Simple Free Church started in September of 2008 with 4 guys meeting in a basement studying the bible together, doing a liturgy from the Anglican prayerbook, singing, praying for each other, and keeping each other accountable. Pretty soon there were 6. Then one left the state. From September 08 until the spring of 09 things were steady that way.
Spring of 09 a few new people started coming, and that continued through the summer. Now there are a few more than 15 total, and its really great. IT has happened very organically.
For many of us, Tuesday night together is a key focus point of the week. I know I anticipate it and look forward to it. And we keep in touch throughout the week as well, especially with accountability. It really feels like community.
We’ve also brought in some interesting local community leaders and activists to share their visions with us. We’ve done some specific projects and some very directed giving towards local people and community needs. We are about to take on support of a couple of different groups and people who serve needs. We’ve become much more gender-balanced 🙂 and in that process we are gradually developing a good group of women who are getting to know each other and thinking through what accountability looks like for them. We have done study groups on Christian views of gender roles, and also eldership, and soon will begin our group on Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism as church movements in the 20th century. Its all been fun and encouraging.
With this growth, comes new decisions and needs. Last weekend, after again feeding the needy at neighbors united, a project of local churches to serve food each Saturday on Park Avenue, we had a little meeting to discuss leadership of simple free.
We are a pretty mellow bunch, and there are a lot of natural leaders in the group. We tend to find easy consensous, and since we don’t have a pastor, there is no one person ‘running’ things. Now we are at a point where we are trying to decide if and how we should structure leadership, and its been kind of fun to think through.
There is a wide spectrum of leadership patterns in churches. Catholic churches are pretty top-down, in that the clergy make basically all the decisions. Catholics generally don’t vote on a lot of things, and in that sense its not congregational. But there are protestant churches which are similar, in which the pastors basically make most of the decisions, and the congregation just follows, without voting. Then there is the other extreme, where there is only congregational voting, on nearly everything. In the middle there is a wide spectrum as well, some of which have elders which are voted on, some of which have lifetime elders who essentially run things. Others have elected leadership teams which help guide the church and direct it.
Some feel that God commands a specific form of Church government. For example, some think a church must have elders (and call them elders) because thats what the early church did. Others think congregational rule is best because the Holy Spirit inhabits believers and todays churches are much more likely to have mature believers in the congregation– while as the early church was basically full of a bunch of ‘new’ believers who didn’t know anything yet.
In our meeting last week, and from our discussions prior to that, Simple Free people didn’t think that we had to have elders per se, although from our study of eldership the previous week we did think that leaders, whoever they are and whatever we called them– should be people who fit the characteristics that seemed to be laid out by Paul in the Bible. We also tend to be congregational, and decided we would vote for leaders. We decided to have and odd number, and settled on 3.
I asked what people thought that the leaders should do and we came up with this list:
-Keep us in motion
-Keep us focused on what we are about
-Make sure we have Spiritual Development, including making sure we have good teaching
-Oversee financial decisions
-Provide strategy for dealing with changes
-Help to delegate tasks and also to facilitate decision making
-Church discipline, and making sure we stay on track theologically
Our first leadership team will just be in place a year to help establish some basic principles and guidelines. Really at Simple Free the leaders will provide suggestions and help facilitate the decision making process by the congregation in more cases than not. The leader is the servant of the people, although in being a servant the leaders sometimes have to make tough decisions on behalf of the congregation.
It was really encouraging to have that meeting go smoothly and to see a lot of unity of spirit as we move in this direction to help Simple solidify as a community. Its something that should happen in the natural life of an organic group like ours who have grown and continue to grow together as we live our lives close to each other.
I think about where we were 15 months ago– just 4 guys in a dark cavelike basement. Its been really great so far. I am definitely thankful for Simple Free and God’s grace to me through it. May God bless us all. –Andy