Saturday, June 15, 2013

WHY WE MEET AS WE DO a working example

 In previous SC Letters I have listed some of the Biblical reasons why I journeyed from institutional church to simple church. My first point has always been, the example of the New Testament Christians who met in homes. The point I wanted to make wasn't the place they met, but the simplicity of their family type gatherings. Yes, "They...met in homes...and shared their meals with great joy and generosity..." Acts 2:46. But nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to meet in a house. When we started our simple church journey we met for some time in the cafeteria of the Waikanae Chartered Club. So, while simple/organic churches are often referred to as 'house churches', I'm not arguing for the house as the only place Christians should meet. It's not where we meet but Whom we meet! It's simply "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." Matt. 18:20. c.f. John 4:21-24.

Another Biblical reason for the simple way of doing church....

The reality of being a family. One of the most beautiful, and the most common metaphor of the Church in Scripture is "we are family." Jesus tells us not to let anyone give us the title of 'teacher', 'father' or 'leader'. Why? Because he said, "...all of you are on the same level as brothers and sisters." Matt. 23:8-11. Think of the number of times the word 'brothers', or 'brothers and sisters' as the New Living Translation translates the intended meaning of 'brothers' at appropriate times. Also verses like, Gal. 6:10; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 2:19; 1 Tim. 5:1, 2; 1 Pet. 2:2; 1 Jn. 2:12, 13 to name a few. Then there is the much loved, familial name that Jesus used of God, 'Father', even 'Abba Father'. Doesn't this speak loudly that the church is to be a warm, close knit caring family? No clergy-laity great divide. "All equal and none more equal than others." (Apologies to George Orwell's "Animal Farm"). All free to participate, to tell their story or share their grief. Not a pulpit centred, weekly meeting followed by a quick cuppa, some small talk and a hurried, "God bless you."
An example. Every Thursday night we have what we call, "Open Home." This consists of a shared, multi-cultural meal, enjoyed around a long oval table and accompanied by lots of talk and laughter. What noise! Then we tell our stories or watch a small section of one of the Gospels on DVD, or some other creative way of sharing the Good News. We pray and sing. It's all so Kiwi with a few disagreements thrown in. Surprisingly it has attracted folk from Philippines, one each from Samoa, Fiji, Kiribatis and an enquiry from a Cook Islander as well as half a dozen or so NZers. We don't put folk into any spiritual categories, we simply allow the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to sort out where we individually stand before God. In my more than 50 years as a follower of Jesus I have never been involved in a gathering that is so fulfilling and as much like I imagine a New Testament church meeting would look like. Interestingly the beginning of this Thursday get together started by inviting some not-well-known acquaintances to a BBQ. Not rocket science eh!

 Obviously there's other reasons for meeting as we do. But these (above) are important, both for those inside and outside of the Church. And how much easier to bring a non-church friend or neighbour to a BBQ or a pot-luck meal, than to bring them to an unfamiliar (to them) traditional church service.

How about sharing your story? Why do you meet as you do? Your story doesn't have to be long and involved. I'd love to hear from you and possibly include something of your journey (no names) in a future SC Letter.




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