” was for her and many of her friends to be able to attend.
Although this was the third time in twelve years that Lori and I have started a new church work, this time things were quite different. In the past we have had the benefit of our personal connections to others in the community. In this instance, besides my little sister and her family, we really had no social connections of our own. We soon realized that our success required us being much more methodical in our approach. This time we would need to building momentum if we were ever going to, so to speak, “get the ball rolling.” Here are a few practical things that greatly helped us get our new church off the ground.
Host a “Meet-n-greet.”
There are many reasons why someone may not want to come to your new “simple church.” Oftentimes people don’t really understand the concept, and going to a stranger’s house can bring an element of intimidation. However, in our experience most people love meeting with friends and feeling loved and acceptance. So, rather than trying to just launch the new church, consider taking the time to host a few “getting-to-know-you” type of gatherings where you can build relationships and cast a vision for a new spiritual work.
In our case, we invited people to come over for a casual evening of coffee and desert, explaining that we wanted to get to know them better and also to explain our idea for genuine Christian fellowship. Our first gathering was very informal with a lot of time spent getting to learn about everyone’s background, spiritual journey, and hunger. Lori and I also cast our vision for starting a weekly get together of Christian “friends-with-friends” for the purpose of supporting one another as we all try to follow Jesus. It comes as no surprise to us that what we found is that people are craving genuine Christian fellowship, true intimacy with others in the Body of Christ.
Take the time to explain the true meaning of “fellowship.”
For many Christians the word “fellowship” has lost its true meaning, but thankfully the Body of Christ is realizing that genuine biblical fellowship is not the refreshments and socializing that happens at the end of church services. As Pastor Rick Warren recently stated in his blog, Daily Hope,
“God intends for us to experience life together. The Bible calls this shared experience fellowship…Real fellowship is so much more than just showing up at services. It is experiencing life together. It includes unselfish loving, honest sharing, practical serving, sacrificial giving, sympathetic comforting, and all the other “one another” commands found in the New Testament…. When it comes to fellowship, size matters: Smaller is better. You can worship with a crowd, but you can’t fellowship with one.”
During our gatherings we took the time to explain the true meaning of fellowship and the model that the first-century saints followed. Gathering for them was merely a part of their lives and not something reserved for a special day of the week. True fellowship, the act of intimate joint participation, is intended to be a fundamental part of our walk with others in the Body of Christ. Soon it became clear that many had a desire for close connection to others. This seamlessly led to the next step in getting our simple church going, which was, “Let’s get this started!” So we have, and if you long for intimate joint participation with others, please consider opening your doors and hosting a fellowship. We have plenty of helpful resources to get you started and keep you going.