Simply being the church

I would like to thank you for stopping by. Have you ever had anyone ask you, “Where do you attend church?” I suppose it is an appropriate question; if the church were a place—which it is not! This section will discuss “being” the church. This page is meant to assist you in understanding how church is supposed to work according to the New Testament principles laid out by Jesus and carried out by the apostles.

This page is in its infancy; which means it will experience numerous changes. These changes will continue to take place until the page has reached its full potential.

The thing that I have noticed in what has become another debate is if home/house church, simple church, organic church, missional church—along with a few other labels—is indeed a valid expression of church. It appears that lines have been drawn that pit the traditional church against the simple church. It is the apostle Paul who addresses a matter of how the gospel is presented. “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.” Philippians 1:18 NIV. The point of the apostle’s statement is the same as my point; if Jesus is being proclaimed, then what does it matter? Of course there are principles and precepts to be followed. Of course there is a system of authority to be in place. Of course the message must be Christ and him crucified; yea rather raised from the dead. One thing that I can assure you is this. Heaven is not taking sides rooting for one side over the other. You can take the structure of the traditional church, pare it down to fit a small group setting and call it house church. You can take a simple church model and attempt to fit it into a larger traditional church setting—the sheer numbers will work against that—and call it simple church. The structure—or lack thereof—is not the issue. That being said, the focus of this post isn’t to enter the right/wrong debate about a simplified gathering of Christians. The focus of this post is to simply point out one key element that is missing from either side of the argument—relationship. Jesus modeled a close personal relationship with his father, his disciples and as many as came to him. You may recall that Jesus used stories because those who were intrigued by them would ask him about them. Those were the ones that found themselves in a close personal relationship with the Lord. I would hope that you can see the parallel in this. The large gathering—what is being called the traditional church—is a great place to hear the stories, while the small gathering—what is being called the simple church—is a great place to deepen a personal relationship. There was another close personal relationship that Jesus modeled. It is one that is not spoken about. Jesus had a very close relationship with the Holy Spirit. This is true for two reasons. The will of the Father was that his only begotten son would fulfill the obligations of the law thereby completing the old covenant. This is the first reason. This completion then made way for the introduction of the new covenant that allowed mankind unparalleled access to the Father. This is the second reason. Under the old covenant the ministry of the Holy Spirit was well known. He would descend upon those the Father had chosen to deliver his message giving them super-natural authority. The ministry of the Holy Spirit was very well known. The introduction of the new covenant would introduce the person of the Holy Spirit as one who would abide within you teaching you the ways of the Father. Jesus modeled both roles of old covenant adherent and new covenant believer. This relationship had to develop with Jesus the son of man and the Holy Spirit just as it does with any New Testament believer today. Jesus experienced the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the miracles he performed while experiencing the person of the Holy Spirit in his daily walk. The third close personal relationship Jesus modeled with that with the Father. They spent time together in the morning, after a meeting, late at night, when making important decisions. They were tight, just as we are to be with the Father. In the section I can only imagine, you will find some references of what this kind of relationship could have been like.

The fourth close personal relationship Jesus had was with his disciples; those he spend a lot of time teaching, training, talking, laughing, crying and living life with. The fifth close personal relationship Jesus had was with those who would ask him to explain what the stories meant. Once you research the scriptures you will find that this was not just the disciples. In fact many times the disciples were too busy arguing over something or indifferent to what had just happened. Those who were intrigued were the ones who drew close to Jesus. These five relationships are what Being the church is supposed to be about. I like the number five for it speaks of grace. Anytime you find that number, you can be certain the Father’s grace is all over it. You will find that out that from these relationships everything that makes up what we have called church—worship, teaching, training, leadership, discipleship, etc. will take place. This page is designed as a tool to help you discover those relationships—whether in the traditional church or in the simple church. Being the church is about relationship.

The funny thing about relationships is the fact that they are usually not one sided. They require two–or more–people interacting with the other. Our middle son recently described a brotherly relationship as one where you do things together and want to be around each other most of the time. What an honest assessment. This type of relationship is built over time–and somewhat by necessity. This is not at all unlike the relationship we are to build with the Lord. Sometimes it is necessary to have the relationship even though you feel like doing something else. At other times it is desirable to have the relationship because you want to spend time together. Building that relationship is what simple church is about.

It started simple enough; we could no longer afford to stay in the building. It simply cost more than our congregation could afford. It was agreed that we would move the church into the parsonage—a move that would be a financial savings of about forty percent per month. The goal was simple; to stop the financial bleeding; increase the membership then move back into the church.

The first couple of months were bathed in the excitement of doing something new and different. I began to notice something taking place that exceeded the joy of doing something new; it was the joy of building relationships. I was intrigued. For the most part these were the same people who were in the church prior to our shift. I wondered why they were now developing such close relationships.  This line of thinking lead to a search that has become a journey. What I found as I searched the scriptures has thus far produced four challenges for me—and maybe for you.

I discovered an amazing word that was rarely used in the New Testament. Jesus used this word in Acts one when he told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem.  The apostle Paul used the word in I Corinthians 14. He is speaking about spiritual matters within the community of believers when he throws in this seemingly out of place statement. “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” I Corinthians 14:26 NIV.

Have you ever read a passage of scripture many times over only to discover that you are reading it for the first time? It was as if I had never read this before. The Greek word the Apostle uses is synerchomai (sun-e’r-kho-mi). I found it intriguing that he did not use the Greek word ekklesia .(ek-kla-se-a), found in Matthew 16 where Jesus tells us that he will build his church—ekklesia.

Enter our gracious Father.
Synerchomai means to come together which isn’t that different from ekklesia; to gather or the gathering of the called out. It is the second part of this coming together that threw me a curve. It means of conjugal cohabitation. I wrestled with that. “But how can you apply that to the church,” I thought?

Challenge One
The Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Conjugal cohabitation speaks of intimacy. This intimacy is to take place when the ‘called out’ gather.” He was saying that there is supposed to be an intimacy with the Lord that spills over into a more personal relationship with those that you gather with.  The challenge is to allow this intimacy to develop naturally rather than control or even direct it.

Challenge Two
As I began to convey my observations with the congregation, their answers confirmed my findings. “We’ve noticed,” they said, “that the pressure of performing had given way to being at ease with each other.” They said that, “This allows us to more freely enter into the presence of God. We have gone from going to church to simply being the church.” The challenge is to shift my religious gears from bringing them into the building to allowing them to freely become the building blocks for kingdom expansion.

Challenge Three
As I said earlier we have discovered that this is a journey—not a destination. By taking away the structure of the building, we have seen individual growth as the Lord’s spirit strips away the old elements of “doing” church. We have seen kingdom growth as the people in our world discover that we really do care about them—not just getting them into a building; these corporate discovery’s encourages us to come back for more.

This has been perhaps the biggest challenge. How do I quantify this in my reporting? How do I tell those in authority that we are no longer going to church, but being the church?

Challenge Four
I made my discoveries in the early chapters of the book of Acts. This added the fourth challenge. How do I follow the biblical model in today’s church?