“Going to church is the least scriptural 2 hours of my week!”
Yesterday was Mother’s Day! My three boys and I spent Sunday morning cooking mom a special lunch! We did not go to church. We did not go last week either. Actually we don’t go to church much any more…
To be more accurate, we did not leave “the church”, we just take a break from it Sunday mornings from 10 – Noon. In fact, we have church at home a lot, we just don’t tell our friends that!
Many people, though, wonder “Why don’t we go?” “What is our bone we are trying to pick…” It is a fair question and I want to give a partial answer here.
Maria often uses this line when expressing to others our “deficient” church attendance:
”Going to church is the least scriptural 2 hours of my week!”
We have had friends laugh right out loud when they hear that line for the first time. I think for many people there is an embarrassed laugh of confirmation going on inside their heads as well!
I shudder to even bring up the unscriptural examples of churches in ages past being led by professionals who were the “only ones” who could speak the Holy Language of Latin or more recently the huge, mega-churches where you are resigned to little more than watching the pastor on the JumboTron! We all must be aware of the legacy that these “professional – based clergy systems” have left behind and how it wrecks havoc on the church today.
Take a pulpit for example: try and find just one amongst the believers in the New Testament. You can’t! What about “taking communion”? We were supposed to have a “Love-feast” together, eating real food and drinking real drinks and then afterward share with each other the wine and the bread, “proclaiming His death until He comes!” We turned it into a solemn affair with a cracker and a sip of grape juice while looking at the back of someone’s heads. (1 Cor. 11)
We desperately need a church gathering that lets every member be a priest AND allows every member to function in their spiritual gifts. Isn’t that what the Bible teaches:
”What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation Let all things be done for edification.” 1 Cor. 14:26
We have been very active as laity in churches over the past 20 years, which included teaching, leading worship, teaching the kids, praying for others and the like. All this still misses the point because we were only operating in half (or less) of our real gifting AND (sadly) keeping an artificial substitute system alive for another day!
“Church-as-we-know-it” is not a real life environment but more of a “performance” driven one. Why do you think people in nearly every country on earth still “dress up” for Sundays?
This is why Maria’s quote is so spot-on! At home my wife is praying for her own kids, serving her neighbors, bending over backwards to be a blessing for her Day Care customers. Yet ONLY on Sundays is she asked to be a spectator. (After all, we are paying someone to “lead this thing” aren’t we…?) We have lived out this routine on three continents so don’t feel personally offended. We are not speaking to any “one church” in particular but pointing our fingers to “The CHURCH” in general.
We MUST have a dramatic shift in the gravitational pull of how we “do church” in the local church now so that we will be prepared and mature for the difficult days that are coming. (Matt. 24:12; 2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim. 4:1-3)
Size, dear people, does matter!
Our answer is the same as it has been for the past 10 years. House churches! That was the answer we saw in Tajikistan in 2000 and that is the answer we saw in Texas in 2005 and the answer we believe is right for Wisconsin in 2010.
In a smaller group that fits in our homes everyone can “have a psalm, have a teaching, have a revelation, have a tongue, have an interpretation” I like the phrase “maximum participation for maximum edification”! If it needs to get bigger because of new growth, then start ANOTHER house church.
The tragedy here (and it is almost universally so) is that folks start out dynamic and full of participation in homes and then they grow a bit “here and there” and soon enough they have lost the functioning of every member and have to add a pastor or two… add a better sound system or two… add a new building project or two…
In a smaller group that fits in our homes you can have a real “Love feast” and share real communion around the supper table! I don’t know about your family but we usually eat at home near the kitchen. Don’t forget that those early believers who gathered in their homes in Corinth were in such a festive setting that when they “went to church” they were (wrongly) getting drunk at the communion table! (1 Cor 11: 21-22)
In a smaller group that fits in our homes you don’t need professionals to lead you; its too small! You just need capable “working elders” who lead the flock and also are working in the community.
”Nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.” (2 Thess 3:8-9)
In a smaller group that fits in our homes there is built-in protection, privacy and safety. I can only shake my head when I read of “new churches” that meet at Starbucks or McDonald’s! I would rather have “tongues and interpretation” or casting out demons in the privacy of my own home rather than at Starbucks! Sometimes we are just too clever for our own good.
Every letter of the New Testament was written to a house church and its local network. This is the gospel truth. I dare anyone to challenge that. Paul said it straight-out:
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus… also greet the church that is in their house. (Romans 16: 3,5)
Paul wrote just one letter to the Romans but that one letter would be circulated through all the house churches in Rome – a city of nearly 1 million people! Yet when we read those letters we read them through the lens of professional-based (and building-based) clergy systems.
As far as my family goes, we do line up with the local church as needed. There are community wide events that we want to be involved with. There are times when we go to church to pray out missionaries or to pray for the missionaries that serve in foreign nations. My kids are all active in the youth group on Wednesdays.
Certainly we all agree that the body of Christ is “more than a meeting”, yet it seems that quite often we have left church hearing that same old refrain: “See you next Sunday…” (Translation: “See you at the next meeting”) For that matter, we have heard this refrain in house churches.
My fear is that we are trying to “play our best golf” on a swing that we learned in Grade School and are now left now with a horrendous slice which we can only try and compensate with yet more unorthodox motions. Maybe we should just get rid of “the ole Grade School swing” and start over…
Jesus wants nothing more than then best for His Bride!
Yours for the Name above all Names,
Jeff and Maria Gilbertson