Those of us who are part of a house church or an organic church often speak of "being the church" rather than "attending a church".
A fellow house church leader recently emailed me and a few other house church practitioners to ask us how we would answer this question: “How are your house church communities doing at ‘being the Church’ rather than ‘going to Church’?”
Here’s my response.
Over the last few weeks I've had conversations with several in our house church family and they’ve indicated to me that they've started to experience a paradigm shift between "going to church" and "being the church". Here's how some of them have expressed this phenomenon:
*"Once I realized that being who God created and called me to be was all that He expects of me, I started to realize that I have a ministry to children already. I don't have to travel to Africa or even to Mexico to minister to children who don't know the Gospel. They're in my 5th grade class I teach every day."
*"I had only been coming to this house church for two weeks when I offered to host the next meeting in my home. Everyone was like, 'That's great!' At first I thought, 'Don't you want to see my house first?' but then I realized that it didn't matter to anyone what my house was like. They were all eager to allow me the freedom to contribute to the Church in whatever way I wanted to."
*"All my life at other churches I was always on the outside of that myterious inner circle of leadership, but now I'm one of the many other contributing members of the Church. Suddenly my voice counts for something. My gifts are relevant. My family is truly known and loved. This is what Church is all about!"
*"Growing up in Church I never understood what the pastor was saying. But now I'm free to ask questions and people are free to question me and to challenge me in my walk with Jesus. It's the Body of Christ that has changed my life where all those sermons never did."
*"For the first time in my life as a Christian, when I think of "my church," I now think of the people in it. Not the building or the pastor because we don't have any. The faces of the people I fellowship with come to mind."
*"Instead of going to church and attending a meeting, the house church experience has allowed me to see that all of my life is a ministry to God. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, the Spirit of the Living God is alive in me and that's where 'Church' can happen."
Our house church is called “the Mission” because we hope to encourage everyone to see that they are missionaries equipped by God to minister the Gospel in their own neighborhood, workplace, community, etc.
In addition to these statements, I’ve personally witnessed individuals in our house church family as they discover their own personal mission. Some have felt a calling to start a weekly prayer meeting in their home. Some have felt compelled to take regular trips to an orphanage in Mexico. Some have taken it upon themselves to put together survival kits for the homeless. Some have responded to God’s calling to use their teaching gift to lead weekly Bible Studies with people outside our house church family. Some have stepped out to help teach Chinese students how to speak English as a second language. Others are still trying to understand what their personal mission is and we’re patiently standing by them and encouraging them as they continue to follow Jesus daily.
While no one in our house church family feels pressure to participate in anyone else’s ministry, they do know that they are free to join in if they want to. No one feels pressure to start a ministry of their own either. Unless God is genuinely speaking to them about stepping forward, we’re content to meet them wherever they are.
Our house church family has a saying that goes, “We’re all in process.” That means we recognize that none of us is in exactly the same place in our walk with Christ. While we encourage everyone to grow deeper with Jesus, we don’t set our own expectations of what that should look like. We allow the individual person to listen for God’s voice and to respond accordingly. We strive to have grace for one another and not to impose our passion on others.
For example, my family has been serving at a local motel for nearly 9 years now. We go every month and pass out free groceries which our house church family purchases using the offerings that are freely given to help the poor. Not everyone in our house church goes with us when we serve at the motel, but they know we'd love to have them join us if they wish. They also know that they don't have to give their offering to this cause if they don't want to. No one forces them to give or looks to see who is giving or how much. We don't impose our vision and mission on them and they don't try to convince us that their personal ministry should be everyone else's.
Rather than exploit one another to benefit our ministry, we empower one another to step out and serve others in whatever way we feel called. We help when we can. We encourage one another, and we cheer each other onward.
So, in a nutshell this is how our little house church family is learning to “be the Church” to one another and to people we come into contact with each and every day.
How are you learning to “be the Church”?