“In every place of worship, I want people to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.” -1 Timothy 2:8 (NLT)
In my last post, I discussed some of my frustration with church as I see it happening today. This post will hopefully lay a framework for a ‘model’ of church that I have been working on for some time.
It is my belief that the basis of church should be community (koinonia) with each other; the unifying factor being communion with God. I have been doing a lot of thinking about how to foster community, and think that meals are often bonding points for people. The first communion was done as a meal. I think it would be awesome to have people gather at a house, eating a meal that they prepared together. This would be something that communion could be built into; as well as discussion on theology, life, and any other topic that can be though of! Everyone eats at the table, causing everyone to be at the same level. After the meal, worship/teaching/prayer/video-games/laughter can ensue as the spirit leads.
The questions stemming from the above paragraph are easy to think of:
What form of worship do we use? Do we use liturgy? Experiential worship? Music? Hiking?
What theology do we teach?
While on the surface these appear to be good questions, I think that they miss the point. When we limit church to one theology and one expression of worship, we limit the number of people that feel comfortable and compelled to worship with us. In other words, why can we not appreciate the beauty in all theological traditions and worship expressions? As I stated above, community and communion with God is what really matters. Our choice of church should not be dependent on if a church does hymns or a more modern style of worship. Our choice of church probably shouldn’t even be dependent on a church’s adherence to Calvinism or Arminianism. Our choice of Church should be dependent on if a community is genuinely dedicating hearts and minds to God; and loving others, both inside and outside the church. These are the two great standards that we are called to as Christians, everything else comes after. Honestly, I think that having more than one perspective on theological issues within a church helps build critical thinking and community, so long as dissent is handled with respect and does not become the focus of church. See, it is my firm belief that if we encourage dissent in a healthy manner, that it will come to the front and dissipate through discussion and the realization that God is bigger than any of our theologies. When churches push dissent under the radar, it merely encourages gossip, and works to fracture communities along lines that were never meant to be drawn.
Obviously this will be hard. A community like this naturally requires tolerance and open-minds. But if done correctly, I think that it can truly live into the spirit of 1st Timothy 2:8, where people are lifting hands to God and staying free of controversy that so often leads to anger. When we start to free ourselves from a single doctrine/discipline/tradition, we then give ourselves the opportunity to embrace God freely and fully, without all the anger that often comes along with buried dissent towards said traditions!
Another problem with house churches that I have had is how to find an effective model for growth without ‘institutionalizing.’ See, if a house church is successful, it will often grow. Houses are only so big, so this usually pushes the church to gather funds and rent/purchase a larger meeting space. I have a different proposal. As the church reaches a point in which it is becoming too large for the homes that are hosting it, somebody else in the church can begin to host on a different night! Members of the first seed of the church can hop on board with the new host(s) if they wish. People can then choose to attend one seed, the other, or both! In this way, the community is loosely maintained, as some people will choose to attend more than one seed. The growth problem is mitigated though, as many people will have other things going on throughout the week, and choose the seed that best fits their schedule. Both seeds will have full autonomy from one another, free to work as the spirit leads them, and yet they will be intimately connected by the members that choose to invest time into both. Meeting times can be co-ordinated via social networking tools. This can be continued ad infinitum, for as long as the church keeps growing. Also, this model makes the church available more and more as it grows; without sacrificing community. Church should be something easy to go to, but at the same time it should require more than a once-a-week investment of time. If we make the church available in more times and places, people will start investing in more times and places.
People have different spiritual gifts (teaching, organizing, pastoring, hosting, worship leading in all forms, etc) and will naturally pop up in the different seeds of the overall Church. Instead of having 10 percent of people in the churches (vocational pastors+a few very generous volunteers) doing 90 percent of the work (the way that it is in most churches), we can move towards everyone contributing as they can and taking what they need. This eliminates the need for paid vocational ministers (though certainly not the need for well read people in the scriptures!) and thus eliminates the other huge part of most church budgets (the first being a building). With all but the smallest expenditures being eliminated, the church really doesn’t have a need for collecting/holding any funds or seeking 401c (tax-exempt) status. Seeds can contribute money as they see fit to members in need, as the church does today; but this also frees up a huge sum of money to be spend on those outside the church (homeless ministry, etc). Rather than spending 1-5 percent of resources on those outside the church, we can move to spending 95-100 percent of resources on those most in need!
There are so many other ideas that I have about doing church this way; the only problem is that it would fill an entire book! I want to know what you guys think about this, and I would love to hear from anyone who is interested in starting something like this with me! Prayers are always good as well. Thanks for sticking it out to the end of this post, I know it was a long one! Go in peace.