Saturday, April 25, 2009

Reimagining the Gathering Place

Alright folks, sorry, I have been away mentally, and unable to concentrate on this study, but if i wait until I'm mentally with it, we may be waiting a long time, so lets plow ahead forward.

There are two basic church locations and set ups today, in a "church building," which i will refer to as a basilica (and that includes houses converted into basilicas) and in someones home.

In the New Testament its clear that church meetings were held in peoples homes, and when there were too many to fit in the home, they multiplied and had two meetings in two different homes. And this trend continued from Jesus, to the apostles, to the early church for 300 years. That's a long time. But for what reasons? Frank will tell us...for at least these five reasons...

1. The home testifies that the people comprise Gods house...

Like the Old Testament Judaism concept of the Temple being the house of God, we see today people calling a church building the 'house of God'. But the early Christians understood well that Gods presence resides in the community of God, in the people, not a particular building or object. So then, there is so sanctity placed on a building, or a "sanctuary" in the building. The people is where its at!

Nor is a building even qualified to be called a church...what a miscommunication we are sending to the general public. The church is the people, not the building.

2. The Home is the natural setting for 'One-Anothering'...

The activities that are described for us in the New Testament that a church should be partaking in is best suited for a small group sitting together in a circle, Mutual participation, exercising the gifts of the spirit, fostering intentional, face-to-face community, eating the communal meal, fostering mutual love and edification for one another, interactive sharing, and the shared life of the Holy Spirit, affirming one another, etc, etc. These are all made possible by the unique setting of a small group of people sitting in a circle together.

3. The home represents the humility of Christ...

"Humility, naturalness and pure-simplicity," are values the early church held that a home represented well (as opposed to the basilica setting).

Also, as Viola points out, Christians in America put between $9 and $11 Billion into church buildings every year! I don't know all the numbers, but I do know that there are higher priorities for our money in this world today. Take, for example, the 30,000+ children dying everyday as a result of a lack of food. Or the thousands of even just Americans that struggle to have adequate health care. Or the pregnant teenager who would keep her baby if the church would put their money where their mouth is and help this young lady raise her child. Or simply helping Bob next door (who, by the way, hates the church) pay his gas bill so he and his family can be warm. And literally hundreds of thousands more important needs that exist today, all of which could be seriously addressed by the Church if we weren't burning our money on building and maintaining 'church' structures.

4. The Home reflects the Family Nature of the Church

If anyone has ever had a family gathering before at a church building or rental hall (as i experience on some thanksgivings), you probably have noticed the inorganic detached feel of it all. It just doesn't feel right.

Basilica churches are designed (well) to create a passive group of people who all look towards and receive from one person in the front. Also the front pulpit area is often raised in order to reinforce the idea of a division between the clergy and the laity.

Needless to say, this does not reinforce the new testament model of church which encourages mutual participation, interactive talks, etc. The home setting does just that. Just like a family.

In addition to that, its easy to see how in a basilica, one can easily hide away and never be noticed, but this is nearly impossible to do in the home setting....and that's a good thing.

5. the Home Models Spiritual Authenticity

The basilica model of church fosters a (false) division between the sacred and the secular. No such division exists in the New Testament, or in reality. The church gathering is not a sacred event which would call for dressing up and putting on your "spiritual" demeanor. Life is sacred. Life is spiritual. The home setting for the gathering helps us to connect the spiritual with the everyday life. Its all one. "Its all the blanket."

To conclude, its really quite simple, The church is supposed to be an edifying social activity, and the basilica is not conducive to such interactions, but the home does. To quote Viola..."The typical Sanctuary, or chapel, the pulpit, the pews, and the massive space breathe a formal air that inhibits interaction and relatedness. The peculiar features of a home produce the opposite effects."

So there you have it. Time to sell those church buildings or convert them into little communes. Whatever you do, stop meeting in them for church gatherings, you have a house for that purpose.

Next chapter...reimagining the Family of God


the one called, Brandon

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