Boats, Sails and Wind
The other day I had the privilege of going aboard a Philippine ship moored in the Thames at Purfleet. The captain, Mar, told me in broken English about the time his ship lost its rudder in the North Sea.
Roy said he was watching a yacht out on the river the other day and saw how it belted along, its sail billowing and full. But then it had to turn and sail against the tide, and so had to find the wind to propel it along its course. Unless the crew looked for where the wind was, the boat would simply drift, aimlessly, directionless, going round and round in circles... One thing we never want to fall into is the trap of no longer asking, “Is this all there is?” For then we cease to tack, we stop searching for the zephyr that leads us into the next level. We know we’re meant to be on this boat. We’ve known this since early 2007 when we boarded and first set sail on a voyage of discovery. And if we’re on this boat, we know we’re meant to be moving forwards, or we’ll not discover anything more. We may not know where we’re going, but that’s not the point. All we know is, we’ve got to get our sails filled with the wind once again. “Be the wind in these sails...”
Elements and frameworks As we seek the Lord’s leading from the constraints of structure and heavy yoke of control, how to we organise without being an organisation - how do we organically grow as an organism?
All we can do is look at scripture, and try to discern the elements and the framework that gave the early church its shape and identity, remembering all the time to keep on keeping it “simples!”.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
... be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. From these scriptures - and no doubt others - we can deduce that the early believers engaged in these basic activities:
They also expressed sacrificial community by sharing their possessions, and being willing to sell them to generate cash for the poorer among them. They also met in the ‘temple courts’. Maybe we can discuss these aspects and their implications at some point!
Conclusions and actions
The result of all this was that miracles followed and people came to faith. ‘Obedience liberates divine power’. These are the things that, by doing them, cause the wind of the Spirit to blow and fill our sails - building us up in Christ, firming our sense of unity in community, and attracting others to Jesus. Now, if it’s good enough for the church-in-the-house of the 1st century, then its good enough for the church-in-the-house of the 21st century. If they were led by the Holy Spirit to do these things - which we all believe they were - then it follows that we are being led by the Holy Spirit to do these things today. Therefore, we can conclude that these elements are all aspects of our Rabbi’s easy yoke, designed to deepen relationship with Papa (vertical) and each other (horizontal) - none of them are of the slavery yoke, unless they are religiously ritualised by a professional priestly class in special buildings.** We propose that we should be more intentional about our intentions, and tack into the purposes of God according to these directions in the Word. Let’s believe together for the Holy Spirit to led us deeper into the undiscovered country, reigniting our vision and excitement about church-in-the-house for the next stage. We remain convinced that simple, organic church is the Lord’s will for us, and for the church at large: we are among the pioneers who are sensing the new thing that God is doing and is going to do in the earth.
We can also:
I’m sure there’s more we can add to this list, but I’m weary of coming over as being prescriptive. We can also be sensitive to our natural circles of friends and spheres of influence as these
may offer keys to future church-in-the-house planting. It will happen - simple churches in every neighbourhood, free of the constraints of institutionalisation. “Faith in God is not so much a problem to be solved, but a gift to be explored.” Vincent Nicholls * admonish verb
** In God’s infinite grace and wisdom, some are called to fulfil such functions.