At their kitchen table, ladling homemade soup into the bowl of the kid seated next to me, we had Church. At the window booth at Waffle House on a rainy Saturday morning, we had Church. In my living room after a watching a terrible Japanese martial arts movie, we had Church. At the park under a picnic shelter with deli trays and flies swarming, we had Church. Sitting on a tiny twin bed in a bedroom of the 17th floor of a Camelot-themed Myrtle Beach hotel, we had Church.
These are the experiences that come to my mind now when I think about Church. No pews. No pulpit. No bulletin with this week’s upcoming events. Living life with others in Jesus-based community. That is what Church has become to me.
The house church movement, if you want to give it such a name, can definitely be romanticized to an unnecessary extent. I’m sure to many it may seem like a protest to “regular” church. Little more than a group of dissatisfied, discontent, heretical, weird-theology-believing people waving their middle finger at the rest of the world in an attempt to make some kind of statement. We’re different, and happy to tell you that if you aren’t, then you’re doing it wrong. For me that really isn’t it. I can’t even honestly say I got here on purpose on my own. It’s just where I’ve found myself, and I know God had a purpose in it. Let me tell you more about it.
What started as little more than a weekly meeting for dinner and discussion became a family for me. A group of people, who had initially been on a journey together to understanding the New Covenant, actually allowed themselves to really become a part of each others lives in an intimate way. God led me to that place to teach me the Gospel, teach me about my identity, and build the emergency room called community and real relationship that I would need when my life crisis came. And He did it so beautifully.
Regular churches can accomplish great things. They can have immense resources and manpower. They can represent stability and tradition in their communities. They can be examples of beautiful architecture and craftsmanship. They can be a refuge for the seekers who don’t know where else to go. They can be a safe place for the hurting. But, they can also become a closed loop of busy people who don’t actually know each other, working hard in intra-church programs that fail to do much of anything but wear people out. They can become a place where people compartmentalize their faith into Sunday morning and Wednesday night shaped boxes. They can become places where the Gospel is never taught and grace does not abound. They can become buildings filled with professional facade artists. I don’t believe any of this is necessarily on purpose, and I certainly don’t believe this characterizes every “regular church”, but if you’ve spent any time at one you probably know what I mean. It happens. And a lot of times we don’t even know it. And the Church is at risk because of this trend.
Let me be abundantly clear. What I’m not saying is we should bulldoze all church buildings and stop having regular church altogether, right now. There are regular churches filled with people I love and love me that are doing a wonderful job. I attend regular churches often. What I am saying is we need to rethink the Church – what it looks like and how it works. What I am saying is my weird, not so regular church, was and is a crucial part of my journey. I think the same type of life and love-giving community is possible to have alongside what I keep calling “regular” church, it just isn’t as natural.
Getting there will take effort. It will take becoming uncomfortable and vulnerable and trusting people with your junk, and providing a safe place for others to do the same. It will take not being too busy to offer a seat at your dinner table to a person you love every night for weeks when they are walking through a difficult time. It will take being thoughtful enough to call a person you love on your lunch break to see how they are and really wanting to know the answer. It will take sitting with a person you love in their living room and sharing a tender moment of sadness, while imparting hope. It will take cramming into a booth with a person you love at Waffle House early on a Saturday morning, just to get them out of the house while they are in crisis. It can’t be scheduled, it can’t be rushed, and it above all cannot really be faked. These are all things my Church does.
This is the life and love giving community God wants His Church to be. Go be it.
In and through Him,
Originally published on EvanDixon.com