Over the last two posts, I have shared some of my experiences on my recent trip to meet Kazakhstani and Italian house and simple church leaders. Over the next few posts, I would like to some take-a-ways that I hope will continue to impact my life and those of us here at home.
Church As a “Way of Life”
On this trip, I was affirmed and encouraged by a key truth that I often repeat: being the Church is a way of life, not a meeting or a service.
In my humble opinion, decentralization will be a common feature of the Church in the years to come. This cannot happen quickly enough in Kazakhstan where it seems that “house church” often can still be dependent on professional ministers and programs for training. We know that in many places where persecution is present, the Church is thriving. This requires faith and courage, and also a belief that every disciple is a minister–where Church is a way of life, not a meeting to attend.
In Italy, I witnessed John and Betsy, who did not start a simple church as a result of a strategy, living the Christian life in such a way that church was simple–more simple than even “house church.” I observed their flexibility and fluidity making church truly a way of life. I witnessed them going out of their way to make sure that they are not viewed as the leader and thus the centerpiece of their community. Instead, they lift up Jesus as Master, and at the same time, they do not shrink back from using their gift of servant-leadership.
I think that many of us struggle to figure this out. What we pass as servant leadership is really more authoritarian that we realize, and thus we end up creating dependency. I am not implying that John and Betsy have figured out how to balance this perfectly (or that I have), but I do believe that what the Church needs is more leaders who are leading in a relational way that encourages dependency on Jesus as Head of the Church without those of us who are “great leaders” getting in His way.
In Italy, I think this example of Church is sorely needed. Obviously Catholicism is everywhere in Italy. In addition, the influx of Muslim immigrants is a pressing issue in society. Both of these religious mindsets involve a top-down religious structure. The church as a family with Jesus as “top” will continue to be a breath of fresh air to many immigrants and locals. This is happening through John and Betsy’s community and I pray it can happen more and more here as well.
Next Post: Part 4 – Intentionality