Thursday, July 21, 2005

Home Church - It's What We Do

Our greatest spiritual growth as a couple has occurred in the time since 1991, when we left the institutionalized church. No longer do we meet in a building, to sit in a pew so we can see the back of someone's head, and someone else can see ours. No longer do we just appear on Sunday mornings to exchange pleasant smiles after yelling at our kids to hurry up and get ready, or leaving the family in frustration to come to church in a separate car because I needed to be there to teach a Sunday School class..
No longer do we give our tithes and offerings to support a ministry, an overpaid minister and his staff, building payments, all the overhead so that the church has nothing left for missions and benevolence.
No longer do we stress over countless other weekly meetings for programs that keep the ministry of the church within the four walls of a building... Want to get saved? Can you wait until Sunday's altar call? Want to know God? Come to our Sunday school class....
Nope....we've been meeting in home groups for the last 14 years. When we started, it was almost unheard of (people forgot that Paul's church met in a rented home...see the last chapter of Acts), and we were told by professional ministers about all the "dangers" of home groups without the "covering" of a church and professional pastor.
I can remember one Saturday night, being over at Jim and Cathy's house for our weekly meeting. Another couple who usually joined us had not shown up, so it was just the four of us. We prayed for the other couple, and near the end of the meeting, the man showed up...obviously something was wrong. He told us that he and his wife had been in strife, and that's why they hadn't come together. Then she showed up. The looked like they were pretty beaten up, emotionally, so we prayed for them, we ministered to them, and they reconciled before they went home. I have no doubt that in a traditional church, they would have been completely overlooked, they would have showed up at service with their "Sunday smiles," and would have said they were "fine" had anyone asked. Then they could have gone home after service, their issue still unresolved, and resumed the strife.
I'm not saying that's what always happens, but I can tell you for the first 6 years of my Christian church life, that was pretty much the norm. "Good Christian couples" got divorced and nobody in the church, save maybe the pastor, even knew there was a problem. And in our church, the pastor's wife and some of the elders were part of the problem...but that's another chapter.
Home church, as intimate as it can be, is not perfect, or without its faults. Sometimes we get to be pretty internal also. I am constantly trying to remind us that our ministry is Monday through Saturday and what we do on Sunday is merely a meeting to encourage and help strengthen each other. We're still growing, still learning, and still trying to "get it." This side of heaven, I doubt we ever will.

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