The transition into a simple church environment at first appearance is a walk into an easy world of pot-luck meals, singing around the living room and lively Bible discussions all punctuated with warm, inviting people.
Is the great challenge of transitioning from the big box church walking away from the bundled free services? Inspiring preaching by really smart and charming fellows, wonderful music that sweeps us into catharsis, the thrill and the rub of the crowd, yes these precious opiates do have their intoxicating draw.
Perhaps the hurdles that hinder some from New Testament church life are far more surprising. Silent and internal resistance to the costly kingdom may be the culprits.
Simple church life comes with bundled opportunities, none of which are free or easy. Look at these simple church ideals:
1. Intimacy with God. The cornerstone of house church life is growing in our knowledge and experience with God. This requires time with God in prayer, private worship and the scriptures. This translates into a capacity to articulate a grasp of God’s character and attributes. This produces a person who hears God’s voice and experiences His presence. These practices are not cultivated in an audience, but in many, many hours in one’s quiet place.
2. The priesthood of the believer. Empowerment to know God and do His works is antithetical to the passivity cultivated in Western-styled Christianity. Walking in a mature expression of the priesthood of the believer is a life-long pursuit. Pressing into this, as a house church, calls into play a set of corporate expectations to personally press into God.
3. Rich interpersonal relationships. Time together, not simply around the simple church table, is a hallmark of house church life. Time – lots of time – together doing life. This fills our schedule beyond the Sunday morning go-to-church-hour. This is where life giving connection flourishes. This is where we know and are known. All the volatility, joys and hopes of the human experience come out to play. Some may say who has time for this?
4.Mission. The Great Commission and the Great Commandment are most comfortably held in the abstract. Perhaps a few dollars to the para-church assuages the evangelical conscience. When intentionality and personal responsibility to mission is heralded, (and then led), it throws the uninitiated into the uncomfortable new territory of risk and vulnerability.
5.Discipleship. Life-on-life training, meets for coffee at 6:30 am or 9 pm when the kids are in bed or over lunch break. Straight talk, scripture study, accountability and dependability; friend-to-friend, mentor-to-mentee. The isolation, autonomy and independence many have accepted as normal is shaken to its core with the thoughtful, purposeful mutuality of discipleship.
6. The supernatural. A quick reading of 1 Corinthians 14 illustrates the assembly, the gathering of saints, as a participatory event driven by the supernatural expression of the Holy Spirit. Functioning in God’s supernatural calls for an earnest desire and faith. This is anything but passive. Spectators just don’t get this. When a simple church gathering relies on the Spirit of God to orchestrate this is anything but familiar to the unschooled visitor. Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:23 uses the term “idiota” of such visitors. This in Koine Greek parlance meant an untrained person. These folks may struggle through the learning curve Biblical supernaturalism presents to them.
7.Serving. Simple church involves hospitality, dependability, keeping promises, showing up, helping, volunteering and meeting needs as they arise. The weakest receive the greatest honor. This is the world turned on its head. A house church helps a widow, they bring meals to the sick, clean house for the infirm and operate with a giving and not a receiving motive. Everyone picks up the slack. This is different than sitting through the big evangelical show. It is costly, yet eminently satisfying.
As we look at the internal cogs, the machinery of the heart, the daily motivation, commitments and the personal expense of simple church we can perhaps see why this way of life gives newcomers pause. This simple church thing is an alien faith that quite simply is not of this world. It is for this reason we should live boldly and invite boldly knowing that some seed indeed does fall on good soil.
We need to be both patient and clear, transition will happen but not without hurdles.