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Posts Tagged ‘house church’

Back in the day, freedom in Christ for a gentile meant “no circumcision required.” That was huge. But what about today? Unlike the first century, most of us are gentile believers. Are we demanding that new believers conform to a standard of our own devising?

Galatians 2:4
This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.

Jesus had made it pretty plain during his three year ministry that his primary focus was the Jews. Those who followed him initially understood that the long-awaited Messiah was turning their laws, their norms, and their world upside down. He was transforming their structures.

But the gentiles who accepted Christ were different. They weren’t really transforming what they believed before, they were walking away from it. Following Christ was making something new.

I have a friend who has been a Christian all of her life. Every time the doors were open, she would say, her family would be at church. They were committed, active, and devoted to Jesus and the work of the church. Most, if not all, of her friends were in the church. She understood evangelism as primarily the work of bringing others to faith in Christ and therefore into the body life a church. They had committees, choirs, youth groups, singles groups, fellowship suppers, and holiday traditions. The church folks were loving and friendly. Come into our life, follow us as we follow Christ.

There is nothing particularly wrong with this picture until someone doesn’t quite fit into the mold. Or when someone asks, “is this all there is?”

Was Jesus different on the days he went to the Temple from the days he spent with prostitutes and tax collectors? Did he say, don’t forget to go to Temple on Saturday so you can start following all the laws and rules?

When Paul taught the Galatians, the Corinthians, and all the others throughout Asia, the message was simple: Christ crucified for the sake of all sin and resurrected in power of the Holy Spirit. We are all covered by his act of sacrifice if we accept the Truth of who He is. We are free to be new, to be in relationship with God, to follow a new way, to witness to others about the power of this transformation.

The key to growth as a Christian is fellowship. There’s no doubt about that. But, is the institutional church still that venue? Is passing the peace or saying hello to one another during the obligatory greeting time fellowship? It’s pretty easy to attend a mega-church and greet ten to twenty people, but really, unless I make a leap and start attending a smaller venue, I could be home watching a tele-preacher.

There is nothing more wonderful than to share in the worship and faith of God with people you know. Isn’t that why we have celebrations at home and invite our families and friends? It’s more fun, it’s more meaningful.

Am I getting off the subject of freedom in Christ? Not really. In Paul’s day, the freedom included the breaking of the long-held tradition of circumcision. Perhaps the new freedom in today’s world is to transform what it means to participate in the Body of Christ.

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This should be a no-brainer. Of course I should practice hospitality . . . except when I haven’t mopped the floors or gone to the grocery store or finished that novel or walked the dog or put the dishes in the dishwasher. Oh yeah, clearly, I’ve missed the practice part.

Romans 12:13
Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

A quick definition of practice is “to repeat an action to improve.” And clearly, I need to improve. It’s not that I don’t love being around people. I do. But bringing them home seems to take more and more energy. It’s unfortunate that having people over has turned into the requisite dinner party or the gathering has to be for a clear purpose/event. Whatever happened to just getting together?

When Mike and I were newly married and living in Atlanta, there was rarely a Sunday that went by that one family or another wouldn’t invite us over for dinner after church, unplanned. They didn’t call us the week before or even the night before. It was on the moment, “Come share a meal with us.” And it wasn’t a special meal picked out for us because we were guests. We were just enveloped into family that day.

Hospitality is not just providing food, drink, and clean sheets for an overnight stay. It’s an invitation into who I really am. When I am hospitable, I am inviting the person to share in my “real.” I am opening a door to my private self. I am giving permission for the guest to know me.

Funny. I think about Jesus who didn’t have a place to invite people to visit. Instead, he made himself the guest in a variety of places and homes. He was giving them opportunity to know him in reverse. He was teaching them how to practice.

I understand why the first churches were house churches and why they are becoming such a phenomenon today. Home is one of the few safety nets most people still have. And if they don’t, they need one. Home: where the door swings wide and one enters into a wide embrace.

Practicing hospitality means practicing an open heart. Welcome is the first word toward koinonia.

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