91750133It’s hard to believe that I was once a pastor. For ten years I had the privilege to pastor two churches. I don’t think I will serve as a pastor again anytime soon. Maybe never. But if I ever were to lead a church again, I might as well try something different. After all you only live once.

If I were to ever start a church again, I am going to start a MMC, a Minimal Meeting Church. The MMC would have only one primary meeting a week. This will probably be on a Sunday.

For the first hour and a quarter, we would have worship with song, a time for intercession, and the ministry of the Word. Possibly the Lord’s Supper too. After this first half there would be a short break, maybe for fifteen minutes.

The second half would involve the community breaking up into small groups. I am thinking of groups of about five people, with separate groups for men and women (Titus 2: 1-8) In the small groups, folks will discuss the sermon they have just heard, what it means for their lives and how they would apply it. If anyone had queries, they would pose them to the speaker, who would still be around.

After working through the sermon, the group will move on to a time of sharing. Apart from sharing their struggles and burdens, group members will also share about the ways they are seeking to live out the gospel in the various dimensions of their lives. The group then moves on to prayer.

Since friendship evangelism is an ongoing commitment of the MMC, the groups will always be praying for people they are seeking to bring to the Lord. This second half of the meeting will probably take about an hour and a half.

The meeting ends with a meal where the people mingle. There is much laughter. Often new friends and non- believers are invited for the lunch. The intimate nature of such primary meetings means that it would probably be held in a home.

Why an MMC? Why a church with minimal meetings? I speak from my own context, which is life in Kuala Lumpur/Petaling Jaya, a major urban centre. As in many major cities, people spend a lot of time commuting. This is because most people live and work in different parts of the city. If Christian, their church may very well be located in yet another part of the city.

Most of us are already tired trying to keep up to the pace of modern life. Globalisation means that most companies will be trying to get as much out of their employees. As a result fatigue is endemic in modern urban life.

If a church were to have a lot of church based meetings, it would mean more commuting which translates into even more demands on the time and energies of an already tired community. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. So is a chronically tired saint.

However, the decision to hold church members to minimal church based meetings is not just a capitulation to the pace of modern life. It is actually a proactive commitment to live out the “salt and light” mandate of Matthew 5: 13-16. Here Jesus makes it clear that His disciples impact society for the Kingdom by being in the world. It is as Christians interact with people in the martketplace, in their families, in schools etc., that they flesh out the Gospel through Word and Deed.

Yet many churches still operate with an understanding that life is divided into holy and secular categories. So you if you are part of your child’s Parent- Teachers’ Association that is secular stuff. But if you sing in the church choir you are serving God. The impression given is that the spiritually serious stuff is what happens in the church building or in church related programmes. As a result the church plans and runs many programmes. The really serious Christians are the ones who show up for many of these programmes.

As a result we run our saints ragged. Any talk of cutting back is perceived as disloyalty to God and a lessening of commitment to the Kingdom, and rewarded with heavy doses of guilt.

I have been questioning this approach to doing church for sometime. It also hit me recently that the early church couldn’t have had many meetings. Many of the early Christians were slaves and “blue-collar workers”, hardly the beneficiaries of a five day work week. They probably met only once a week on the Lord’s day. However since most churches in the early days of the church the same people would also be related in other ways eg. working together , and would have lots of other contact during the week.

If the church only had one major meeting a week, which basically covers the purposes of the Sunday Worship, cell groups,a and prayer meetings, what would the members do the rest of the week? Here are some suggestions:

1. Find more time for quality rest.

2. Mentor your children in the ways of the Lord instead of relegating this work to Sunday School.

3. Mentoring new believers.

4. Penetrate society by joining neighbourhood associations, Parent Teachers’ Associations etc.

5. Be free to be led by the Spirit to minister to people, the sick, the lonely, people we are trying to reach for Christ, etc.

6. Be part of serious discussions about the issues that impact modern life, eg. political developments, new technologies, sociological trends etc., instead of doing our thinking individualistically and on the run. (if we think at all.)

7. Do more in depth study of Scriptures.

8. Allocate more time to nurturing key relationships, like marriages, parent-children relationships,etc. Such relationships are unravelling at a alarming rate.

9. Make more time and energy to dream new dreams as to how to reach the world for Christ in this millennium.

Of course members could spend the extra time doing more shopping, watching more TV, etc. Which is why the Main Meeting is so crucial. The regular preaching serves to continue to give people a biblical mindset. And the small groups encourage accountability for our lives in the world.

I know this essay probably raises more questions than there are answers. But I don’t know. What is the Spirit saying to the churches today? Maybe we are too rushed and tired to listen.

So, psssst! If you want to dialogue more about the MMC, email me.

Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan