Living on a Radioactive Dump
Could I offer a thought based on what you were just referring to? Someone mentioned that in Saudi Arabia—because of persecution—there was a need to simplify, a need to draw close together and have what we would call “home church.” There’s another kind of persecution that’s true here and in the United States, or in any other place, and that is the persecution of satan. I would suggest that there is just as much reason to do an organic church anywhere. We’ll call it organic church or Life oriented church rather than attendance oriented.
Suppose you had four children at home, and you lived in a neighborhood where your children were getting beat up by the neighbors every day. If your children were getting beat up, cut, threatened and insulted, you might consider moving to a safer place, wouldn’t you?
What if your house was on top of a radioactive dump, and your children started getting sick. What if they got cuts that wouldn’t heal and runny noses and fevers that never got better. You’re looking at your children, and they just aren’t healthy. They don’t grow to full height. They are lying in bed and sick all the time. Then one day you realize it is because your house is sitting on a radioactive garbage dump! What would you do? You would move!
In one case, the children are persecuted by the neighbors and you know you can’t live this way any longer because your children’s health is in danger. Their lives are in danger. In the other case, the persecution comes because of the “radioactive nature” of the garbage dump that you live on. Your children are being hurt and killed because of where you live and how you live. But, in both cases you have to do something. As a good parent, you have to make a radical change.
In Saudi Arabia, if you are a follower of Jesus (and many countries are like this), there is persecution, like the bullies from the neighborhood, where you really need to be a Family together. You draw close, and you open your hearts to each other. It’s not based on going to a big building on Sunday. There’s something quieter that is more like a family relationship. Your hearts belong to Jesus, but how you express that is in a more organic way, as a family, in relationships with one another. It is not about attending a big meeting, ringing a bell, and going through rituals. There’s something deeper. Because of the bullies in Saudi Arabia, there was a need for what you call a “house church.”
But the reality is that in what we’ll call an “attendance-based religion,” where everyone goes and listens to a sermon and then goes off to their lives and lives any way they want until the next time they come together in a big building, it is like living on a radioactive waste dump. A lot of the teenagers end up living for the world. Marriages are broken. Men in the business world live selfishly or pridefully. Some are involved in pornography, and their lives are spread out all over the place. Then they go and attend something.
I used to be the “pastor” of a fast growing church where I preached on Sunday, and we all attended. And, like all of you, there was a wrestling inside. Over twenty years ago, I had this wrestling because I saw that it didn’t matter how good I preached, we were still losing many teens to the world and the marriages weren’t necessarily strong. I could preach a whole series of sermons on marriage and yet many of the marriages were having way too many difficulties. The men in the business world would go on business trips and watch things on television they shouldn’t. Their hearts were mixed, and they were filled with sin and temptation.
I began to see that the church in the Bible was not ever about attending a certain place on Sunday morning. It wasn’t about listening to a sermon or a speech and having programs through the week, no matter how good the speeches were—and I thought mine were pretty good! : ) I preached about repentance. I didn’t just throw cheap milk at people, and I definitely taught deep truths of God. I taught about serious discipleship and following God. There were a number of people who learned to love God with all their hearts, but there was still a lot of mixture in this Sunday morning thing.
It broke my heart because I couldn’t do enough programs or preach enough sermons or have enough Bible studies to change that mixture, and I knew that wasn’t how it was supposed to be. This was, again, over twenty years ago, before the home church movement even really existed. Nobody even knew what that movement was. It occurred to me that maybe we need to build around relationships. In the New Testament, when 3,000 people were converted, they had no experience with what church was. But as soon as they were converted, no one counted their possessions as their own. They were all together, and they counted their lives as totally one and intertwined (Acts 2:42-47).