Posts Tagged ‘Simple Church’

“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20

If a few followers of Jesus are gathered together in His name and He is there as He promised, doesn’t that mean by definition that you have “The Church”? If the church is the ekklesia, the Greek word for those who are called, then whenever we have a few followers called out by Jesus and gathered with Him, then we have Church. Church is not about where you meet. It doesn’t matter if you are in a cathedral or a cottage, and huge auditorium or a humble home, a public community room or under a tree. The location is not church. The church is those who have been called by Jesus and gather in His name. So not only are you in church when you gather with any other believers you ARE the church when you are with another follower of Jesus.

So what does it mean of you are in church whenever you are together with other believers? It means at least a few things that come to mind. First of all it means that you are to always be about worshiping God. We usually think that we “go to church” in order to worship God. Well if you are “in church” whenever you are with one or more followers, then your actions should be worshipful. Paul tells us that when we come together, 19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:19-20). Gathering together, no matter the place or occasion,  should always be an act of worship in which our gratitude and love for the Lord comes through.

Secondly it means that we should be demonstrating the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17:21,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. One of the most common excuses people use to not be a Christian is that we can’t even get along with each other. Romans 12:18 says, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”. Being the church together means that we must, absolutely must, defer to one another, submit to one another, bless one another, guard one anothers back, and serve with and for one another.

Thirdly, if we are the church whenever we gather then we must each fulfill our part in the church. Paul speaks of the Church as the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. HE makes it clear that each person in the Body has an important part to play. Just as the hand, eye, ear, mouth, foot and, nose all have a part to play, so every follower of Jesus has a part to play. There is no room in the Body of Christ for an appendix that can be removed without being missed. When you gather with other followers of Jesus, you are needed. Your prayers are needed. Your experiences are needed. Your song is needed. Your testimony of what God is doing in your life is needed. If you fail to bless the rest of he Body with what God is doing in you then the whole body suffers.

One way of thinking about this issue of church is this. We are not about doing church or going to church. We are about being church. Being those “called out” by Jesus to follow him everywhere, everyday. You don’t go to church any more than you go to family. You are church just as you are family.

Sitting talking to my friend Brian about Simple Church/House Church theory and why a mega-church like Northland is getting involved in helping start Simple Churches. Suddenly Brian says to me, “A good Simple Church is like the unicorn. I have heard that there is such a thing and it sounds cool, but I have never seen one. Have you?” “Yes Brian” I replied, “I have seen the Unicorn and it is a beautiful site”. His face lit up in anticipation of hearing about this mythical church creature.

My most recent sighting of the Unicorn came a few months ago in Orange County California. Don’t let the fact that this was in LA throw you off. There are actually some really great things happening in the Christian community there. On this particular Sunday morning I was in the home of my friends Ken and Ali Eastburn. It was time for the church to gather at their house. What I experienced was first century Christianity in a 21st century living room.

At the Eastburns, like most simple churches, the gathered church means there is a meal that includes communion. Since it was Sunday morning that meant breakfast. I got to cook which was fine with me since I love to cook. Pretty soon people began arriving until we had more 14 adults, including a woman visiting from China, and 7 or 8 kids. At one point Ali was greeting folks at the door when she saw her neighbor across the street working in her yard. Ali has been trying to build a relationship with this woman for months and took the opportunity to go speak with her.

Breakfast was ready so Ken prayed to give thanks to God and people began to dig in, finding places to sit around the family room and at the breakfast bar. As the meal was winding down Ken picked up a loaf of bread and a cup of wine. He reminded us of what Jesus did for us on the cross. God was thanked. The Bread was broken. The cup was given. We had a meal and communion just like the church of the New Testament. Someone pulled out a guitar and along with the kids we sang and prayed and honored the Lord.

After we finished singing and praying, the kids went and did a little Bible study with some handouts that they colored then went outside and played. Ken led the adults in a study of God’s Word. Maybe I should say that Ken got us started. He raised a question about something he had read recently and before I knew it we were off. People were digging into their Bibles, flipping pages back and forth, talking about things God was teaching them, verses they read that week that made an impact, asking questions about things they did not understand. There was no “answer man”. I fought the temptation for be that guy because no one want to be “that guy”. It was thrilling to see people seek God’s truth and share what God was doing. It seemed very much like what Paul had in mind when he wrote Colossians chapter 3 verses 14-16.

14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

The whole time this was going on, Ali was still across the street talking to the neighbor and Ming, the woman visiting from China had joined her. As it turned out this neighbor was going through a major crisis in life and Ali was encouraging her and letting her know how much Jesus loved her. They prayed with her right there in the front yard. We knew what was going on and prayed for them and the ministry taking place outside. eventually Ali and Ming returned and shared with us what God was doing across the street.

We spent some more time in prayer and getting to know Ming and what the Lord was doing in among the brothers and sisters in China. After a total of about two hours from the start of the gathering, people began to take their leave and head home. I found myself inspired by the simplicity of this whole thing and the way that God made Himself known. It was also incredible to see everyone involved and engaged. It was much like the experience I had early in my Christian life when I was part of a fellowship of about 60 to 80 people who met as a group on Sunday nights but in several House Churches during the week. It was much like what I picture the first century church was like when they met from house to house.

Yes Brian. The unicorn is real and it is a beautiful creature in God’s garden.

I am used to being different from people whom I connect with. In college I was the lone protestant getting a degree in Theology from a Roman Catholic/Charismatic university. I was one of two non-episcopalians getting a Masters degree from an Episcopal seminary. So being possibly the only mega-church staff member at a national conference for house churches does not freak me out in the least. I am comfortable enough in my own skin and calling to know that God uses the differences to make a more perfect whole. That is evident at this conference in ways I never expected.

This morning I heard Frank Viola speak to this group of house church folks and urge them to not treat the institutional church as the enemy and remember that many people, Frank among them, have come to Jesus through such churches. I also heard a call to make sure that they do not become the elitist, exclusionary kind of movement that often morphs out of movements that were once pure. Words like that give me great hope that the day will come when we will see churches of all sizes, types and shapes working together for the sake of the Kingdom and the glory of God.

Movements start out wanting to reform something. In the early stages that often means identifying the problem that you are speaking against. But very quickly the emphasis must be on what the movement is FOR, not just what it is AGAINST. Being always against something leads to death and decay and the fossilization of the movement. The house church and the mega-church can work together if the focus is on how together we can glorify God and bring more people to Him. It can do this if we remember that the people who are in a structure different from ours, are still people of God and fellow laborers in the vineyard.

It reminds me of the time when the disciples were upset with the fact that people who were not in their group, where never the less, casting out demons in Jesus name. Jesus made it clear that they too were about Kingdom business and the people around Jesus should not take offense at what those other were doing.