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Adapting House Church

December 8, 2008 Leave a comment

Gene Edwards once wrote that every church shouldn’t look the same, but that each local gathering should discover their form together. Mike Morrell posts an interesting blog about discovering church in the home and how the journey led them into an openness to liturgy and other ancient church elements. I think he rightly describes this adventure in church as a journey. And if we’re open, God may lead through some fascinating places and relationships along the way.

Categories: church Tags: ,

What’s Wrong With the Church III?

March 20, 2008 3 comments

After I started writing these posts, I didn’t really like the title and wanted to change it, but I’ve already started. I see God’s blessing pouring out from large and small churches, from Reformed and Pentecostal not to mention Liturgical churches. His Sovereign love and redemptive power cannot be limited by our frail and failing attempts to “solve” His church problem.

We cannot domesticate the divine through our structure, rationality or emotional encounters. Rather, we can only lift up hands and hearts of thanksgiving for His unflinching faithful love to the faithless, stumbling saints who walk toward glory.

And yet, I don’t think it wrong to question and challenge and seek to be a people and a church that is always reforming by the continuing light that shines out from His Word. I believe we live in a time between times. The world has not seen such drastic challenges since waning of the Middles Ages. As the Crusades and the Black plague and the shifting patterns in Western Europe shook the whole framework of medieval life and thought, God worked in and through His people to bring change. A new articulation of the future came through Martin Luther. His song echoed and developed in the growing chorus of other saints who stretched forward to the future God was creating.

God worked in mighty ways through the modern world that was to emerge. But time came for His judgment upon the excesses and arrogance of the modern world. And the 20th century experienced the devastating blows of war and destruction as the modern world crumbled before the face of modern engineers who finally figured out a way to create paradise without God.

I believe we are living in time between times as we weight (and wait) for a new articulation that leads God’s people (and the world) forward as a reforming people rooted in the every living Word. What some call post-modernism is more like remains of modern failure. The new time we are being stretched toward will continue the movement of God’s Spirit that transforms and blesses creation through the frail people of God.

Continuity in Time (and space)
With those thoughts, I would suggest that one of the great challenges for the church (large or small) is to find continuity in time (and space). We’ve grown up as heirs of Descartes (and others) who decided we don’t need anyone before us. There is a difference between subjecting tradition to the judgment of God’s Word and rejecting tradition altogether. Many of us grew up in churches that lost their memory and functioned as atemporal islands.

Today some have started looking backwards, grasping at various rituals from the past and hoping to resurrect some ancient experience of God that is older than this morning’s cup of Starbucks. This is good but is a bit chaotic and can sometimes create a mix-mash of rituals that may be another way we try to domesticate God.

I think the church is challenged with watching and listening to the developing story in Scripture of God’s people. When YHWH appears to Moses, He is the God of the Fathers. In others words, He appears as the faithful keeper of the covenant. As Israel emerges from the dust of Egypt, she consistently is challenged to remember the story. By the time Jesus comes, He is coming to a story of redemption that is deep in the memory of God’s people (recounted and re-enacted through feasts and festivals, sacrifices and Sabbaths).

Jesus breaks the bread and pours the wine and tells the disciples to do this in “Remembrance of Me.” The temporal continuity continues. They are called to be God’s blessing to the world and as they go out into all the world, they are called to continually remember who they are.

We must listen to the Scripture and learn ways to remember. First and foremost by the breaking of the Word and Sacrament. We are part of a people who God has called out to bless the whole world. We are not isolated islands. Somehow, we must relearn to remember who we are and who went before us. Somehow we must learn to retell Biblical history as well as Church history. We are connected with God’s people across time and space.

Our struggles at church are not about figuring out how to fix what all the other folks ruined, but to consider one another above ourselves. If I just decide to leave church and start meeting at a coffee shop, I may be simply exchanging one form of subjective interiority for another. But if I humble myself before God’s people throughout time and throughout space, I may learn to love and serve those with whom I disagree. I may be changed, humiliated. I may even learn to suffer for my enemies and love through death and beyond.

Before I actively tried to do home church, I was so certain that I knew the problems of church and knew exactly how to would correct them. Now I realize what an absolute failure I really am. By God’s grace, I continue to serve and to try to follow this call, and to trust that in spite of my arrogance that has been humiliated again and again, God is transforming me into love.

In some small way, I believe seeking merely to break open the Word and listen to God’s command, and to break the bread and drink the wine, God is at work. Changing me. Reintegrating me, the disconnected modern, into a body that has known suffering in the wilderness, that has been crushed in again and again, that has walked through the midst of a warring world, bearing the Name of Jesus, the Word of Love to the forsaken and forgotten.

And even as I am learning to remember, I trust my Father above is and does remember His people in the bread and wine, and will not forsake His people, but will create a marvel greater than anything our world has yet to fathom.

Categories: church, House Church Tags: ,

What’s Wrong with the Church II (Disorganized Church)

March 19, 2008 3 comments

Contining from the last post, I reiterate that these ideas are my own flawed eyes and insights.

I’ve been involved in some form of home church meetings for the past 17 years, and for nine of those years with the same group of people. At times it has been painful, discouraging and exhausting, and that’s probably because it has been a small family. This is about a choice to love and to continue building relationships, and not about, “If it feels good, do it.” (Which is what a lot of American Christianity looks like to me.)

I’m not blind to the weaknesses of home churches, and I do not believe that they are some kind of panacea for the body of Christ. While there are many challenges, here are some problems that initially come to mind.

1. Sectarian and judgmental – Many home churches movements that I have been around use words like “Basilica” to describe the larger, organized churches. They fundamentally believe that these churches are some expression of paganism or compromise with the greater culture. And I admit, our group has struggled with feelings like that at times. When I first started participating in home churches meetings, a good part of the meeting would be devoted to castigating other large churches.

Our little group has tried to discipline our tongues and spirits not to stand in judgment on the church system. When I’m in a group (home churchers or otherwise), I do my best to refrain from the common tendency to point out all the flaws of paritcular churches, movements or “TV Evangelists.” For the most, these groups are not part of my world, and I simply need to keep my mouth shut.

This pattern of judgment and criticism toward the larger body of Christ seems to be a pattern in various small church/simple church movements over time. Now I don’t deny that this pattern can show up in any size and type of church, but it seems particularly magnified in the home churches with an us vs. them mentality. (There’s a good sign though in that some newer home churches see themselves as missional extensions of a larger body.)

2. Low commitment – Because of the casual nature of home churches, I’ve watched many people come and go. People may disappear for weeks at time and then reappear. While I don’t like the heavy-handedness I sometimes see in churches, this overly casual attitude can limit the possibility for real intimacy over time. It is hard to reveal our weaknesses in front of people who may have no deep commitment to the relationship.

3. Doctrine of the Holy Spirit – While some home churches embrace the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit, I’ve seen a tendency to reject His action in history. What do I mean by this? They tend to read church history through the lens of how a bunch of people messed up the church and turned into a pagan substitute for the body of Christ. And only a few faithful held to the true calling of the church. I see this as a practical denial of the Holy Spirit’s involvement with the church. As though somehow God couldn’t keep sinful man from ruining the church He created, so a few faithful have to keep relighting the true torch of faith and passing it on.

Any groups (home church or otherwise) that are looking for some pure expression of the church, end up putting more confidence in man’s plans and designs than the Holy Spirit’s guiding presence to preserve and present the church as the Bride of Christ. God calls sinful men into His kingdom of love. He transforms them in the midst of a called-out community of other sinful men. Of course, our humanness interferes and ends up wounding and distorting. But the wonder of God’s providence is that He works out His purposes in the midst of our fallen lives and creates a masterpiece (as Paul so wonderfully captures in Ephesians).

4. Continuity through time – One of main problems of I see home church and large Evangelical churches is the breakdown in continuity through time (past-future-present). But I will pause here and write a bit about that in the next little post.

Spring of Light Community

February 14, 2008 7 comments


After a church fire last week, the Spring of Light community will be spending lent on pilgrimage. We’re a small family of friends who are learning to enter into relationship with one another and with whoever comes across our path. Following the simple rule of St. Francis, we seek to bless those who cross our path with the peace of God. We eat together, sing together, watch movies together, and are gradually learning what it looks like to spend our lives together. Along the way, we’ve met many friends who join us for various parts of the journey. After mourning the loss of our building, we’ve chosen to mark the time there with a slideshow celebrating the seasons of life that we have shared.

Web 2.0 goes to church

October 24, 2006 2 comments

What does Web 2.0 have to do with church? Well, that’s a question I’ve been pondering some lately, thinking about how the world of social networking has interesting implications for people of faith. Turns out someone else has been thinking about this. Dawn sent me a link for Church Marketing Sucks: a blog look at church, Seth Godin, word of mouth, and more.

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