Let’s spend a little time breaking down the elements of a Distributed Church gathering more fully, so you have a better picture of the reason for including each in the gathering. Does every element have to be included every time? No. Sometimes the Holy Spirit moves in a unique way and we must stay sensitive to His leading. But, this structure, modeled after Paul’s instructions to the churches in the Epistles, forms a basic template for the flow of a distributed church gathering.
We have modeled our weekly gatherings after the principles of the meetings of the Early Church (Acts 2:42, Acts 20:7-11). Based on this pattern our distributed churches meet in homes, or other spaces that can accommodate the key elements of the time together. Homes are strategic as they position the activity of the church closer to the people we are seeking to serve.
Every distributed church gathering continues in the New Testament tradition of meeting together over a meal, when possible, that celebrates the sacrament of communion. The meal is significant to the Church because it connects believers to the past, present, and future provision of Christ. This is an activity that began in Acts 2:42 - the fellowship and breaking of bread from house to house - and is a key part of what fed the spontaneous expansion of the Early Church. We follow this same pattern today. While we have grown accustomed to the sacrament of communion as an efficient partaking of wafer and cup, in the distributed church gathering we return to the heart of the Lord's Supper as a full meal, shared in community, serving as a reminder of the presence of Jesus in the life of each person, and the community.
This concept was fully developed in Paul's instruction about the "Lord's Supper" to all the churches in 1 Corinthians 11, becoming synonymous with the believers meeting together for a meal - to "break bread." They gathered together for the purpose of observing the Lord's Supper and that term - The Lord's Supper - was used to symbolize the whole meeting.
Following the meal, the gathering transitions to a more structured time of discussion and instruction, which is overseen by the leadership of that distributed church. As Paul repeatedly reminds the early churches, there are a variety of gifts necessary for the church to function together and each person is encouraged to use their gifts to contribute to the meeting. Opportunities are available for all for the strengthening of the church through their participation. Contribution to this more structured time could take any of the following forms:
Through the oversight of the leadership of each church the emphasis is on constant discernment for what each particular community is experiencing and needs. While on the one hand no two church gatherings will be identical - it is an extended family of uniquely gifted people - we also aim for every distributed church to be accomplishing the same purpose and living by the same principles.
The Scriptures are full of stories that show God’s heart to include those who are not yet included. As each distributed church gathers to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, with the Word richly dwelling in their midst and pouring back out in their lives together, the gathering becomes a catalyst to love and serve the wider community. Embedded in the very nature of every distributed church is the desire to see the gospel lived out everywhere, every day, and the belief that, as a result, the community will grow as the Lord adds to their number. Through authentic relationships and the wise activity and proclamation of believers, God has consistently drawn more people to Himself and expanded His Church.