We meet regularly on Saturdays or Sundays in various homes, but also sporadically throughout the week with each other. It's not just about having the meeting itself or where we meet, but a way of shared-life with other believers in Christ. Saturday meetings consist of believers meeting around Christ, expressing Him to one another. Everyone is encouraged to function in their gifting from the Lord. Everyone mutually participates for the edification of body-life, centered in Jesus Christ as Leader of the meeting.
Meetings consist of a common meal, non-liturgical Scripture readings, biblical discussions, prayer for one another and the community, sharing struggles, encouraging and building up one another, and most importantly, an expectation of what the Spirit of the Lord is speaking in the present time and throughout the weeks. This is also known as believers in Christ meeting organically. To download a guide about organic gatherings: click here. As the Lord leads, we also believe in the gifts of the Spirit being manifested in the Body. Frank Viola has done an excellent job in a 10-part series describing the gifts of the Spirit and how the Spirit manifests Christ. For more information: click here.
During the week, we reach out to the community in various venues such as the workplace and places of community gathering to cultivate pre-Christian relationships as outlined in the approach page of this website.
As a believing community, we see ourselves as part of the Church in Sparta, not an institution. Our purpose is to empower other followers of Christ in establishing these meetings around Christ in their homes, workplaces and social gatherings. We are not in competition with established, institutional church congregations, but work with all interested believers in Christ to transition to an ecclesiology which is biblically and historically in keeping with the first century Church. It is important to note: "Cumberland Hope" is not the name of our gatherings, rather the name of the benevolence. We believe specific labels for the Lord's Church are unnecessary, and we simply view ourselves as a part of His work in the Church in Sparta.
It is this ecclesiology which was described and practiced by the early Church that gave the form to function, which fostered the explosive growth and depth of maturity experienced by early followers of The Way. We welcome believers who are interested in investigating transitional forms that will augment their existing programs to a form that will foster new life during this time of decline in institutional church approaches. It is our belief that the restoration of a biblical ecclesiology will free the Western church to the same dynamic authenticity of community and the "priesthood of all believers" which is marking the explosive expansion of the Church in China, India, Indonesia, and many other places in the world.
As individuals and families functioning as One Family in unity. See Church: Unity vs. Division. We've felt led and have experienced the blessings of pursuing Jesus Christ in a simple way, where the whole Body can express Him together and profit from one another. This is occurs without the institutional needs of highly-structured models, hierarchical leadership to include paid professionals, clergy/laity body divisions, bureaucratic politics, human-engineered traditions, formatted worship services, dogmatism in doctrine, and budgets for building costs and programs.
We believe that all believers in Christ have the freedom to pursue Him according to what they believe He is leading. We pursue a New Covenant way of living in Christ, and according to principles the early apostles modeled in Scripture, not how one may please (which is a mark of self-rule, not Jesus' Lordship). Click here for further explanation. The Father has clearly revealed His ultimate intention in mind for One Body (Eph 4:4-7), and for Christ to be expressed through each and every believer. It is critically important that all belivers know that meetings as Family or ministry together should never eclipse our True Occupation with Jesus Christ.
Institutional systems (not a particular group of people) that don't follow those principles revealed in the New Testament for ekklesia (church) meeting is like "throwing sand in the gears of the Kingdom" and they become restrictive, divisive, and unnecessary, especially if those systems are in conjunction with personal agendas to gain power, wealth, or control over people to manipulate (this could occur in any meeting, even in organic meetings). Systems stifle the spontaneous, but orderly move of the Holy Spirit working through His people and growth of making disciples. The Holy Spirit's primary purpose is to reveal and glorify Jesus Christ, and we can cooperate with Him best without "our best thinking" in systemitizing or structuing His move with human-engineered systems.
We reject any notion of sectarianism or elitist approaches (which is often readily assumed by “the other”) toward believers themselves practicing an organic/simple way vs. institutional/organizational forms of church life, whereby certain believers are viewed as being better, above or “we have alone have the Truth,” in comparing others for their practice. Rather, we encourage all believers in Christ to not miss out on the blessings of what is revealed vs. pursuing what is not revealed in Scripture. We believe in actively practicing organic, shared Body life (openly and lovingly accepting all believers regardless of church background), and we do not view any believer as inferior for practicing differing forms centered in Christ.
It is our intent to develop a network of informally aligned, mutually supportive, and indigenous simple gatherings of believers that will populate local communities within and beyond our voice. Popular writer and researcher George Barna has observed that as much as ten percent of Americans are currently worshipping in groups outside the institutional church and has predicted that the current trend of local church closures will mean that half of existing churches will no longer be here in just fourteen years. We believe that shared life in Christ, as well as simple gatherings in that life, is a biblical corrective to America’s current disillusionment with western institutional church forms and the hunger that is driving them to their non-institutional historical roots.
SEE ALSO "EXPRESSING CHRIST IN CHURCH" BY JON ZENS