Doing Church

One of the more interesting questions my wife and I get these days is “so, where do you go to church?”. This question is especially interesting when the person asking knows the depth of commitment we have to Christ and many expect the pat answer of “we attend such and such Baptist or Presbyterian” or, at the very least, “we are still ‘shopping'”1

Instead, our answer is that we attend a simple church2 which meets in the homes of the various participants. Since many people are unfamiliar with any ecclesiology outside  of one which confuses a building with an organization and programs with the church, the response we often get is probably the same as if we were to say that we participated in some bizarre cult3.

The truth, however, is that we’ve been meeting with a group of around 15-20 other believers for the past few months and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Even though our children often pose a difficulty in terms of logistics, we’ve found the common fears and objections most often raised against house churches to be completely vacant, at least in the one we are currently blessed to be a part of.

I suppose if these people were to overcome their initial shock, and I’m sure many who have known us in the past would like to know, they would ask the obvious follow-up question of “what’s wrong with a normal church?” with the obvious implication that we had somehow left the church.

To be fair, we have had some bad experiences with churches in the past. And to be honest, these experiences have made it very difficult for me (in particular) to be comfortable with the idea of attending any church, institutional or otherwise, ever again.

For the longest time I thought the problem lie with me, especially since it was my questions and quest for honest community and answers that ended up driving large, immovable, and painful wedges4 between us and people we had known and loved for years.

Then, as if by a miracle, I met a series of people who shared with me their similar (and often times much worse) experiences and showed me their battle scars. They let me know that I am not alone5. Lest you think they were merely bitter and resentful I hasten to add that it was through their love and friendship I also learned the true definition of community and family.

It was actually one of these dear brothers (a youth minister, no less) who suggested that I read Pagan Christianity, an blistering expose of the pagan practices that have crept into Christianity throughout the years and the profound impact they have had. Undoubtedly it was this book that helped me decide to, along with my loving (and trusting) family, but it wasn’t the only thing that helped me make this decision to, at least for the time being, leave the institutional church. Much of Francis Schaeffer‘s work, especially what I’ve read about L’Abri, along with his son-in-law and current L’Abri president Udo Middleman’s book “The Market Driven Church”, along with a host of simple inconstancies such as the abject disdain I’ve experienced from many churches when it comes to thoughtful and rigorous discussion and study6

So, we are “doing church” differently now.

We’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t need the elaborate buildings and religious trappings to grow close to Christ and His bride (which is the true Church). We’re not encouraging a mass exodus from the institutional churches many people are still members of but we also don’t think such a mass exodus would be such a bad thing either.

  1. How this phrase ever came about I’ll never know. []
  2. Also known as house church, micro church, etc. []
  3. Unlike the commonly accepted cults like the Jehoviah’s Witnesses and Mormons []
  4. Many which I still feel the stinging pain of today []
  5. And judging from the number of people who are leaving churches all across our land I am inclined to point out that my experience and conclusions are far from unique. In fact, it seems that the old mantra “Jesus, yes; the church, no” is coming back in vogue for another season. []
  6. Though most churches ironically encourage their members to read their Bibles, most sadly don’t actually intend for their members to actually comprehend and grow from what they read. []

2 responses to “Doing Church

  1. Interesting thoughts! My passion right now is for the church not to just DO church but to BE the church. Church is NOT something we do or something that we attend. We are the church – that is Christians. For me, whether the church meets in homes, restaurants, bought buildings, whatever is not the issue. The issue is: how are we being the bride of Christ .

  2. I pastor a church in the New Orleans area and have had my views of 'church' radically altered through a post-Katrina landscape. My primary awakening came through seeing that we were not actively seeking to help those in need (prior to the storm). Why did we wait till THIS to act?
    And I saw many mainline pastors acting like money-grubbing fools and lamenting the fact that they could not, as one SBC pastor actually said to me, "get back to business as usual." I was deeply saddened. And many pastors left town seeking more gainful 'employment' and better surroundings. These things made me sick.
    Recently, we realized that we wanted to change our weekly study and get more out there instead of being in our building all the time and as a result we've begun to set up four local bible / book discussion/study groups. Since Katrina we've had folks living in our church building as well, so it was funny when you mentioned about L'Abri since we love that approach to life. Currently, we have eight people living at the church's property. We are debt free and have built a 1200 sq ft building next to the existing 5000 sq ft building to be used exclusively for showers, washing clothes, handing food and clothing and connecting the impoverished and disadvantaged with community resources.
    Our congregation is less than 50 and through hosting hundreds of church members in a few years we've been able to meet and minister to over 2,000 families and individuals in our area. God amazes us.
    Just wanted to share what's going on with us here and ask you to pray for us as we weed through this. We don't see what we are doing as 'new', but rather an attempt to simply to basics for the sake of better discipleship.

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