Cultural Changes????

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Berean, Jan 12, 2009.

  1. Berean

    Berean
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    I see more and more churches including Baptist going to "small groups" and meeting in homes (this includes all the family including children). The ones I have observed personally seem to be New Testament in purpose and practice ministering to each others needs both physical and spiritually. In some cases the Sun. PM service has been eliminated. This is done at the expense of the Sunday Schools. In fact SS is a forgotten word in the church where I attend except when we have an older evangelist or older speaker. We do still meet in graded classes although it is called "Small Groups". I personally don,t feel strongly either way about this except wonder if it is the beginning of the boiled frog syndrome.
    Any comments.
     
  2. ktn4eg

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    I can't speak for any other church than the one of which I'm a member ( www.lighthouseministries.org ), but a little over 10 years ago we went from a "traditional" (i.e., Sun AM/Sun PM/Wed PM corporate services) to one similar to what you've described---except that we didn't do away w/ graded SS classes.

    One reason we eliminated the Sun PM corporate services was because so many of our people (me included) with our Sun PM AWANA youth program(s). Having both at about the same time(s) presented us with problem of having to choose between either working in AWANA or attending the corporate service--a choice that, no matter which one we chose, left us with the gnawing feeling of neglecting the other.

    With "Small Groups" (or whatever else you choose to call them) we could do what you described on a more person-to-person level rather than "leaving it all up to the church staff and/or deacons." (Not that they weren't doing their jobs, mind you!) We've found that with smaller groups, each member felt more closely connected to each other and better suited to encourage and meet the needs of those in his/her small group.

    Nor did we ignore the times when the need(s) were so great that just one or two small groups couldn't meet those needs by themselves (e.g., when some members houses burned down to the ground). Special offerings are still collected at our Sun AM corporate services as the need(s) arise.

    Sunday Schools as we know them today are still a relatively new thing, being established only as recently as the late 1700's - early 1800's. Of course that doesn't make them UNscriptural either.

    Whether or not a particular local church should go to have small groups or stay "Traditional" (as I've described it above as well as in the OP) is a matter that ought to be between each autonomous local flock and her Great Shepherd. Each local flock has her own unique situation(s), and neither format is necessarily better or worse or "Scriptural" or "Unscriptural" as far as that goes. (Kind of like "How many children should a husband and wife have in their family.")

    It seems to work for us here, but we don't insist that, therefore, ALL other fellowships MUST "do church" the way we have done it.
     
  3. Jim1999

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    In my early days, the morning service was for worship and the evening service were to evanglize the lost. Members went out of their way to invite neighbours and such to the evening service.

    Overtime that changed and one service was much the same as the other with fewer attending because mothers stayed home with the children.

    Extra services were never held on Sunday, except Sunday School, of course.

    Times do change and either we adapt or lose out. Evening services went to 6:30 from 7:pm. We adapted.

    Breaking up the services to small groups scattered abroad was not something I could adapt to, however. There is no way a pastor could handle all those extra services.

    Just my thoughts. To each his own.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  4. thegospelgeek

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    ktn (or anyone else that has done this successfully)

    I like the idea of small group ministry and think it is very biblical. Since you have stated that your church has successfully integrated this concept in place of Sun. Evening service can you answer a couple of questions for me.

    First, do you have any incidents of clicks forming in the small groups? If so how did you overcome this, if not how did you avoid it? Some chhurches I have worked at have a tendancy to become divided once small groups form.

    Second, How was the idea initially presented? Di you have much resistance? How was it overcome? I know a lot of people who stand and proclaim "We still have Sunday Night Service, boy aren't we spiritual". Of course not in those words, but rthe idea is the same.

    Thanks in advance for you response.
     
  5. rbell

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    "small groups" are no less Biblical than "Sunday schools" or "PM services."

    The principle--studying the Word of God, and helping one another along--is quite Biblical; and can be gotten at a number of ways.
     
  6. preachinjesus

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    Its all good stuff as long as people are studying the Scriptures and fellowshipping. Sunday School is hard for a lot of people. Big barriers and way too early on Sunday.

    Most of the churches I know of have optioned off their Sunday PM service so families can enjoy being together. Its working too.:thumbs:

    I think with emerging generations they aren't keen on traditional schedules. I know plenty of younger churches that are moving their services to Sunday afternoons with fellowship groups during the week. It all depends on how central you keep edification and study.

    I'm not a big Sunday School guy. I've used it and it is an okay offering, but I'll always offer alternatives.
     
  7. ktn4eg

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    tgg--

    As you can already see by the other posts on this thread, there's quite a variety of viewpoints on this particular subject.

    In my own personal experience with "small groups" at the church of which I'm a member, I haven't noticed any cliques develop as a result of our move into this way of doing Bible study and fellowship away from the four walls of our physical plant.

    That's not to say that there may be some, but I've not noticed it.

    In a church of more than 100 (we average in our corporate service an attendance of maybe around 300 or so) you will naturally find a tendency to have a closer fellowship with some people/families than maybe with others. I wouldn't call this having "cliques' though.

    This format was presented to us as an entire corporate body only after serveral weeks of prayer among our full time staff, our deacons, and elders and others who held positions of responsibilty.

    At that point in time, it was our intent to try out the small group format to see if it would work for us or not. There were a few people who were reluctant to this change for a number of reasons, but for the most part the vast majority of our membership heartily embraced the concept.

    As with any kind of format, we had our ups and downs from time to time, but overall, we've found it to be a more practical way to serve one another.

    Since I work an evening shift (1600-2400) with different evenings scheduled off almost every week or so, I've had the privilege of meeting with several of our groups at different times. Each group that I visited had/has its own sort of personality, but all of them had as their goal to get into Bible study (usually based on whatever series the Sun AM corporate service was covering at the time), prayer and fellowship, serving one another and trying to reach other people.

    We've found that this works for us--not that we're "experts" at it. As with most kinds of things, you'll find that the more you invest on it, the more you'll get out of it.

    One source that I've found especially useful in helping this format are some of the articles and resources that are available through Discipleship Magazine.

    I hope that this helps you.
     
  8. Spinach

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    I can't speak for churches in the States because I don't live there. I can speak for our churches here, which are generally house churches. A room in the house is set aside for church use and the family lives in the rest of the house.

    We don't have a typical Sunday morning, SUnday night, Wednesday night schedule. Some churches have meeting on Tuesday afternoon. Some have Friday night. It all depends on when the National Pastor is available. Then if he happens to get snowed in, they still gather at the church and sing songs and pray together. In the summer when people work until dark, chuch services are late in the day. Everything is quite fexible.

    Generally speaking, each church has a daily prayer meeting (with singing---they sing every time they get together---and usually for an hour+ at a time), and a weekly meeting with the Pastor. Each Pastor pastors about 10 churches. Each church has 15-30 people.

    In my experience, house churches in the States are from a split. Here they are because church buildings cannot be afforded. They can barely afford bread.
     
  9. North Carolina Tentmaker

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    Personally I love the idea of small groups but they offer a lot of challenges. I have seen churches where they work well and others where they did not.

    Most people hate change and anything that changes the way you did church 50 years ago can be considered heretical to some people. But our traditions are not all Biblical absolutes.

    If you look at the history of Sunday School, at least here in Western NC, it really grew up in a different era. Here most churches in the past had to share a pastor. A Pastor might have 3 or 4 churches and he would rotate preaching in a different one each week. I still know pastors that are doing that. Your church might only have a Sunday morning worship service once a month. But the other 3 weeks you would still meet for Sunday School. Finding someone willing to deliver a sermon was difficult, but people would teach, especially if class material was provided to serve as a guide.

    Today most of our churches meet every week, so while Sunday School can still be a useful tool it is not as important as it was in years gone by.

    In big churches (100+), I don’t think you can really get close to everyone, so small groups can be a great way to build fellowship and joint accountability. Sunday School can be that small group.

    One challenge of small groups over Sunday school is ensuring doctrinal purity. With Sunday school most of us used standardized curriculum, or if a teacher wanted to use something else it still had to be approved by a Sunday school superintendent or committee (or pastor). If you want to do small groups at other times, I think that is great, but you need to develop a method for the church or pastor to approve the curriculum. Otherwise you leave the door open for a small group to teach error.

    Another challenge is avoiding cliques. But this is a challenge in any church, or any organization for that matter. Put 10 complete strangers in a room together and within minutes they start dividing up and forming sub groups.

    Many pastors fear small groups because they fear loosing control. But then pastors are not really supposed to be controlling things to start with are they?

    Berean, you mentioned
    I am not sure exactly what you mean here. Small groups do not have to change the doctrine or standards of the church at all. All change is not compromise or modernism, some change is just change.
     
  10. ktn4eg

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    I agree with the thrust of NC Tentmaker's post.

    Any church, big or small, "traditional" or otherwise, still has to be on guard that they do not stray from Biblical doctrines.

    At the church of which I'm a member we do this by having regularly scheduled meetings with our deacons and "cell shepherds" (That's what we call our small group leaders--many of which are also deacons.).

    I'm neither so I don't know exactly what's covered in these meetings, but several who do attend these meetings tell me that they meet with each other as well as with our pastoral staff and elders (Many of these are also "cell shepherds" as well.) and go over what's happening in their particular small groups: The blessings and challenges in each one.

    As I mentioned in a previous post in this thread, most of the time the cells review what's been talked about during the Sunday AM corporate services. Each individual is supplied w/ a study guide and (most of the time!) our website ( www.lighthouseministries.org ) will have the audio of the message posted on it.

    This way, we can break loose of the "lecture" method that's common in most SS classes as well as in the corporate services--not that "lectures" are always a bad way to relay information, but many "regular folks" who might have some wisdom that God gives them (God doesn't limit His giving wisdom just to a select few people that stand behind a pulpit, you know [cf. James 1:5 {"If any of you...}].) feel intimidated addressing a large audience; however, in small groups that fear isn't there as much.

    I will say this: Not all "traditions" are bad, but "That's the way we've always done it" doesn't always mean that's the way we must need to continue doing it. For centuries people rode on horses or donkeys or mules, etc., but today most people ride in some form of motorized vehicle. Is either way more or less Biblical?

    No one method of doing things is exempt from problems or difficulties, and if all we do is to sit back and find faults in the "other way(s) [and we can always come up with some bad examples while overlooking the good ones], have we really made good progress in being and doing what our Lord has called us to be and do?

    As I previously stated, how an autonomous local church should conduct herself is primarily between her and the Lord. Jesus's mother had some really good advice for all of us "servants": "His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." (John 2:5)
     
  11. Pastor Larry

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    Yet these same people manage to get up early to go to work and get the kids to school, so it obviously isn't too early. Many of them will get up for an early service, say 8:00am or something so that can be free to hit the lake or the beach later. So again, the problem isn't the schedule.

    Why weren't families together in the Sunday PM service?

    Small groups can be a good thing. We do it here. But they have to be carefully guarded and led. Among other things, you must have clear intention as to what you are doing. You must have qualified leaders. You must guard against them becoming little churches. A good way to do this is rotate the groups every year so they get mixed up.

    A good book on this is CJ Mahaney's Why Small Groups? It is available as a free download from Sovereign Grace ministries website, or you can buy the printed version.
     
  12. Jerome

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    Straight from the Vision Forum oracle:

    "....there was one regular meeting of the church each week which took place on Sunday and....constituted the complete weekly diet necessary for the growth of all believers.
    ....the New Testament church did NOT divide the regular spiritual components into several meetings each week (Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening), tempting Christians to partake of some food groups but not others and resulting in an unbalanced spiritual diet."

    Or, as a VF devotee explains on her blog:
    "....there is one service a week and a prayer service once or twice a month. The main reason for this is because it frees the family to spend time studying God's Word together."
     
  13. thegospelgeek

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    Thanks for the input from all. I love the small group concept and hope to implement it some day. Right now is NOT the right time for us. There is a LOT of growth that must take place first. But it is a direction the Holy Spiit is moving me towards, in his time. Thanks again, wish I could add something, but right now I can only ask.
     
  14. Crabtownboy

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    As I remember my history many Christians fought against Sunday Schools when they were first being established.

    I see small groups as one of the great hopes for Christianity in America.

    It seems that each older generation sees any change as the work of the devil. This has been true since ... oh, Socrates.
     

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