Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is about who comes to dinner (Luke 14). Do we just invite our friends and family or do we include those who are marginalized from Christian society. His “ministry strategy” was like a movable feast. He took “church” with him and ate with people who were not usually welcome to “worship services” in the temple or synagogues.
The strategy that Jesus and the apostles used is worth revisiting. Jesus followed a very simple strategy. Most often he taught his disciples in a public place or in a home around a meal. The apostles followed the same methods, not just for evangelism or missions. This was how “church” was done for the first 300 years before the state church began building cathedrals and establishing a professional clergy and priesthood.
A Return to Simplicity
The way we structure our church culture is the way our spiritual descendants will reproduce it. The simpler it is, the more naturally and quickly it will reproduce. The less it isolates us from the culture around us, the greater the impact upon that culture.
Jesus told us to go and develop disciples and He would build His Church. We reproduce disciples by revealing the presence and values of the Kingdom in the context of relationships. We invite pre – Christians to follow us as we follow Jesus. We demonstrate discipleship by loving God, loving one another and loving our neighbors. In this way we reproduce disciples who are equipped to reproduce disciples.
Jesus showed his disciples how to reveal the kingdom of heaven to the world. Then he imparted the Holy Spirit to them and released them to do the same. His purpose was to model for them a corporate lifestyle which they were to reproduce after he was gone.
“Greet the church which meets in your house” (1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philemon: 2, Rom. 16:5 and so on). Apostolic teams visited house to house and taught them (Acts 20:20). They ate together and hosted the presence of God (Acts 2:42). “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were saved.” (Acts 2:46-47, 4: 1-4)
Jesus’ often told stories around a meal to explain the Kingdom and how it is manifested on earth. His disciples had trouble understanding what he meant by the “Kingdom” because they envisioned an earthly nation of Israel restored to her former glory and sovereignty, with a great king like David or Solomon sitting on the throne in Jerusalem.
Jesus’ teaching didn’t make any sense in that context. “The kingdom is here.” “The kingdom is within you.” The “kingdom” is about who you invite to dinner, where you sit at the table, who your neighbor is, where and how you build your house or invest your money. It has to do with how a farmer sows and harvests his crop, how a shepherd cares for sheep, how fishermen sort their catch, how yeast works in dough, how merchants value pearls and how treasure hunters respond to treasure.
The Kingdom is to be on earth as it is in heaven. He has given us the Kingdom. We are to bring heaven’s values and resources to earth through our relationships, families, communities and work. The creation longs for this revealing of the children of God. We are “the light of the world”. That light must not be hidden behind religious walls but rather placed in full view (lights set on the hills) of family, business, education, government, media, arts, religion, etc.
- Rebuild the ancient ruins,
- Restore the devastated places and
- Repair the ruined cities.” Isaiah 61:4
Each household and social network was potentially an intentional community of disciples. The life and affairs of the church were concentrated primarily within these groups. Each group functioned as part of a larger community of groups within a city.
Heads of households hosted the presence of God. They were not restricted by spiritual gifting, or gender. They may not even have been believers yet, only “men or women of peace”.
The larger community of households was served by selected overseers who provided accountability, coaching and spiritual oversight to the house churches. These overseers were chosen by the apostolic team from among the household gatherings.
What Happens at a Movable Feast ? We eat together, pray, sang, worship, heal the sick, share communion, read and discuss the scriptures. We intercede and look for “lost sheep”, love one another, encourage and build each other up in the faith and cared for the poor.
I suggest that we consider limiting our reliance on frequent large gatherings, large events and stage performances. These can actually slow down the growth and development of disciples if they become too frequent. Equipping ministries (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists) should focus on giving away ministry by appointing elders and mentoring overseers, and key leaders. Keep the groups small, simple and rapidly reproducing. When they become too large for an average size house, divide the group, open another home and release more people into ministry.
My purpose is not to be critical of the church but to increase her exposure to the world. The world longs for the revealing of the children of God. We are “the light of the world”. That light must not be hidden behind walls but rather placed in full view (lights set on the hills) of family, business, education, government, media, arts, religion, etc.
By: John Cooke
The Movable Feast