A frustration many Christians encounter from time to time is that church has gotten stale in their lives. A lot of this emerges from our tendency of “going to church” just like we go to school or go do hobbies or social activities. It becomes a thing to do, not a relationship to have – a task on your “to do” list, not a mode of existence in your daily life and interactions. It becomes something you have to plan and program and finance and advertise – instead of just the normal day-in, day-out expression of Christ in your life regardless of location or circumstance.
We have a saying among Rogues, that “Church is not a building” – or more succinctly, that “the Church has left the building.” Church is a community, not a program or a service or a building. It’s not an activity, but rather a lifestyle with fellow Believers.
A Mindset Change
Realizing this sort of fellowship doesn’t require a big budget or a paid pastoral staff or reading a book on the subject. Really, it just takes a mindset change.
Think on this quote:
“Picture a group of present-day saints eating, drinking, laughing, and just celebrating Jesus together in their home. It’s not hard to imagine, is it? So, why is it sometimes so hard to find?” – Richard Jacobson
He’s not talking about starting a house church, let alone a business church. He’s wondering why we don’t take “Church” home with us and live it all the time. Why are our faith relationships just another category of relationships, people we check in with on Sundays and maybe Wednesday night – but not a permanent part of all relationships, with neighbors and coworkers and family and friends.
Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” He wasn’t talking about services held in church buildings or services held in houses. He wasn’t talking about programmed “services” at all.
He talking about people having a way of life that brought them regularly together (“daily” according to Acts!) with other Christians to live faith together. Jesus’ way was called “the Way” before anyone ever called it Christianity – it is a way of life, not a system of religious conduct or pattern for churching.
According to Acts, they met together for meals (whether in the Temple courts or homes), saw each other daily, learned from each other and celebrated regularly – after all, Jude calls these regular gatherings “love feasts” (Jude 1:12).
The New Testament never calls these gatherings “church” and rarely discusses anything resembling modern “services.” What does it take to live out this sort of “koinonia” or “fellowship” as the New Testament calls it?
First, it requires rediscovering hospitality. We live in an inhospitable world where everyone suspects strangers, people oppose immigrants, and our homes are secluded places blocked off from even our neighbors by fences. We must recover a biblical attitude and practice of hospitality.
Christians opened their homes regularly: to strangers and travelers and aliens in addition to fellow Believers. This doesn’t mean they didn’t have locks on their doors, but they did have a very different attitude about taking people home with them. Their home belonged to the Lord and therefore was available for whatever needs He and His people might have. Most of us think of our homes as ours – not something given to us by God for good stewardship to further His Kingdom by setting an example of hospitality to others in an inhospitable culture.
Practicing the Presence
Second, it requires remembering daily, even every moment, that we carry God around with us. Christ lives in our heart, the Spirit indwells us, God is with us, Emmanuel – how often we forget it! Being the Church is something that can (and should) happen any moment anywhere – every time we meet another Christian should be a sacred moment. Gatherings of Believers can happen in any context, not requiring a planned service or programmed event.
I’ve lead in churches and I’ve lead in home groups and I’ve lead a house church and I’ve done short missions and held Bible studies and fellowshipped with Christian coworkers – every variety of fellowship you can imagine. In all this, I have felt our human urge to make everything into a programmed event. Sometimes just a few people show up to our house church so we pull out the board games, eat and fellowship.
It would be easy for someone to say, “I expected a Bible study, but we just played games.” Just? Christian fellowship is time with God and time with each other and is always a blessing in a world that rarely offers such unique and intimate relationships.
Whether the time is spent on games or biblical research, time together is the point – not the means. God required the Jews to Sabbath – can you even imagine a whole day when you do nothing constructive, you aren’t allowed to do anything resembling work, you are in fact required to spend time enjoying life and relating with others? We’ve lost the practice of just enjoying each others’ presence as well as the presence of God.
Sometimes simply gathering and being family is what is most important. And is most contagious as well. People are tired of programs. I hear church leaders often talk about how hard it has become to “compete” with band camps and sports and school extra-curriculars, with Sunday NFL and everything you can imagine. And Christians often vainly make their own baptized, sanitized version of all these things – let’s make our own churchy sports league, our own MTV-like music channels, our own camps and our own programs.
Maybe it was meant to be simpler. Maybe the “Way” wasn’t intended to be as convoluted as we’ve made it.
Here’s my challenge to you.
- Get together with some Christians this week. Your family works. Your friends, coworkers, people who attend church services with you. To your house, to dinner, to coffee – the activity doesn’t matter much, the place matters even less.
- Make things awkward. At some point, take a moment to announce something God is doing in your life.
That’s all. You were just Church. And you didn’t even have to go to church to pull it off.