I am presently not in fellowship with any Christian organization or group. I was involved with one church that I actually liked, and this church had a homeless soup kitchen ministry operating five days per week. The benefits of this fellowship was that there was actually an opportunity to participate in activities and be a Christian in action. I volunteered at this soup kitchen a few days a week, and it was really a rewarding experience to actually do something, instead of just attending a fellowship and sitting on a chair for one hour a week. When looking for fellowship now, I actually look for a church where there’s opportunities to do things. Going to a church, sitting down for an hour and then having coffee and donuts afterward, just doesn’t do it for me anymore (although I must admit some of those old ladies do make lovely cakes and donuts). What I look for in a fellowship now, is if there’s an opportunity to be a Christian in action, or if there’s an opportunity for me to actually put my faith in action.
The current model for the Christian church seems fairly consistent across the board. You basically have your large volume of seats in a building facing the stage, the people arrive to the church building and listen to a few worship songs, the preacher then preaches a sermon and when he finishes, you socialize with your friends and go home. That is pretty much the model across the board at the moment. I was thinking about this church trend recently, and was thinking about a new type of church that I would like to see.
A new type of church I could see myself attending would be a lot different than what we see today. Basically people would arrive to the building, and a message would be preached for around 15 minutes and maybe one or two worship songs. After the 15 minutes of preaching and music (this would last around 25 minutes), the congregation would then leave the building, and hand out gospel tracts for an hour in the community. At the end of the hour, the congregation would arrive back to the building, and have a meal together and fellowship over a meal and beverages. People who are not church members would also be allowed to have a meal in the church, and trust me, a lot of people who are homeless or have drug problems would come to the meal, and this would give seasoned Christians an opportunity to witness to these unbelievers. This type of model is what seems more consistent with what occurred in the New Testament. ” Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” (Luke 14:21)
I have talked to a number of Christians who are currently not in a church or in any kind of fellowship, and it seems they are unable to find a fellowship that allows them to blossom as mature Christians. A lot of mature Christians have stated that all the churches they attend seem to be the same thing, and that they are seeking something outside the normal mold.
In the past I have been involved in two ministries that really gave me the feeling that I was blossoming and growing as a Christian. I was involved in one street outreach Christian group that was not affiliated with any church. Basically a friend of mine who got saved while in jail, decided to start up a street ministry, where he would witness to people about Jesus Christ on a Friday night in the city. The ministry would sometimes last until midnight. We would hand out tracts and preach the gospel to people drinking excessively and using drugs in the disco part of town. Some Christian volunteers would also play Christian music with us, in between the preaching. It was really the toughest crowd you could preach to, and sometimes someone would get punched in the face, or a heated argument would break out. My friend who led this ministry, ran this ministry faithfully for almost 10 years, and I have a lot of respect for the guy. Looking back, it was really great to be a part of something like this, and we got the gospel out to thousands of people. I can recall a number of moments, where I witnessed to people who were really hungry to hear about Jesus Christ, and it was just amazing to be a part of this. I can remember one powerful moment, where someone was preaching about Jesus Christ on the street corner, and a young man approached us and asked, “what is this man talking about?” My friend told this man, “he is talking about Jesus Christ.” The young man then asked, how he could make Jesus his savior, and my friend then led him to pray the salvation prayer and recieve Jesus Christ as his personal savior. It was these moments, that make me realize how special and powerful this ministry was. As I reflect back to these moments, I really felt like one of the disciples in the book of Acts. We witnessed and preached in the streets like the disciples, we were out in public and sharing the good news with non-believers, and we were being persecuted both verbally and sometimes physically.
“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. “(Mark 16:15)
“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)
To give you a clear vision of how this ministry was set up, we basically had a microphone and speaker set up on a inner city street corner near the discos and bars. You would have various people taking turns on the microphone and giving a testimony about Jesus Christ and sharing scriptures, in between testimonies and preaching, you would have people on the guitar and singers performing gospel songs on the street corner. While this was all happening, you would have a number of people handing out gospel tracts and talking to people about Jesus Christ one on one.
It was an exciting and colorful time, and as I think back to those street preaching moments, there are so many memories of doing great things for God. I really believe this type of ministry is the foundation of what the modern church should look like, if they have a desire to go back to what the disciples were in the book of Acts. It really is in these type of situations that you actually grow as a Christian, it teaches you to have: a reply for the Muslim, a reply for the atheist, a reply for the Jew, a reply for the haters of Christ, a reply for the Buddhists, and it also gives you the opportunity to give your personal testimony when someone asks you, “why are you a Christian?” This also gives you the opportunity to use Christian resources such as: tracts, Cd’s, DVDs and books, by getting them out into the community. I believe a church built around this type of ministry could be profitable and popular for people seeking something new, and something more in accordance with what happened in the book of Acts.
I think arriving to a fellowship for 25 minutes of Christian music and a brief encouraging Bible message, and then heading out for an hour or more of Christian street outreach as described above, could be a profitable and fulfilling fellowship model. Once arriving back to the church headquarters after the street outreach, believers and non believers could then share a meal together (a reward for Christian service). The church could also have workshops, that teach people how to witness to non-believers on the street and teach them how to have answers for: Catholics, Muslims, atheists etc. Believers could also be taught the scriptures to use when preaching and witnessing about salvation on the street. Having a church revolving around this kind of street outreach ministry, would make it a church with a focus on empowering believers, to be more effective witnesses and disciples for Jesus Christ. I think when church just becomes a weekly visit of listening to a sermon, jumping up and down to music, and then having coffee and donuts, it is almost impossible to grow as a Christian. It is this type of typical church model, that is causing many believers to not fellowship or attend any church services. I spoke to a frustrated Christian in his 60’s recently, who said that he cannot find anywhere to fellowship and that he is tired of the old church program. He tried visiting a number of different churches, but they were all the same program, just in different buildings with different people. I also recall talking to a Christian who played a large part in getting me saved, and he left the church he was attending, as he felt like he didn’t have any opportunity to contribute, as he was just warming a seat every Sunday. I think the word, “contribute”, is a big factor here. I think the church needs to evolve into something where all believers have an opportunity to contribute. I think this would also solve a lot of the: mental, psychological and emotional problems in the church. I know from experience, many Christians in church are suffering from depression. I myself, have also suffered from depression. However when I got involved in a ministry serving food and drinks to the homeless, my depression really lifted and I felt fantastic, as I was given an opportunity to contribute something and make a difference. I had joy from helping and loving others, and I really think thats the only way to lift depression. When you focus on helping others, you stop the devil from making you focus on your faults. I also recall being involved in street preaching ministries were some of the greatest days of my life, we experienced so many adventures they are too numerous to tell. One experience that comes to mind, is when I shared the gospel to a group of drug users heading to a rave party; these guys were really open to my testimony, and I had an opportunity to give comfort to a young man whose friend recently died. It’s these kind of experiences that make you remember, that you really made a difference in the lives of other people, and that you had an opportunity to do something noteworthy for the Lord.
I also think elevating preachers on a platform or stage creates a form of idolatry. I think having a church where people sit at tables and chairs sharing drinks/food, and having the preacher/speaker, preach on ground level would be a much better model. In a celebrity obsessed society, elevating preachers on a stage, turns them into celebrities and idols, and that doesn’t seem complimentary to scripture or even Jesus Christ. Consider the humility of Jesus Christ, “And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way.” (Matthew 8:3-4)
I can see a more humble approach, where the speaker stands on ground level and talks to the congregation, as oppose to being elevated on stage and pontificating down to the congregation. I think encouraging Bible messages are good, and many times needed, but I just think these messages should not be the focus of a church, and should only be a minor part of the fellowship. The major part of the fellowship being the street outreach, where Christians actually have an opportunity to do a service for God. I just don’t see how sitting down for 2 hours listening to a sermon is a service, I think that’s where we have gone wrong. A service is defined as being an active exploit where action and movement is involved. Having a street outreach focused fellowship, takes the focus away from sitting down and hearing a sermon (this is not a service), to actually performing a service for God by evangelizing in the community like the disciples did in the book of Acts. The focus also gets taken away from one person (often in churches the leader of the church becomes a celebrity and this often turns into idolatry), and it creates a more team focused environment, where every person is special and a part of performing exploits for God. “The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” (Daniel 11:32)
Having only a 15-20 minute spoken message does not stop doctrinal truth from being taught to the congregation. Small cheaply made booklets, can be produced or even purchased from ministries such as: Chick publications, and can be used to instruct and advise believers. These booklets could contain information on: the basics of salvation, heaven and hell, spiritual warfare, prayer, protestant history, how the Vatican and Roman Catholic church is not Christian, the Jesuit’s etc. My friend Michael Basham (the founder of the: Warriors Without Borders blog), was involved in a Christian fellowship (The Family International), where written letters and booklets were the main form of communication to it’s followers. These booklets can also be produced cheaply (Chick publications booklets cost 16 cents each), and be given out for free or a voluntary donation given to help cover costs. The information could also be stored on a website online, and members could visit the website to educate themselves on these various topics, so that all the believers are on the same level. Conferences can also be held from time to time, where various topics are covered by the church leaders, and where new booklets and articles are released to the congregation. These booklets and articles would also be made available online for free.
Below is an example of cheaply made illustrated booklets (they cost 16 cents each or 49 cents for the larger “Be prepared” booklet.) that can be used to instruct believers and equip them to serve the Lord. Anyone who reads the below booklets (feel free to click them and follow the links to read them for free) will be qualified to preach the gospel. The booklets are illustrated and can be read very easily in a fun and entertaining fashion.
As stated above, my friend Michael Basham, who is a member of The Family International (TFI) was instructed by TFI leaders through MO letters as oppose to weekly church sermons. You can read some of the MO letters by visiting the DavidBerg.org website. The MO letters were the main form of communication from TFI leadership to their followers, although TFI did have a few conferences and music festivals throughout the year. TFI was a Christian fellowship, with a design much different than the traditional church, and I think it’s a design that is definitely worth noting.
In conclusion I will say that I don’t claim to know everything. Maybe my thoughts are wrong, maybe they are right, maybe some of it is right and some of it is wrong. These are just my thoughts at this point of time in my life. I have been a minister at a church before, and I have also been involved in street evangelism and various ministries. As a person seeking fellowship at the moment, the article I have written discusses the type of church I would like to participate in. Thanks for reading and God bless!