In 2002 the Lord gave Laurie and me a clear mandate to become more and more consistent at hosting meetings that we have come to refer to simply as “Gatherings”. For almost three years we had hosted home groups on a regular basis for the church we attended and we also presented Living Room Seminars here in Decatur; as well as in Houston and St. Louis, Mo. These “Gatherings”, though, are different.
The primary purpose of the Gatherings is to give us a chance to accomplish two things:
Do our part in fulfilling the mandate presented in Ephesians 4:12-13, that is to equip “the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”
Provide a vehicle for unifying the Body of Christ wherever we are by operating solely as members of Christ’s church and not as representatives of any one congregation of His church.
While we had been regularly attending one congregation’s services, we held our Gatherings on behalf of Mike McInerney Ministries and only invite people who have approached us and ask to be included. This was decided so as to not cause any division among the institutional congregations in our area.
Some of these people are currently not even "members" of a congregation and some are members of various local churches.
Our format is simple: I literally ask the Lord to tell us what to do at these Gatherings and do my best to honor Him in that.
At first glance, what we do seems to be similar to a classic home group style: while we usually begin with a meal, move onto praise and followed by a brief teaching we are not bound to this format.
For one thing: we have no official time chosen to close the Gathering; we say that we will go "until Jesus says to stop". People are free to come and go as they please and often people are still enjoying time together well into the night.
For another, we are always prepared to completely abandon our plans for the meeting should the Lord move us to do otherwise.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14:25 says, “Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” We believe that this is always the case, so we are always ready to set aside our ideas of how things should go.
This has led to some exciting (yet orderly) gatherings! What we are finding is that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17) and that where people are allowed to move in freedom, the Spirit moves freely. I often find that the teaching I present will be a very small part of what happens that night.
It might be that most of the time will be spent in casual conversation. Sometimes the Gatherings will be marked by little groups of two or three, praying here and there. Often the music or the teaching will spark a discussion that blossoms into spontaneous praise or passionate witnessing as one person after another shares how the Lord has blessed. This enhances the way people receive the teachings and causes the gatherings to have a deeper and longer lasting effect on us.
I think the most exciting effect I have witnessed is seeing relationships birthed at the Gatherings that begin to grow among people who might never have met had they not attended one of our Gatherings. Since many of those who come consider themselves to be members of various churches in the area, they are all in their separated parts of the Body of Christ on weeknights and on Sundays.
This is why we hold almost all our Gatherings on Friday or Saturday nights: we don’t want to replace or be in competition with the established programs of local churches. Instead, we want to enhance relationship within the Body of Christ across the boundaries of local churches.
As Paul said: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:4-5) “… the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body; whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
I would like to close by saying that we encourage everyone who attends our Gatherings to be involved in and to continue to support the established congregations to which they "belong." The Body of Christ does not need to be further divided by our starting some new and separate work.
If you or someone you know has any questions about what we are doing, please contact us directly so we can effectively handle your questions. If you would like to attend or host a Gathering in Wise County, TX or, really, anywhere in the U.S. we’re certainly open to considering how we might help.