We have been resistant to going fully into the organic/simple/house church thing. I have been very leery of leaping into something out of concern that I am doing so out of pride. My preference has been to try to work from within existing groups that are more open to asking the hard questions and changing where necessary. That is has unfortunately proven futile again and again, leading to frustration and often contention that is not healthy for anyone. Most local churches, like any entrenched organization, are very change averse and religious traditions have an even deeper hold on people than other groups. After our most recent experience, a pretty bitter disappointment although not a surprising turn of events at all, we find ourselves ready to take the plunge.
If you read here at all you will know that my study of Scripture has clearly left me desiring something very different from what our religious culture has to offer. All of the different denominations and movements offer slightly different versions of the same basic thing. We have tried a number of iterations of more traditional churches but none have really captured the spirit of what we see in the New Testament and further none have really seemed interested in going down that path. In every group we have tried there are barriers, places they would not go, traditions they would not challenge, entrenched interests that would not budge. This far and no farther seems to be the motto.
You might be reading this and thinking that I am just a perpetually discontent person who needs to quit searching and just settle. Actually as I type this I sort of feel the same! Perhaps this is just a personality flaw on my part. Regardless I feel like this is where we have been heading for a long time.
What are we going to do on Sundays? I am not sure. I don’t really have an order of service and that is kind of the point! I would expect that sharing a meal and breaking bread would be the centerpiece of the gathering. Maybe a study and discussion of the church from the New Testament to draw together the pieces. I suppose some singing and definitely prayer. Really wherever God leads. That sounds scary. What happens if no one has anything to say? That might happen but that is also OK. We have this almost pathological need to fill silence with something no matter what that filler is. It seems to me that sometimes silence is OK, the whole be still and know that I am God kind of silence. I wouldn’t even have a problem if the church gathered and nothing super religious went on, just spending time talking and praying together would be fine as long as the end result is that Christians are encouraged, loved, edified and equipped for the work of ministry.
Practically speaking, we have a number of outbuildings on our property including a pretty nice workshop that I think will be perfect for a gathering of the church. It is a decent size with a heater when it gets colder and good lighting. I can easily see 6-7 families able to gather together without much trouble. If God blesses this work and it grows past that, we simply will have meetings in two locations instead of one. I never intend for this to be “The Arthur Show” or for us to meet in the same place or the same way every single Sunday (or even for certain on Sunday at all!)
I really believe that there is a desperate need in our area for a simple church gathering that permits people the room to mature in Christ and that still maintains good relationships and cooperation with other more traditional groups. Our area has a lot of people that are very gun shy about organized religion having come out of the Amish or other heavily authoritarian religious groups, fundamentalist or legalistic or “conservative” backgrounds. We need a gathering where people from different backgrounds can come together without preconceived barriers and grow together in Christ. We have made a lot of contacts with other local churches and feel quite comfortable in reaching out to them as needed. I am not sure how receptive they will be but that really isn’t up to me.
In the final analysis, the main reason for making this move is that I just don’t see an alternative. I don’t believe I can be a part of perpetuating a system that I think is unbiblical and harmful to the Kingdom mandate but I also don’t believe God is calling us to be a force for division and conflict. Our best option in my estimation is to seek to work with other Christians from more traditional contexts in the work of evangelism and mercy ministries here locally wherever and whenever we can while gathering in a simpler context. I have no idea what this is going to look like. We might be sitting around in a couple of weeks by ourselves.
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