I’ve never made a cake, but this is what I think you’d need:
A good kitchen with a decent table. An oven. The ingredients. Time and no distractions. A mixing bowl and the various bits of pans and stuff to make it. (I’ve really never made one).
If you were, for example, in a warehouse, with the oven on one side of the warehouse, the table on the other side, half the ingredients missing, no mixing bowl, forklifts driving by you, and only three minutes to make it in, then the forklift drives over the pan and squashes it, you would, I think, find it very difficult to make a cake.
Okay, that’s a very surreal analogy, but here goes. If you want a decent church meeting, you need to get together all the various elements you need for a decent church meeting. You want the cake, but you’re trying to make it in a warehouse.
So, what do you need?
People need to know each other and feel at ease with each other. They need to work on their relationships especially if they don’t spend any other time together apart from in that meeting.
The seating needs to be set out for a gathering not a scattering. Circles, rows, squares, whatever. The main thing is the seats and the people need to be together.
People need to feel at home. People are glad to get home but not glad to get to church. The answer? Make church like home. I don’t mean pot plants and mood lighting and walking around in slippers – I mean, make it welcoming. Be glad to see one another. Love one another. Spend time in the meeting creating a sense of family and unity.
Set apart a deliberate time in the meeting for worshipping God. Recognize that in the worship, hearts are melted, sins are forgiven, healing is happening, righteousness is restored. There’s power in worship. We need prophecies and exhortations and wisdom and correction, but respect and allow the worship, don’t kill it.
Get the church looking outward.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:18-20)
The Great Commission has both an inward and an outward aspect. We do very well at the inward command, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” but we do it at the expense of the outward call to make disciples.
We’re only doing half of what Jesus said! “Go and make disciples!” Where’s the outward focus? You may as well try and make a cake without a bowl. In every gathering, there should be prayer for the lost, prayer for the sick, prayer for effective outreach, and a longing and expectation for new people to join us.
Bible teaching should be clear, concise and to the point. It shouldn’t be ironic, or intellectual, or patronising, or incomprehensible. It needs a point that we can grasp, something we can apply to our lives, something to help us grow. It needs to be progressive, that is, it needs to create a sense of purpose, we need to feel like we are travelling together and discovering together. We need teaching that we can take away, apply in our lives during the week, to come back next week for the next step. Forward. Together.
We have the Spirit of God, but the Spirit is frustrated by our lacklustre attempts to create a wineskin where Jesus can move in power. The setting has to be right. The valleys have to be filled in, the mountains brought low. The highway needs clearing of stones. You can’t make a cake in a warehouse. We need to set the house in order and we will see the power of God move like lightning down a conductor. We need to put some thought and care and attention into the house we are building. We need to get the conditions right. The gathered body has to be right before God can move.
Don’t bemoan the lack of spiritual gifts among us, that’s not the root of the problem. The root of the problem is our lack of purpose, our lack of direction.
Leaders: dream some dreams. Leaders: have some visions. You’re only a leader if you’re actually going somewhere. Our danger is that we become victims of our own (perceived) wisdom. Find some repentance. Bring it to the congregation and then we’ll see spiritual gifts flourishing and then we’ll build something beautiful for God.