Small Meetings Won't Solve Everything
So, “community”? Nah. “Home church”? “House Church”? Nah. Body. “Ekklesia.” The Body of Christ, joined and knit together by every supporting ligament, contending as one man for the faith (Philippians 2:27). The hand not saying to the eye, “I have no need of you” (1Corinthians 12:21). THAT is God’s heart, and I think we know our Bibles well enough to know that’s God’s heart. And what we’re talking about is how to get there, rather than just read the verses about it.
How do you begin to live that way? That’s what we want to continue to press into, and what we have been pressing into for twenty years now. You can study about it, but that doesn’t mean you have it. You can study about chimpanzees and giraffes, but that doesn’t make you one. You can study about the church, but that doesn’t make you one. You can study about deep relationships, “Let’s have a study about having deep relationships,” but that’s very different than “having” deep relationships, where someone would die for you in a second and confess sins to you so that they might be healed as you pray for them. They’d bare their heart to you, and you would bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
You can study those verses and never bear anyone’s burdens or have them bear yours because there is too much space, distance, and fear. But God’s heart is that we’d be a family. If your wife is hurting on the inside, she will cry on your shoulder probably (or vice versa), because there is an intimacy of relationship. There are hundreds of people whose shoulder I can cry on, and they can cry on mine because we are a family that’s just like a child and a mother, or a father and a son, or a marriage, or a grandparent. There’s that sort of intimacy.
I don’t know if it is true here, but in America, when grandparents meet somebody, they’ll get out their purse or their wallet and show all the pictures of all the grandchildren. What if the church was that way and that was your heart with everyone you see and meet. You take out your wallet and show the pictures of all the people that are so close to you, and you love them just as much as you love a grandchild. “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). A hundred mothers, brothers, sisters, grandchildren, that’s how close He wants us to be. Not just a “committed nucleus” in a church, but “From the least to the greatest, they all know Me” (Hebrews 8:11). That’s the prophecy that God wants fulfilled inHis church.
Most people, when they think of “home church,” think of taking a great big thing and breaking it into small parts and reproducing all these small things that are just like the big thing, except that the teaching and singing are probably not as good. And exactly what did we benefit from having a great big thing broken into a bunch of little parts? “Well, more people get to contribute.” Well, maybe they do and maybe they don’t. Just because you break it into smaller parts doesn’t mean you’ll have more intimate relationships. That’s a whole different topic. I don’t bare my life to you just because I’m sitting in a house instead of in a religious facility. There’s something that has to happen to me on the inside for me to be willing to open up my heart to people, and them to me, and to stay up until four in the morning, bearing their burdens as they bear mine.
So, our goal is bigger than “home church.” Our goal is Life. The Life of Christ together is our goal, instead of just small meetings to attend rather than big meetings. The little meetings can help, but they don’t solve the problem, really. And that’s been proven around the world. I think the “home church movement” is just beginning here, but there are other countries that have been trying for ten or fifteen years. We go back more than twenty years, but we never tried to have a “home church.” Our desire was to have the Life of Christ daily, where you’re a part of me, and I’m a part of you. And in the end you get something that people would say is a cutting edge “house church” or “home church.” But that was never our goal.
Our goal was that you would help me grow to be like Jesus, and I would help you to be like Jesus. And we’d do that in every area of our lives, every day, as the Spirit leads and as the Spirit gifts. You might have the gift of shepherd, and I might have the gift of encouragement, and he might have the gift of teacher, and he might have a different gift. We need each other every day. We don’t need each other just on Sunday. I need the gift of teaching when I’m having a hard time raising my children, not on Sunday morning when I’m attending something that is separate from me. I need someone to step inside and help me bring order to my home from inside my home, not a theory that comes to me on an overhead projector or a video slideshow or a sermon or a cassette tape.
I need somebody to see my son’s eyes. Maybe my son doesn’t love me and respect me, and maybe that’s my fault because I’ve been selfish with him and shut him out. I need someone to teach me how to fix my relationship with my child. My son is 26 now—a very Godly friend and brother of mine—but it was a process involving a lot of brothers and sisters. I’ve seen Ananias and Sapphira put out of the church. I’ve seen Priscilla and Aquilla and Titus and Timothy in my home every day helping raise my children, and I’ve been in their homes helping them raise theirs. Now, is that home church? Breaking into small meetings? Not really, no. You can see the similarities, but what we want to do is go way past that.
In ten years of just breaking into small meetings in other countries, they’ll all tell you the same thing: they want to go back to the big thing. Ten years later they want to go back to the big thing because the teaching is better, the singing is better, and they’re safer because there’s too much chaos and too many problems in these small meetings. There are people who are bullying, people who are selfish, people who are arrogant, and people who don’t know their Bibles but have big ol’ strong opinions. There’s chaos, and they don’t want it anymore. Ten years later in the home church movement around the world, people want to go back to the big meetings because there’s good teaching, good preaching, and it’s safe. All of a sudden, the little people with all kinds of strong opinions that don’t even really love God, they just love meetings, are quiet again. Finally.
So, if you want to duplicate big meetings into small places, you’re probably going to end up with a lot of heartache. If ten years and many countries are an indicator, you’re probably not going to like how that turns out. If, on the other hand, what you want is the Life of Jesus every day in every single member’s life, where your lives and gifts are totally intertwined, then you’re on the right track. I think you’ll see some wonderful fruit twenty years from now, or even two years from now.
So part of this thing is: what do we really want? Do we want to know how to have an administrative small meeting, break down into programs, and have small meetings instead of big ones so more people can participate? Do we want to have fancier meetings with more people participating? Or do we all want to grow more in the image and likeness and the grace and the favor of God? Do we want to watch our children grow to be Godly men and women, watch our marriages healed and stronger, and watch people become more and more in love with Jesus every day? What do we really want out of this? The price you pay is like the price of the Pearl. What I’m talking about is going to cost you everything. If you want a small meeting, you can get that for a discount. It’s not very expensive; it’s just a gimmick. But if you want the Pearl of Jesus’ Life in every family, from the least to the greatest—the Pearl of intertwined lives where the hand says to the eye, “I have NEED of you on Tuesday, on Wednesday, on Thursday, on Friday”—well, that will cost us all everything, like the Pearl of Great Price.
So, here’s the more difficult choice. “How do you get there?” That’s a very big question. A bigger question is, “Are you willing to pay the price for the Pearl?” because that’s the real issue.