"A biblical community for the spiritually curious."
REPRODUCIBLE MUTUAL EDIFICATION
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
(1 Corinthians 14:26)
A MANNA! Life Group is a biblical “ekklesia” that features reproducibility and mutual edification.
The original vision for MANNA! Life Groups was not just one, but two, ten, a hundred and even a thousand groups! The original (and continual) vision is to re-create life groups all over the Treasure Valley (Boise), then all across Idaho and the Great Northwest, and if the Lord wills, throughout the entire United States and world.
The early church practiced a simple Christianity that was easily transmitted.
Their “model” was reproducible. They gathered for mutual edification:
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up (1 Corinthians 14:26)
...speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord...
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:16)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
The early church’s structural DNA—rooted to Acts 2:42—was a gathering geared toward discipleship (learning the apostle’s doctrine), interactivity and connection (fellowship) and inspirational worship (prayers, hymns, testimonies, Lord’s Supper/Eucharist).
Every person had a role and contribution.
It was a guided experience, facilitated likely by one of the church’s leaders (elder/pastor/shepherd). However, this facilitator did not dominate or control the conversation. The New Testament record suggests these gatherings were spontaneous, flexible, inspirational and revelational. They were “mutually edifying” to every person. Jesus was the real Leader of the gathering. They gathered to reveal Jesus (through Scripture, song, testimony, prayers, Lord Supper/Eucharist). They assembled to hear Jesus speak (through Scripture, song, testimony, prayers, Lord Supper/Eucharist).
On September 10, 2020, Rick resigned his leadership of his previous, and highly successful, life group in order to develop MANNA! Life Groups that were more biblical in form and function. The previous life group was still too personality-centric (aligned to a single teacher/leader). They were not reproducible beyond his reach and this difficulty concerned him greatly. He wanted to create something new, better, more biblically aligned and reproducible.
Through his study of organic churches, Rick recognized his error. His old life group was an “open” concept, leading to quick growth, but it was not “open-participatory” in nature. Gatherings were still tethered to his personality (leader/teacher) rather than to the Person of Christ. According to Frank Viola, in his book Reimagining Church:
...the only sustaining force of the early church gathering was the life of the Holy Spirit. The early Christians were clergyless, liturgyless, programless and ritualless. They relied entirely on the spiritual life of the individual members to maintain the church’s existence and the quality of the gatherings (p. 63).
Christians do not become equipped by listening to sermons week after week while sitting muted in a pew. Instead, God’s people are equipped by Christian workers who are able to teach them how to fellowship with Lord and how to function in a group setting. Such workers equip the saints (Ephesians 4:11-16). And then they do what few contemporary pastors would ever dare to do—they leave the church on its own (Acts 13-20). (p. 65)
A primary reason small groups stall, fade and close is due to leadership.
Most churches struggle to find and train leaders for their group ministry. A healthy group will grow but if it cannot reproduce, it will eventually stagnate and die. Ironically, many churches name their small groups by the leader who facilitates the gathering, and yet this strategy only confirms the personality-driven, exclusive nature of small groups. A good leader will attract and retain members. That's good. However, biblically, a great leader will attract, retain and release the group to operate without him or her.
MANNA! Life Groups operate from a reproducible, open-participatory frame.
Yes, there is a house facilitator/leader who opens and closes the gathering, but the format is “open-participatory.” Every person is invited to bring to the gathering a Scripture (a verse or passage that has had an impact), a testimony (a story about how God has worked in their lives) and a willingness to pray when led to pray.
The facilitator/leader also brings a 20 to 30-minute weekly teaching conversation from the Scripture. The selected Scripture is to foster, provoke and spark a brief conversation about God (theology), Jesus (Christology), the Holy Spirit (pneumatology), the nature of the Church (ecclesiology) or salvation (soteriology). The Serendipity Bible is used as a resource to insure good questions. Occasionally a video series (like The Story, Believe or Truth Project) might replace this teaching time. The facilitator/leader also identifies 2-3 co-leaders who will eventually facilitator this conversation. The goal is to locate, inspire, equip and release new leaders as quickly as possible, and when necessary.
In general, every MANNA! Life Group gathering is approximately two hours in length. The doors always open 30 minutes prior to start time. For example, a group opens its doors at 6:00 p.m. and begins its study at 6:30 p.m.:
FELLOWSHIP (20-30 minutes): Fellowship and Community (Hospitality Food Table)
OPENING (25 minutes): Gathering, Opening (Lighting of Candle and Prayer), Testimonies, Scripture Sharing, Singing, Prayers
SCRIPTURE LESSON (35 minutes): Bible Study and Conversation (or Video Conversation)
PRAYER GROUPS (30 minutes): Men and Woman Prayer Huddles (3-4 persons each)
CLOSING (10 minutes): The Lord’s Supper, Announcements, Closing Prayer and Song
This format honors the four parts of the structural DNA found in Acts 2:42 (Bible study, prayer, fellowship and the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist). It’s open-participatory nature creates a fast-paced, engaging and fun experience. It’s also an easily reproducible format.
When a MANNA! Life Group reaches fifteen (15) members in regular attendance it "triggers" the process of "peeling" or birthing another group in the next four to six months.
The MANNA! Life Groups are never to be closed (clique) groups. We believe this practice is unbiblical and counter-productive to Christ’s command to “go, preach, teach and equip.” A MANNA! Life Group, due to context and community circumstances, may not grow numerically but it must never intentional “close” its doors to new faces and their story.
The Board of Directors for MANNA! Educational Services International do not set any restrictive guidelines on MANNA! Life Groups except that they adhere to an Acts 2:42 format (all gatherings must include biblical study, prayer huddles, fellowship and participation in the Lord’s Supper), remain open (inclusive and inviting) and submit to the general MANNA! Statement of Belief.
Should any issue, problem or controversy arise within a specific Life Group, it will be dealt with from the lowest necessary authority (leader/shepherd/facilitator, community leader or area director). Very rarely will local issues or specific house gathering problems rise higher than the area director. The goal is to keep all decisions and low-level as possible.
In general, unless it's a matter that involves heresy (false doctrine) or immorality (biblical sin), then MANNA! Life Groups are autonomous in nature, submitting only to Christ Jesus and the norms of their community, area, region or zone.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.