Summary: If Christ is to be the functional Head of church meetings, the people will need training and practice at the beginning. To do this, they need a facilitator (not a positional leader) that will gently guide the process until they are ready to do it on their own.
If Christians are going to ever learn how to function as a body in our culture, to have full participatory meetings when they come together that exude that all believers are priests unto God, to truly treat each other as equals functionally, to make sure everyone involved in the Church has a say in decisions that affect them, and to come to full agreement before decisions are made (the Kingdom’s way), they need to be trained how to do it. For a long time. And they need to practice…hard.
New small groups need equipped
Sorry. A group can’t just get together and say “Now tonight we’re going to let Jesus be the Head of the Church and guide us in our meeting.” While the intentions are right, the execution likely won’t be. You can’t just give or hear a sermon series on Christ and His body and voila!, put it into practice right away. Theologically, the motive is right and you’ll learn some things. But if you try to practice what’s being preached without first being equipped, you’re in for a disaster.
Most people aren’t very good at listening to others, or the Lord. Some people talk too much. Some people don’t talk enough. Some people will always try and fix others. Some will take you down never-ending bunny trails because it feels good to share. Some will carry fears that keep them from sharing at all. Some will come with an agenda. Some will come with a need to be the celebrity of the group.
The issues that keep Christ from being the functional Head of gatherings are many. Unless someone is there at the beginning who is equipped to facilitate an atmosphere that doesn’t allow these issues to grab a hold of a group, fuhgeddaboudit! You might think the meeting went well, but it’s likely nothing compared to what it could have been if everyone’s issues yielded to Christ. Eventually, you want a group to get to a point where they can do this on their own. But, it doesn’t happen just because you want it to. It doesn’t happen because you told the group to do it.
There’s an uncomfortable adjustment period
It takes time, and practice, and conflict, and people leaving because they got offended. It’s the only way you find out who’s there for themselves and who’s there for Christ. I wish it weren’t the case, but the principles of Kingdom living aren’t an everyday part of the culture we live in. Therefore, you’ve got to go through an adjustment period that’s not comfortable. This is extra hard in our culture since we’re addicted to comfort (for the most part).
Because of this, a facilitator should be present until a church is mature enough on their own to let Christ lead their meetings. Even if the facilitator is gifted, it will likely take a considerable amount of time before a group would be ready for a trial run.
What is a facilitator?
In the context of a church, a facilitator gently guides the process of the people allowing Christ to be the functional Head of the church. He/she guides them into laying hold of the mind of Christ and coming to full participatory consensus regarding what Christ is directing the church to do. They are not a leader (in the worldly sense). They do not control in any way. They do not come up with or get involved in content. If they do any of these things, they are not facilitating. They are leading. It may seem like a small difference, but the impact is monumentally large.
As the book The Art of Facilitation says…
A facilitator is a process guide, someone who makes a process easier or more convenient. Facilitation enables a group of people to achieve their own purpose in their own agreed way.
This kind of function within a group of people is nothing new. It’s been common among tribal structures for a long, long time. The tribal structure also just so happens to be how the church (and humanity in general) is supposed to operate. It was also one of the functions that an apostle in the New Testament would take on. In our day and age, we even see the art of facilitation infiltrating business and public sectors. There was even an organization established in the USA in 1994 called the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).
A facilitator promotes Kingdom functions
Again, the facilitator holds no positional power. The reason for this is positional power undermines everything the Church is about. The Kingdom functions of equal worth, full participation and consensus that make Christ the practical Head can’t be fleshed out in a hierarchical structure. As much as you may want it to work, and as much as the one in positional power may exude Christ-like characteristics, it’s simply impossible. The structure wasn’t made to function the way we need it to.
In the coming weeks and months, we’re going to learn together about how Christian meetings should function and the ever-so-important role of the facilitator in them at the beginning – why they’re important, the function they serve, how to be one, when they’re needed, when they’re no longer needed, etc. I hope you’ll join me as we learn together.