Simple Churches… Are we going or still trying to get people to come to us?
This past weekend we had a great discussion about inviting people to our house for simple church meetings. Luke 10 is a great passage in which we find Jesus sending out the disciples in pairs to find persons of peace. He encourages them to stay in the homes of those who welcome the message and not to leave. Similarly, many today have seen God birth simple churches by finding persons of peace and seeking to plant simple churches that gather in their homes. But what about us inviting people to our home? Does inviting people into our homes go against the principles we see in Luke 10?
When I worked with the Fellowship of Chrsitian Athletes, the mere fact we were taking the good news into the public schools, helping students to have ministries inside the walls of there schools in many ways reflected a “going” strategy. At the heart of FCA was the desire to reach students where they were (public schools) and not wait for them to show up at church. Our efforts led to discovering many “schools of peace” who would invite us to come in and stay. Today in Kentucky, FCA has a presence in over 300 schools statewide. However, I also saw how FCA ministry could easily become a “come” strategy. Christian students could “huddle” up in their schools, set up shop in a classroom, locker-room, or around the flagpole, and primarily seek to invite people to come to their weekly meetings. What was initially a going approach quickly became primarily a come approach.
A similar dichotomy can happen in simple church. There is a sense in which if you start a simple church in your home that you are moving the church out of the building and bringing Jesus and His family to where people are—your neighborhood. You are “going!” Opening up your home for ministry and simple church gatherings does in a very real sense bring the Church into your community. Yet, if we are not careful, we too can go into our neighborhood, start a simple church gathering, then flip to a “come” strategy by doing nothing more than inviting people to come to our simple church meeting.
So what are we to do? I think this tension is resolved when we understand that Jesus wasn’t primarily about meetings or gatherings.
1. Jesus was primarily about relationships. Regardless of where we meet, we are a people who invest in people. We meet with them in our home and in their home and in the park and at work. We share our life with others and we share Christ with them. The meeting is secondary. Relationships were Jesus’ method (also discussed at the conference). Simple Church is about more than a meeting. The Great Commission imperative to “go” can be translated “as you are going make disciples.” Properly understood, this is talking about a lifestyle that makes disciples relationally with those we encounter as we go through life. Relationships were Jesus’ method (also discussed at the conference). Simple Church is about more than a meeting.
2. Help others to lead as often as possible. When we do meet, it may or may not make sense to meet in our home at first. Regardless, expect that Jesus will naturally reproduce His church. He is a going God so always be preparing others to go (or for the time that You “go” and they will need to lead apart from you). If we do that, then we would do well to make sure that we don’t always meet at our home but help others see God show up in their home, park, cafe, etc. We can help others learn that Jesus can show up and use them, their home, their dinner table, their backyard just as well as he can use ours. This is especially important if we have a really nice place because others can be tempted to think that their place is not good enough for the church to gather. I am convinced that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in the multiplication of local churches is the lie that “I am not good enough at ____ for God to use me to help birth a new church.” Sure it will be harder for some than others to welcome people into their home. However, being stretched and vulnerable with people is not a option for disciples. So when we gather in our home, we do everything with this in mind. The sooner we can empower others to host and bring the church gathering into their home the better as it will help resist the gravitational pull to become a “come” approach.
So by all means, I want to encourage everyone to not be afraid to open up their home to others for the purposes of being church together… but let’s not forget to keep these two principles in mind as we seek to be a people primarily living on the “go” with the Gospel!