Showing posts with label house. Show all posts
Showing posts with label house. Show all posts

13 January 2013

Meet in houses

Choudhrie's steps, Part 2 of 21
< Clergy and laity | Series index | Small and informal >

For the second step in transforming church life, Victor Choudhrie urges us to meet in a different place. Instead of 'temples made by human hands' he recommends 'houses of peace'. What does he mean by this? How do we find 'houses of peace'?

Is there a house of peace here?This is Victor Choudhrie's second step for transforming the life of the church.

Move from meeting in temples to gathering in 'houses of peace'. 'God does not dwell in temples made by human hands'; rather He dwells in human hearts. For we are the mobile walking and talking temples of the living God, with a maximum of organism and a minimum of organization. Luke 10:5-9; Matthew 10:11-13; Acts 7:48-49; 2 Corinthians 6:16


As with step 1 there's a lot to digest. Once again, step 2 assumes the reader is part of a typical western church. We are comfortable with the idea of meeting as a large group in a spacious building, But Victor Choudhrie challenges us to read the New Testament with fresh eyes and open minds and calls us to meet somewhere entirely different. Let's unpack this a little.

Temple or house of peace? - Are we 'dwell[ing] in temples made by human hands'? Surely not! The Temple was in Jerusalem, not here in my town. Why does he say we are meeting in 'temples'?

What is the essence of a temple? It's a special place where people come to worship their chosen god. Is that what we do on a Sunday morning? Well, yes, in a way it is exactly what we do. We all know that the place where we meet is not special, yet we treat it reverentially. Or, if we hire a building once a week, although the building is ordinary we regard the gathering itself to be special in some way.

And what is a 'house of peace'? Reading the Luke and Matthew passages it's clear that travelling is involved here. When we arrive in a new place we're to search for a home where we will be made welcome. So rather than meeting in a special place, we might consider meeting in any home that will welcome us. That implies smaller numbers (200 people won't fit in a typical house) and it implies lack of organisation (no worship band, no pulpit, no rows of seats).

There are at least two ways of looking at this.

Mission or community? - The first one involves going out to find people of peace, spending time with them sharing the good news of Jesus, asking them to gather their close friends and family in their home, coaching them to lead the new house church so created and teaching them to repeat the process themselves. That's one view. This is what the disciples and early church did. Meeting as part of a small community in a home means you are part of a network of such meetings and actively planting out new ones.

The second way of looking at it is that the small meeting at home is a family, a stable group of people that love and care for one another, help one another out, build one another up, and encourage one another.

In practice, most home-based churches will have elements of both viral spread and family group. The proportion of the mix depends on environment. Where there is a large harvest in the local area the missional aspect may be the major one, where there are already many believers, the community aspect may the most widely expressed.

This second step requires additional, fundamental change of a most demanding kind. In the first step we lost our leaders, now we are losing our building!

How many conventional churches would be willing to take such a major and seemingly foolhardy step? Perhaps not many. And what sort church would do so? Perhaps the answer to that is one who's members are looking to follow Jesus closely and are paying attention to what he says.

Releasing resources - How much money and time does it take to manage church in 'temple' mode? Add up the cost of a building, either rented weekly or purchased outright, and the expenses involved in staff salaries, office space and equipment, lighting, heating and other running costs and the annual bill for just one church is very large. Now factor in the time people spend supporting all of this church infrastructure. The time and money absorbed by non-essential activities is immense.

Now multiply that by the number of churches (over a dozen in St Neots where I live) and you can begin to comprehend the resources that would be released if we all met in homes. Most of those resources could be used to support mission work, to help one another, and meet everyday needs in the community.

It's not that conventional churches don't spend time and money on the community or on mission, some make considerable efforts in that regard. But how much more could we do?

And here's the main point. How often do we stop and ask the Spirit of Christ to guide us in these things? If we asked him, what would he say to us? Would he command us, 'Go and make bricks and build a physical structure for me'? Probably not, that's what Pharaoh commanded the Israelites.

No, he is much more inclined to tell his people, 'Go in my name and feed the hungry, heal the sick, share the good news, look for the house of peace and the person of peace and allow me to build my church there, a body made of living stones'.

Probable responses - How will traditional churches receive the suggestion to move out of a 'temple' and into 'houses of peace'? As with step one there are three possibilities.
  1. Some may reject the step out of hand because it goes against church tradition and destroys what we have been accustomed to. Many may feel it's an unsafe and unwise move, a step into the unknown.
  2. Others may try to adjust what they already have. For example, they may stress the value of home groups and reduce the importance of the Sunday service in a large, central location. This meeting may become a celebration held once every month or two.
  3. And some might take hold of step two enthusiastically, replacing the main location altogether and focussing all their resources on growing healthy gatherings in homes.

Questions:
  • What arguments do you foresee being used to retain the use of a large meeting place?
  • Small and large meetings both have advantages and disadvantages, how many you can list?
  • What does Choudhrie mean by a 'maximum of organism and minimum of organisation'?

See also:


< Clergy and laity | Series index | Small and informal >

18 October 2011

THOUGHT - Making things new

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What does Haggai have to tell us about church life today? Do we need to carefully consider what we are doing?

Stones from the Temple Mount in JerusalemFelicity Dale posted an article recently in which she explains how she and Tony were prompted to look at a passage from Haggai.

She writes...
We remember the days when, back in England, God's presence was almost tangible when we came together. Sometimes we were unable to stand in his presence. There were healings and miracles. We never dared go into his presence with unconfessed sin, because we knew that the Holy Spirit would reveal it publicly. This was not a manufactured glamor and glitz, but the presence of God--his glory-- among his people.
I remember those days too, so do some of my other friends near and far. We still have meetings like that sometimes. But it doesn't happen often, certainly not every time we meet as it did in the late 1970s.

Felicity continues...
For a while now, Tony and I have been praying that God would fill these new wineskins of simple/organic churches, with his new wine, his presence. We've been praying for our situation that whatever we touch would bring the presence of Jesus with it--whether that's our business, our home or our gatherings.

What does it mean for us to build God's house? For his house to be more important than anything we're doing ourselves? (This is not a theological statement: I know that Jesus is the one who builds his church.)

I sense Jesus saying to us, 'It's time to let me do what I want to do amongst you. Stop getting in my way.' The book of Haggai has a great deal to tell us (so do many other passages, for example the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel and the people of Israel in the desert in Exodus).

Haggai spoke out the word he received. 'Yahweh Elohim says, "Give careful thought to your ways"' .(Haggai 1:7)  We, too, need to give careful thought to our ways. Jesus was quite clear that he is the builder and we are the stones. (Matthew 16:16-18) Notice that he also says where his house will be built - on the rock. The Temple in Jerusalem was built on a particular rock, the one on which Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, the one where the lamb was caught in a bush. The rock is still there, the Temple is not.

So the knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah is the Rock on which the new house will be built. Let's begin to take the stones to Jesus so that he can get on with the building. We must carry the stones to the Rock.

As long as I build my own house instead of allowing Jesus to build me into his house, water and bread will be withheld. (Haggai 1:9-10) Has our Father had us on a diet? Yes, I rather think he has! We've been on a spiritual diet for years, even decades. The Living Water and the Bread of Life are Jesus. He himself is Water welling up within us, he is the Bread that sustains us. He reminded the evil one in the wilderness that 'man doesn't live on bread only but on every word that comes from Elohim's mouth'. Jesus himself is the real Bread, he is also the Word.

What is 'my own house' that I am always so ready to build? I think it can be many things. It can be a denomination, or a meeting place, or a tradition - but might it also be house church, a home, or my blog? Dare we ask ourselves the hard question? What is my house? Will I give that thing up so that Jesus can use me as a part of his house?

It's not for me to tell you what your house is; it's for each of us to work out for ourselves. Give careful thought to your ways! If we listen and hear and are obedient, those amazing times of his presence amongst his people will return. You'd better believe it!

Here are three more passages to send you on your way, what do they say to you?

'Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.' (Acts 14:11-17)

'See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.' (Isaiah 43:18-20)

'You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new.' (Leviticus 26:9-11)

See also: Who's house am I building? - Building the church - House and garden

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26 October 2010

Corby and Little Paxton - Helping the move

This evening, instead of our usual meeting, Sean and I helped Jim, Pam and their daughter Beth with a house move.

BarmbrackJim and Pam's oldest daughter and her partner were leaving their flat in Corby and moving to a house in Eynesbury (a district of St Neots). The house is not yet ready so for a few weeks they'll be living with Jim and Pam in Little Paxton.

We travelled to the flat in Jim's car and spent the first part of the evening cleaning the flat, packing items into boxes, and loading them into cars for the trip to Little Paxton. After the drive home we stacked the boxes in Jim and Pam's lounge turning part of it into a temporary store room! And then it was time for a cup of tea and a lovely slice of barmbrack with butter.

It's good to do practical things together, this is church life too.

13 June 2006

Rugby - House and garden

< 7th June 2006 | Index | 21st June 2006 >

We talked for a while about houses, partly because the roof next door is still being built and we could see it through the window. Chris wondered what sort of house is implied by the Greek word translated 'mansion' in the New testament (Jn 14:2 - in my Father's house are many mansions). To us it sounds like a rather grand home, almost a small palace, but it seems it might just be a word for a room within a house.

A dilapidated buildingRachael immediately said, 'Funny you should mention that...' She explained that she'd had a dream in the last few days in which she was inside a dilapidated house. Some of the tiles were missing from the roof and the window frames were rotten. She said to Father, 'Shall I repair this house and make it usable again?' But he said to her, 'No. This is man's house and it has to fall down before things can move forward. Look! Where the tiles are missing you can see the blue sky - and that is mine.'

Chris thought that the dream referred to the Church, which men and women keep trying to build but which may get in the way of what the Almighty is trying to do.

In the gardenJohn explained that for him it spoke of an individual's life, that we can indeed construct it by our own efforts, but that what we really need is for him to make our lives the way he wants them to be.

Something else that came out in conversation was that a house in good condition prevents us from sensing the natural world outside, but once we stop repairing the house it begins to deteriorate, slowly at first but then faster and faster as the weather gets inside. Once tiles are missing from the roof the rain brings down ceilings and the timbers start to decay, and in just a few years the house can go from essentially usable to a complete ruin. We were not created to live in houses, we were created to live in the Garden and walk with Yahweh. He wants to bring down the shelters we have made and restore to us that simple, trusting life with him in the Garden.

< 7th June 2006 | Index | 21st June 2006 >

14 October 2004

Eaton Ford - Umbrella and prism

< 22nd September 2004 | Index | 1st November 2004 >

More than anything this evening was an evening of pictures. Father showed us so many, and all of them revealed something about his nature and our relationship with him.

An umbrella

Rachael explained how she'd been thinking about staying under Father's protection. When you drive a car in a really heavy rainstorm and you pass under a bridge, for a fleeting moment the deluge stops. It's not good enough to dash under his protection and then immediately rush out again, we need to stay there. The idea of an umbrella is different. Armed with a good brolly we can be under protection but also have the freedom to move around. But the principle is the same - we need to be where we will be protected, not somewhere else!

With the umbrella we are free to go with the wind. Under his protection we can be dancing and free because the umbrella travels with us - everywhere.

A prism and spectrumThe Holy Spirit also showed us something very special about dwelling in our Father's house. His house is not some wonderful and precious palace which can only be used with great care and is unsuitable for children. No! His house is really and truly our home. We're comfortable there, and we belong there. A good home is much more than a roof and an address, and it's much more practical then any palace. A good home is warm, and welcoming, a place to bring friends, a place where we feel 'at home'! That should not be a surprise to us.

In a related thought, Val shared something special about our Father's embrace. We can (and should) rest in his embrace. Now that's not a quick hug for just half a second. It is instead something that we really do 'rest' in. We feel a hug like that, and we know that we're being hugged, and we are not shooed away but we can stay in that place of love for as long as we need or want.

Yet another picture was of a meadow. Father said to us that our life with him is like being in a beautiful meadow, full of flowers, with the sound of birds singing. He is there, sitting in the meadow, and we are always free to go to him for reassurance, for food and drink, and for comfort and mending if we have fallen over. Val took this idea further, pointing out that he doesn't just sit in the meadow. He's also interested in us and in everything we do and he comes to look and shows us things. 'Look over here', he says to us, 'Have you seen this?'

And finally, in this evening of images, we considered something optical. We were given the idea of a glass prism with a beam of white light passing through it. The light is broken into all its many brilliant colours. Red light has the least energy of all the colours and is bent the most. Violet light is bent the least with the other colours spread out between the two. It seemed he was saying we are like the different colours. Some of us are close to him and are redirected by him, others perhaps don't hear him so clearly and are moved less. But the amazing thing about a prism is that it also works in reverse! If you send in all the colours of light, each one at just the right angle, they all combine to make a beam of bright, pure, white light.

So although we're all different (like the colours of light), through the prism of his love we all meet in him. We all reflect different aspects of him, but together we can begin to reveal him. Praise him! He is love and he is here amongst his people. He is here in his people!

< 22nd September 2004 | Index | 1st November 2004 >

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