REFORMATION RUMBLINGS Pre-Note— Sometime ago, I addressed this subject. You may remember. I’d like to touch upon it once more. Please stay with me, for this matter entails the activities of the early Christian communities and how they compare—or do not compare—with ours today.—Buff.
BUFF SCOTT, JR.
Taking Another Look At The First
An interesting concept is that the early Christian assemblies were similar to what is known today in the psychiatric field as “Group Therapy.”
I participated, and assisted in, organizing and leading Group Therapy
sessions when I was employed in the psychiatric arena for 34 years. Group Therapy
in the psychiatric realm consists of numerous patients under psychiatric care, plus one or two leaders. The seating arrangement is among the most crucial expressions of each meeting.
Each group was seated either in a circle or semi-circle. Everyone was able to see each other’s face, as opposed to gawking at the back-of-heads. Unless a previously agreed-upon topic was announced, the leaders invited anyone with a problem, or simply someone who had a matter to share, to verbalize.
No one person dominated the meetings by doing all or most of the talking. As participation makes for “therapy” and growth, most everyone in attendance was encouraged because his/her self-esteem was boosted. Alcoholics Anonymous
meetings function on the same principle—mutual engagement
I envision the early believers practicing “group therapy” as their chief source of encouragement and support. It is assuring that not one scripture can be found that remotely indicates their meetings were dominated by one man, not even in Acts 20:7, where Paul was the visiting apostle and did a lot of talking in the form of reporting. Their meetings were formulated and led by shepherds called “Elders”—mature and older men
Actually, the meeting at Troas was a verbal exchange, with Paul being the principal participant. The English Standard Version
captures the Greek best by saying that “Paul talked with them.” Our oldest Greek manuscripts do not carry “preached” in Acts 20:7. This was another of King James’
Regular meetings called for the benefit of all believers consisted of general
participation, but there were occasions when a gifted orator or visiting apostle or evangelist was invited to address the assembly on some special topic, issue, or problem. Paul’s visit to Troas was one of those occasions.
Consider seriously the idea of all congregations dismissing the paid functionary and substituting group therapy or house meetings in his stead. Reflect upon one important result: A staggering sum of money would be available to alleviate the needs of the destitute and promote authentic evangelism, the two commanding ministries of the early believers
“Mutual ministry” is an attractive term to describe this type of setting. If group therapy—“mutual ministry”—were practiced in our assemblies, not only would a staggering amount of money be available to meet the needs of the genuinely poverty-stricken and promote evangelism, but the average believer’s faith would be strengthened through mutual or group participation.
Believers would no longer need to be bottle-fed and pampered by an elite servant, the professional cleric or pulpit minister. Self-confidence would increase and he would be prompted to spur others on toward love and good deeds. Heaven’s testimony confirms this idea. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” [Heb. 10:24]
. Motivated and insightful leaders would truly shepherd. They would no longer need paid professionals to do their shepherding for them.
I challenge you to take a firm look at the model I am describing by turning to 1 Corinthians, chapter 14, verses 26-33. Mutual ministry was the order of each assembly. Yes, I know, as the old argument goes, “As time changes, so do cultures, including the assemblies or meetings of believers.”
But the core
principle of growth for each believer or participant never
changes, regardless of culture—not even in the domestic and secular fields! This principle or precept was designed by someone who knew—the God of wisdom. May He give us a portion of His wisdom as we promote heaven’s design.