A Simple/Organic Church in Greensboro, NC
This description is put forward by one of the church's members to provide a window into the life and function of this church in Greensboro/High Point, NC. As you will see below, there is no official process to ratify this description - since we are all free to share, describe, and invite people to our group as the Spirit leads us. That said, I believe this accurately reflects our current state as I have experienced it, or heard discussed within the group. I post this description as an article in this forum for anyone to interact or discuss, as well as for anyone local to our area to feel free to join us any time.
We are, so far, a group of about 6+ families who gather regularly on most Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights to "stir one another up toward love and good works" as one part of Christ's global family. We seem to have embraced three values that shape our gatherings and cause us to function like a family, rather than a corporation: open membership, shared responsibility, and equal authority. Here are some explanations for each value.
Membership always includes any and all of Christ's family who choose to participate (any who call on Jesus as the Christ). If you show up and are in Christ, you are in! 1 Cor 1:2, Eph 4:1-7, 1 John 5:1. Of course, the more frequent your participation, the more opportunity you have to impact and be impacted within the group.
All members have equal authority and importance under the ultimate authority of Christ alone, and we "submit to one another" for mutual accountability. As such, the gatherings are not a good place to hide - but rather to face and address together the raw truth of our walk with Christ in this world. Luke 22:24-30, Eph 5:21, 1 Peter 5:1-5, Phil 2:1-11
All members share equal responsibility for carrying out the many "one another" activities that are taught in the Scriptures, even though gifting varies from person to person and time to time as the Spirit leads us toward unity in Christ. Eph 4:11-16; 5:15:21, Gal 6:1-10, 1 Cor 14:26
These three values seem to have shaped our church so far in a number of ways...
A corporate structure to define the church is not desired or needed. Corporate structures require limited definitions of membership (to determine who gets to vote). They also require authority hierarchies to make operational decisions about corporate resources. But since we simply share our private resources as needed to facilitate our gatherings or other mutual endeavors, there are no corporate resources to govern. That does not say that "spin off" para-church corporations, such as a charitable organization to meet a particular ongoing need in the surrounding community (such as a soup kitchen or daycare), can't be created by various members of the church and others to efficiently pool and allocate resources to meet that need over time. But that would be separate from the core function and definition of the church family itself.
Staff positions are not desired, and are not needed. All the work is shared by all of us freely as the Spirit leads and gifts us. We are to meet one another's physical or financial needs as they arise and as we are able, equally true for those who take on the extra work of leadership. But that is very different from an employment contract, salary, or professional clergy. An important part of leading, actually, is keeping our "day jobs" to be an ongoing example of meeting the needs of others and of walking with Christ in the midst of life's financial demands. (See Paul's instructions to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:32-35.)
Leadership happens by willing example, initiative, and teaching - not by title, position, or pedigree. Even gifted leaders are equally accountable to everyone else as we all "submit to one another". The difference between a leader (elder, if you will) and members is a difference of degree - that is, the degree to which they take humble initiative and responsibility for the care and condition of others, as an example to follow.
Corporate ownership of properties or buildings are not desired, and are not needed. We meet in each other's homes so far. We are free to use other creative locations on occasion as desired (park? nursing home? restaurant?).
Large group weekly gatherings are not the goal. We have started with a habit of two gatherings per week (that most of us attend) for the purpose of smoother growth - let me explain. Our current thinking is that if our gatherings become too large for our homes, we will simply add additional days/times/locations as needed to spread us out a bit thinner. If most of us then stay in the habit of attending two of the gatherings per week, with the freedom to individually choose (each week) which two meetings to attend, then the gatherings can remain smaller, still overlap over time to keep people connected, and avoid the pain of "splitting" to stay intimate and manageable. (At least, this is the current, untested theory.) Ultimately though, I am confident we will follow the Lord's lead for numerical growth as the opportunity arises, and I'm sure we will place high value on keeping the core gatherings small, simple and intimate.
Meetings are not pre-choreographed by anyone, but some healthy patterns have emerged - patterns that we are all free to interrupt as the Spirit leads. There are usually free-flowing, overlapping times of song, teaching, discussion, sharing and prayer. We often share the bread and cup to remember and celebrate the Lord's death and resurrection (and all that it means for us). At some gatherings we share a meal. At the time of writing this, we currently lack any instrumentalists other than a djembe drum that keeps us on rhythm, so we are focussing on learning/relearning simpler choruses (mostly scripture songs) with rounds, echos, etc, to help us blend and harmonize our voices. It's far from professional, but so far we are really enjoying this. Our hope is that deeply learning simple choruses might enable us to sing together more spontaneously in various contexts (campfires, hikes, park, restaurant, etc). We also sing along to recorded music at times for the more complex/contemporary songs. Anyone can teach, pray, ask, share, sing, or lead in song as they are led. Some do so more frequently than others. Some prepare material ahead, but the most important preparation seems to be our walk in unity with Christ - which overflows into our meetings as we interact and respond dynamically to one another. The gifts vary, but everyone is equally necessary - and everyone is responsible for carrying out (in their own ways) all the "one another" teachings in the Scriptures.
Children and teens are encouraged to participate with the adults as equally important members of Christ's family, and we have discussed being open to addressing needs differently or even separately at times as the shape of groups change. We will likely revisit together frequently the needs of parents, children, and teens. So far, we have tried activities to engage the children on their level, sought input from the teens on issues relevant to them and their families or friends, encouraged youth/children to facilitate scripture discussions by prompting us through some generic questions, held separate teaching times with the teens, and more. Honestly, they often split off and just play when we outlast their attention spans. We are open, learning and adjusting in this area.
There are different theological backgrounds and perspectives within the group, and we are learning from and sharpening one another as we communicate with patience and grace, and as we search Scriptures together. We find this approach to be self-correcting as well as stretching. We often unearth our own baseless assumptions or reasonings that we were always taught, but were never encouraged to question. In a similar group in the past, one member asked what will keep the group from doctrinal error if they didn't adopt a doctrinal statement. Another member wisely answered, "YOU will!"
All that said, I think I represent the group well by saying that they/we would love to meet you, encourage you, stretch you, and be encouraged and stretched by you! You are welcome any time.