Anatomy of an Open Meeting: How Do I Lead One?
BY KEITH GILES
Part 3 - HOW DO I LEAD AN OPEN MEETING?
This is probably the hardest thing to write about. As someone who grew up in the traditional church, was trained to be a leader in the church and has never even attended an open meeting before transitioning to an open house church model, leading others in this kind of meeting is very difficult to do.
For the first several years of our house church gatherings, I tried to encourage this sort of open meeting. Sometimes we would manage to come close, but it was years really before we started to actually have the sort of open meetings we long for.
If anything, the leader in an open meeting should begin by exercising great self- control and restraint. Honestly, a successful open meeting is more about what I don’t do than anything I do to make it successful. For example, I don’t prepare a teaching every time we gather. I don’t answer every question about the Bible that comes up. (As Neil Cole suggest, “Be the Bible Question Man, not the Bible Answer Man”). I don’t decide in advance what we’ll talk about or what we’ll study. I don’t choose the worship songs ahead of time. I don’t orchestrate the meeting. I don’t fill the awkward silences with noise. I don’t create a dependency on myself. I don’t lead the communion time. I don’t have a follow-up or illustration to wrap up everyone else’s testimony or scripture verse.
So, once we know what we don’t want to do, what is it that we should be doing? For starters, we should spend time in prayer before the meeting to ask the Lord Jesus to reveal Himself and have His way in the gathering. We should allow everyone a chance to speak. We should make sure the quietest person in the room is invited to share something, if they would like to. We should respect the opinions of others, even if they are not our own. We should learn how to disagree agreeably, which is all about your focus. If your focus is on Jesus then you won’t get distracted so easily by disagreements on doctrine.
We should try to keep the group focused on Jesus if things begin to stray off the mark. We should learn to ask intelligent and insightful questions more than we bring clever answers to show our intelligence. We should find ways to bless everyone else in the group. We should pray during the meeting for the Lord to speak, and to move, and to have His way, and to reveal His heart to everyone. We should listen to the Holy Spirit if He prompts us to stop and pray for someone
in need, or to sit quietly and listen for His voice, or to sing another song to respond to something inspiring we’ve just heard someone share with us. We should allow others to lead the group as they hear from the Lord. We should not see ourselves as leaders filling a position of authority but as servants fulfilling Christ’s command to serve others in love.
Overall, the leaders of an open meeting should be seen and almost never heard unless it’s necessary.
Granted, there are times when a visitor, or even a regular member, might become hostile, or attempt to take over the group or monopolize the share time. That’s when the leaders in the Body need to defend everyone else in the group and lovingly suggest that there might be someone else who would like to share something. If that doesn’t work, you might need to pull this person aside after the meeting and explain to them how an open meeting is designed to work and why it’s better if they take time to listen more than they share so that others can participate and everyone can grow together.
In our next installment of this series we’ll discuss the danger of creating heroes and experts within the Body of Christ.