For the first several years of our house church gatherings, I tried to encourage this sort of open meeting. Sometimes we would manage to come close, but it was years really before we started to actually have the sort of open meetings we long for.
If anything, the leader in an open meeting should begin by exercising great self-control and restraint. Honestly, a successful open meeting is more about what I don’t do than anything I do to make it successful. For example, I don’t prepare a teaching every time we gather. I don’t answer every question about the Bible that comes up. (As Neil Cole suggest, “Be the Bible Question Man, not the Bible Answer Man”). I don’t decide in advance what we’ll talk about or what we’ll study. I don’t choose the worship songs ahead of time. I don’t orchestrate the meeting. I don’t fill the awkward silences with noise. I don’t create a dependency on myself. I don’t lead the communion time. I don’t have a follow-up or illustration to wrap up everyone else’s testimony or scripture verse.
So, once we know what we don’t want to do, what is it that we should be doing? For starters, we should spend time in prayer before the meeting to ask the Lord Jesus to reveal Himself and have His way in the gathering. We should allow everyone a chance to speak. We should make sure the quietest person in the room is invited to share something, if they would like to. We should respect the opinions of others, even if they are not our own. We should learn how to disagree agreeably, which is all about your focus. If your focus is on Jesus then you won't get distracted so easily by disagreements on doctrine.
Overall, the leaders of an open meeting should be seen and almost never heard unless it’s necessary.
Granted, there are times when a visitor, or even a regular member, might become hostile, or attempt to take over the group or monopolize the share time. That’s when the leaders in the Body need to defend everyone else in the group and lovingly suggest that there might be someone else who would like to share something. If that doesn’t work, you might need to pull this person aside after the meeting and explain to them how an open meeting is designed to work and why it’s better if they take time to listen more than they share so that others can participate and everyone can grow together.
In our next installment of this series we'll discuss the danger of creating heroes and experts within the Body of Christ.
[END PART 3]