The Fellowship of the Believers – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)Our goal is to model the New Testament church as closely as possible. We are told in Acts that the church devoted itself to 1) The Apostles teaching, 2) Prayer, 3) Fellowship, and 4) “The breaking of bread.” (Which means they shared meals together, as well as communion.) We are also told that the NT church was also focused on meeting the needs of the poor and needy. Based on this we will start the church with four primary ministries:
- Sunday Morning Services
- Thursday Night Prayer Services
- Child-focused Home Groups
- Service to the Poor and Needy
Sunday Morning ServicesOur Sunday services will include worshipping GOD “in Spirit and in truth.” It will be the goal of the worship leader and worship team to draw people into GOD’s Presence. The team will combine praise and worship, as well as timely prayers and scripture to help GOD’s people draw close to The LORD in their hearts and minds. This means worship will be longer than it is in most churches, lasting approximately 30 minutes. We also know that the NT church followed the basic structure of the ancient Jewish synagogue. There an elder would read Scripture, comment on it, and then the passage would be discussed. Calvary Chapel the Remnant is dedicated to the proper exegetical and expository (chapter by chapter, verse by verse) teaching of GOD’s word, the Bible. A Pastor or an Elder will then explain, put into Biblical context, and comment on what the Bible is saying in the particular passage. The service will end with one last praise song and prayer from the Pastor or Elder. Immediately following the service will be a time of questions and answers. (Something the NT church did.) This is where the church can get answers to their questions regarding the passage taught, the Bible in general, and the great questions of life. We believe this will lead to great spiritual development in the body, as well as be attractive to non-believers visiting the church. This time of questions and answers will transition into the church sharing lunch together after each service. (Again, modeling the NT church.) We will continue our discussion over a meal. For the sake of ease, we are inviting each individual and family to BYOB/L (Bring Your own Bag/Lunch). Near the end of our time together we will share communion together as a testament to the redemption of the church by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Thursday Night Prayer MeetingsCharles Spurgeon, the “Prince of Preachers” never took credit for the success of his ministry. Instead, he always pointed to the hundreds of people who attended his prayer meetings and prayed for God’s blessing. He said any success he had came from God in answer to their prayers. Spurgeon was often fond of calling these prayer gatherings the church’s “boiler room.”
“Brethren, we shall never see much change for the better in our churches, in general, till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.” -Charles SpurgeonWe long to be a people who live in GOD’s presence, individually and together. That is impossible apart from a move of GOD. And a move of GOD is impossible apart from GOD’s people crying on in desperation for Him to move. It’s ironic to ask GOD to ask to motivate us to pray, so we can pray that He would move. But that’s where we are. That’s where we start. May GOD honor our desperate cries to move in our lives and the lives of the people of Sebastopol. I started my ministry vocation at the age of 28 as College Pastor at the Home Church in Campbell, CA. I received prayers from the Elders, Pastor Mike, and many members of the body. As I grew in ministry, eventually serving at four churches, I always understood the paramount importance of prayer support. Our Thursday Night Prayer Meetings will be place where we can gather together for an hour to worship and to pray. We will maintain a continual attitude of prayer as we are lead by the worship team in songs of adoration and praise. Once we are drawn into GOD’s presence, we will then wait on the LORD, in the same attitude of adoration and prayer. We will lift up prayers for the world, the country, The Remnant, and our members. We will lay hands on one another to pray for specific needs. We will wait for that “still small voice” described in Scripture. We will wait for that “still small voice” described in Scripture. We will ask GOD to move in our midst with the gifts of the Spirit delineated in (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). These are 1) Words of wisdom, 2) Words of knowledge, 3) Faith, 4) Gifts of healings, 5) Miracles, 6) Prophecy, 7) Distinguishing between spirits, and 8) Tongues. We will do so in accordance to New Testament teaching. We are told in later in 1 Corinthians 14:32-33 (NASB),
32 The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; 33 for God is not a God of confusion [disorder] but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:32-33 (NASB)Unfortunately, there has been a lot of abuse in the use of the gifts. Unbiblical, unsound, and plain weird behavior has been attributed to GOD and the moving of the Holy Spirit. This has led to great distress, pain, and derision in the church. We believe GOD wants the Spirit to move among His people, but in a way that honors Him and His church. As He says in 1 Corinthians 14:40,
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40 (NKJV)May GOD’s will be done. And may He move among His people.
Child-focused Home GroupsIt’s important to remember that first century Christians were usually born, raised, lived, and died in the same village. Most people in the ancient church never traveled more than 50 miles from their homes. This means they had much stronger relational ties with their friends and families than we can can even imagine. That means when the ancients converted from Judaism or Paganism, they remained surrounded by people they devoted their wholes lives to. GOD used, in part, these close relationships to drive the exponential growth of the early church. My wife spent a semester in college in Italy. One of her fondest memories was seeing elderly people in the plaza sitting on park benches visiting with their childhood friends. Friends they spent their whole lives with. To say that things aren’t quite the same in America is a huge understatement. And, it’s also important to remember what Jesus said,
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34 (NIV)In effort to capture that same relational intensity, Calvary Chapel the Remnant will develop Home Groups that are focused on the age of children. Home Groups will be developed around families with infants and toddlers, elementary-aged children, teens and pre-teens. Single and “empty-nest” Christians will be strategically placed into Home Groups to act as spiritual aunts, uncles and grandparents. We have found that having families who are in the same stage of life gathering together leads to lifelong relationships. We also find having single and elderly Christians involved in the lives of those families enriches the lives of all. These Home Groups will provide a more intimate environment where small group worship, bible discussion, the laying on of hands, and intercessory prayer can occur. Here is another setting where we are praying that the gifts of the Spirit would be in operation. Perhaps the greatest benefit of meeting in child-age specific groups is enabling children to grow up together in the church. Here is where solid and godly relationships can develop with other kids of the same age, and their families. These relationships will encourage spiritual growth and a strong vibrant commitment to Jesus Christ. These types of relationships are no longer a “good to have” but a “must have” in our increasingly secular age. Add to this the attractiveness these types of relationships offer to non-believers. Many have found it easier to invite people to their homes, to meet other families, than inviting people to church. We have seen many people drawn to church and into GOD’s kingdom through this type of ministry. This model of fellowship can also lead to important relationships with non-believers who can then be loved and evangelized into GOD’s spiritual family.
Serving the Poor and NeedyWe will leverage the Home Groups and the strong relationships developed there to minister to the needs of the poor and needy. Each Home Group will “adopt” a needy child, family, or a ministry that meets the needs of the poor. Some of these ministries include Compassion International, Mercy Ships, and International Justice Mission (to just name three.) We have found that grouping people together to serve, leads to more effectual service. It creates an environment where multiple resources can be pooled to meet more and greater needs. Small communities of Christians who serve this way together jointly feel GOD’s pleasure as they express their love to Him by meeting the needs of His children – children that He loves dearly. We have also found it is very beneficial to involve children in this. They gain compassionate hearts, self-confidence, and a greater appreciation for the teachings of Jesus. They get to join with other believers in accomplishing something of eternal consequence.
To RecapThe initial four ministries that will launch in Calvary Chapel the Remnant will be:
- Sunday Morning Services with:
- 1/2 an hour of worship to draw people into GOD’s spiritual presence.
- Solid exegetical and expository Bible teaching
- A time of questions and answers
- Sharing a BYOB/L lunch
- Remembering the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ through communion.
- Thursday Night Prayer Services
- Initially a one-hour meeting where the worship team will lead us into the spiritual presence of GOD.
- Followed by intercessory prayer, waiting on the LORD, and the proper Biblical use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- Child-focused Home Groups
- Home fellowship groups segmented by families in accord to the ages of children, with spiritual aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
- Service to the Poor and Needy
- Home Groups that “adopt” a poor child, family, or ministry that supports them.
In ConclusionSonoma County (and Sebastopol) is one of the most unchurched counties in the country. The national average of religiously unaffiliated adults has increased from 3% in 2000 to 27% today. But over 67% of Sonoma County residents are unchurched. There is also a youth exodus in the American church. 75% of all high school students – active in their church’s youth group – fall away by the Thanksgiving Break of their first year of college. 90% fall away by the time they are sophomores. Only 1/3 ever return to the church. Unless God does a work, church attendance will be 1/2 of what it is today in just 10 years. When people ask me why I’m planting a church at my age, I jokingly say, “I guess GOD ran out of people to ask.” But the real reason is, it’s an act of desperate obedience to GOD, to reach the lost. While there is a “vision” for The Remnant, when you think about it, is only a prayer. We pray that God would make us a community of believers continually living in His presence, individually and together. That He would make us a community of believers who are madly and passionately in love with Jesus, who live in His presence everyday. It is our hope that God would move in our community and spiritually touch the lives of people in it. And through that, people may learn who Jesus really is and achieve a vital and loving spiritual relationship with Him.
This is the second church plant of Pastor Don. For nearly 25 years, he served as a college, singles, associate, church planter, and senior pastor. He is also Ratio Christi’s Sonoma County Community Apologist and Chapter Director at SSU. If you are interested in being part of this new fellowship please contact Pastor Don by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. ~Blessings!