Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How Did We Get Here?

Driving up to the building brought excitement to Aaron and Ellen. They had been looking for a church family to belong to for several months. They had visited many churches in their area from mega churches to churches with many seats and few people. In each and every experience, they felt like outsiders as they sat among brothers and sisters. Here they were again, pulling up to a building hoping that this experience would be different. They had been told about this church by some friends and it all sounded wonderful, but so did the last six churches they tried.

As they walked in the door Ellen noticed that the decorations were done very tastefully and Aaron noticed that there was some free coffee and snacks. They were greeted by another couple who introduced themselves and they exchanged pleasantries. As Aaron and Ellen stacked their plates with finger foods, they faded into a corner and watched. They overheard several conversations of friends who were catching up on their week, how prayers were being answered, how their jobs were going and how their favorite reality show was going down. The people in this church seemed nice enough, but just like other churches they had attended, they felt left out and that others were more interested in their old friends than making new friends. As they sensed the others moving to a more formal setting they hoped that the music, energy and teaching would fill the longing in their hearts.

Everyone was welcomed and the singing began, the worship flowed, ministry to one another took place through the music and some personal interaction. Someone shared a section of Scripture, another said a prayer and more singing was enjoyed. As the time of worship softly ended a transition took place to a time of learning from the Bible. As church ended and people began heading for their cars there were a couple of hugs given to Ellen and Aaron from a lady who encouraged them to come back next week.

During their drive home Ellen asked Aaron if he sensed the Lord drawing them to this community of believers and also how he enjoyed the whole experience. Aaron said, “You know, I really was hoping that this House Church experience would have been much different than it was. For me, it was little more than church gone miniature. I think the Lord had much more in mind for His church.”

I hope you were surprised to learn that this fictitious couples experience took place at a house church. “How did we (the church) get to such a place” has been a question raging in my own mind and heart lately. I think most people would agree that during Jesus’ three and a half years on earth, that he had one continuous church experience with His disciples. If you agree, notice that almost none of what happens in churches today took place with Jesus and His disciples.

Large highly organized ‘services’ were unknown to Jesus and His followers. Focusing on how people feel and how comfortable they are was not on their radar. Large crowds are a marker of a successful church these days but Jesus often left large crowds to talk with His disciples privately and moved out to take new ground (Mark 1:29-38). Passive crowds of people waiting to be fed spiritually processed food did happen in Jesus’ ministry, but He never seemed to organize them or make them His main ministry. His message was always one of pushing people out to take His good news to others...even when He was working with brand new believers (Mark 4, John 4, John 9, Matt. 4:19, Acts 1:8).

When I look at how the church in the Book of Acts and throughout the Epistles interacted and were encouraged to conduct themselves, I begin to ask how did we, the church, indeed get to where we are today; one hour passive services, programs, slick marketing and consumer driven ministry? I also wonder how organic or house churches can look so familiar to the one in my story at the beginning of this blog? I’ll interact with those questions next time, but I’m curious, what do you think?