Church, House, Traditional, Radical… US!

I have been contemplating a blog about several key reasons people have begun to widely accept no-"linkage to a regular body of Christians where the Bible is taught, discussed and applied to the best of their ability." This is that blog.

Simply put, JPUSA may be nearly the world's largest house church… but is also by choice, linked to a denomination (Ev. Covenant Church). Before you gag on either, please read on…

In -some- ways the Jesus Movement (when I came to saving faith with thousands of others) for all it's upside had a few downsides that eventually (in the practical) ended it as a movement. I think several of the core issues of what's wrong with "church as usual", "church inc." and 'form vs. content'" are what ails the traditional -BUT NO LESS NON-TRADITIONAL- gatherings.

The battles and frustration almost always boil down to who gets their way, who is in (or not in) authority, what do I/we want to do or what should I/we do in terms of serving (calling, gifts, a place at the table) and do I/we "like" the WAY our gatherings and/or worship FEELS? That is, "Am I getting what I want and feel I need out of this?"

Yes, many traditional churches contain plenty of people who seem to be observers sitting in "the cheap seats" listening to monologue rather than active, joyful participants who engage together (yes, together) in dialogue, spiritually intimate and meaningful relationships and active serving in love. I get it. I believe it. I've experienced it!

Then again, we all have our likes and dislikes, sense of taste and desire for this or that form… or formlessness.

Some want change, some want none. Some like it huge, some want a fellowship of 10 or less and no more than that. It gets very personal and therefore frustrating to find THE local gathering of Christ-followers where most of the key elements you want all leap out and you have then found a spiritual "family" and "home" of your liking.

What did the first Christians do about this? It's coming, be patient with the old guy please 🙂

It's easy to figure what's wrong with the church/Church/this-or-that-group. Quite easy.

As a musician it's like hearing the need for a tuner because apparently this person (maybe the whole band) obviously doesn't use 'em! Then again, they may not use them on purpose because they actually like things being a bit out of tune. And you don't "fit" that scenario… or they don't "fit" yours. I get it. I understand.

This group or that are just PETTY. They care far too much about stuff Jesus never mentions once in any of the four Gospels! I hear you. I agree with you. You're RIGHT about that. And there is some of that in all of us.

My worry is that church, being US… yes and yes and yes… still involves people who are both seeking and in the end getting (in one sense) exactly what they -want- as opposed to what you, I and we "need", and this I mean from God's perspective which is more than a perspective.

I'm not married to form. Nor formlessness.

I'm going to step out on a limb and say most serious Christ-followers are seeking authentic relationships- which always include crosses, pain, forgiveness and shared mission or lack of any mission beyond self-service. Selfishness is not hard-wired into traditional "kingdoms" alone… but part of our self-centered human nature. On the positive side, some of this stuff (in the first sentence in this paragraph) is good, right and needed and we need to seek out, establish and maintain such relationships somewhere with others willing to pay the price of integrity along with us.

Then again, some of us don't want any real sense of biblical accountability, we want groupies. Or we want to be part of a group of groupies. It's subculture and felt-needs 101, not authentic relational Christianity we're after. Just like the Jesus Movement in part.

Some don't WANT the discipline of learning to play an instrument, they don't want to be in the band. They want to watch and listen to the band. Gifts and talents are buried. Or eventually they get offended when what they believe to be great gifts aren't accepted and affirmed- and trust me this can and does happen in house churches just as in traditional churches.

This is part of what's wrong with BOTH traditional and non-traditional gatherings of Christians in my view. It's a matter of what I want vs. what I need. It may be (not good) a matter of me seeking out people who will never disagree with me, who will affirm me in whatever it is I like, who are not in truth part of me actively growing and maturing as a Bible-applying follower of Jesus. Groupies CHOOSE the cheap seats. Distance feels safe and right. In some cases it is, while in others it's a scam just as much as "church inc." can sometimes be.

We've been hurt so we quit. We're angry at parents, cops, our high-school phys. ed. teacher (mine had been a Marine drill instructor) and the people who abused us in X, Y and Z… so to be "safe" WE are our own church, our own authority, our own pastors, teachers, etc., etc.. This is not only un-biblical, it's a recipe to repeat (in a less-connected or "contrived" form) the very things that cause traditional churches to look and sometimes be hypocrites.

Form does not equal substance. It may or may not help, but those two words and concepts are not synonyms!

I truly get the "I'm SICK TO DEATH of church-as-usual" plastic, put-on, dress-like-this and either be recognized as kosher by the powers that be or we don't want you around sort of local assembly. I really do get it. But it's quite naive to believe any form of gathering will in the end, solve human nature/the "flesh" issues.

I understand the freedom one has when one creates in a vacuum of one's own choosing. I also think there are house and home church folks just as messed up and dogmatic as any trad. church I've ever known. Stick around long enough and you'll find yourself in agreement on that. It's a character and biblical issue, not merely a cultural/subcultural matter… and that's why a different local gathering "cultural" change won't produce the long-term heart, character and attitude changes God seeks to work in all of us. In some cases it's part of the solution but rarely is it THE solution to what ails us.

No cross, no growth. No easy answers.

I'm not saying we shouldn't create alternative communities of Christ-followers, I'm saying that we have much to learn from the Bible and church history and yes, from churches and denominations who "don't do it like we do". Humility is a core factor in all this.

Authentic relationships cost. Yes they do! And we as individuals must belly-up that personal cost if we are ever to find, grow, maintain and get enabled enough to share them. No matter the culture, this reality will not go away -though we might.

In the Jesus Movement, some leaders and houses were cut off and un-wanted by local traditional churches, some chose to not fellowship with the trad. church leaders and folks around them while for some it was both. Plenty of Jesus Movement people are anything but counter-culture today, so you might (even rightly) say many co-opted into the "Church as Microsoft does it" as opposed to an open source Linux model (as in part, JPUSA and many house churches do it). The fact is that many of them fell away from the Lord, partly due to their own arrogance and ignorance, not respecting that God the Holy Spirit had already taught a great many lessons to the trad. churches and the young Jesus freaks weren't interested because of the pain factors involved.

How many of those Jesus houses (late 60's-mid 70's) still exist?

Granted, Calvary Chapel and Vineyard continues, but in most cases (and I LOVE and minister with many of both world-wide) they are nearly as traditional as mainline churches in our day. There are serious Christians and hangers-on and confused seekers going in and out in these just as in house churches.

Is less organization always best and what God calls us to? More organization? No easy answer to these.

More importantly, two basic things happened in the Jesus Movement: some backslid and never walked with Jesus due to various pain factors (their own sin choices as well as the slop from trad. churches) while others got a "real job" and look about as conservative on every level as you might imagine. And frankly, sometimes they co-opted for whatever personal gain reasons.

Anybody in the current "non-church" movement being co-opted? Falling away? Five years down the path you never see or hear from them again? Anybody joining such a movement doing it for whatever personal gain reasons? I think this is obvious stuff, but radical koolaide just like biz-as-usual koolaide… isn't 100% real fruit juice simply because it's different and you stir it as you like it.

"Wherever you go, there you are."

I love and therefore worry about the Church, always have, always will. The Church is us.

A careful, thorough read of both the Bible and church history will rock your world re. the many horrible hurts both brought upon Christians due to their own ungodly choices as well as the fighting and at times extreme persecution believers thrust upon other believers. It's sick. And it's all there in the Book and in good, verifiable historic records. Most of us who've been around for awhile have experienced it over and over. Hurting people hurt others. Most of us hurt somewhere.

Seems to me close-knit relationships of love, trust and accountability happen when we seek God and authentic community with full commitment to pay the price of admission. It also seems to me any Christian gathering will
also include a few groupies who came for the ride and when the ride stops they leave.

There are good and quite biblical reasons for leaving a fellowship, but there are times that isn't what's happening with us.

??Always easier to leave than forgive or ask forgiveness for the pain we caused others. Always. Not what Jesus commanded but far easier.

Are there times to start over, do something new and fresh? In our mobile society is it not biblical and right to move around and every three or five (or less) years to go somewhere else? Of course!

And yet there is something about the fact that in the Book of Acts (try bettering what THEY lived and did as Christ-followers…) I find one of the more illuminating issues raised:

Acts 2.46 Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts,

Acts 5.42 And every day both in the temple courts and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus was the Christ.

I find such balance and sense of calling and purpose a "both-and" as opposed to "either-or".

As I've been saying for years, the second largest mission-field is the Church.

Christian structures, all of them, are designed by human beings. We will never escape human beings and their/our structural desires and forms. The fact is that we need mature, fruit-of-the-Spirit Christ-followers even more than better structures.

The box doesn't equal the cereal. Will a lousy box trash the contents? Sure. But take care to not swallow -any- box. You'll be left hungry if not actually starve to death in the end.

Food for thought.

Truly, thanks for stopping by!

-Glenn

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6 thoughts on “Church, House, Traditional, Radical… US!

  1. Thank you Glenn for your words of wisdom so true they are.John 3:30 He must become greater; I must become less.

  2. I do want relationships with my fellow believers, specifically because they will be painful and joyful. I want to know that there is true accountability among the folks I worship with. Don???t get me wrong, I am not looking for some utopian milieu, I am looking for self aware believers who have been truly broken and are aware enough of their own short comings to love me in mine. I am on a journey for sure. I will not be church hopping. I will be diligently seeking guidance concerning my situation.

  3. What you seem to be looking for is exactly what a good number of folks are also looking for, some to a deeper level than others.<br><br>What we will each find (or not) regardless of the form, container or number of people we meet with at a pub, beach in a traditional church sanctuary or hanging out at biker's gatherings (or wherever and with whomever) is a level of maturity and integrity, some of which only comes from years and learning to love, forgive and learn from the hard knocks.<br> <br>A core point I tried to make (and try over and over as I share along these lines) is that I hear from so many in such divergent and unique streams of the Church (when I use capital C I mean the WHOLE of all Christ-followers on earth, you and I, who -are- the church, not the building) who sound a lot like &quot;and all I got was pain and another lousy T-shirt&quot;.<br> <br>In other words, after bouncing from one trad. and/or contemporary church- AND house church, AND small gatherting of friends AND you-name-it, all I got was more spiritual road-rash.<br><br>I would say you are hopefully learning that where ever you go, there you are. The only constant is you.<br> <br>That's not to say &quot;quit the journey&quot;, it's rather to say life is what life is and like marriage and divorce, its not always easy nor simple and making a change may or may not ease the pain. Often it can, but there is no automatic answer.<br> <br>In my view, the hope comes from taking the big risks of relationship to God- Father, Son, Spirit as well as to several Christ-followers who (as I recognize over time in relationship building with them) also have a maturity, love and grace that I seem to lack.<br> <br>Prayer, Bible study, over-all worship and mission are the issues, not brand.<br><br>Some real measure of accountability, confession of sin and regular gathering with others in something more than &quot;we're comfortable with the culture&quot;. Culture is important, comfort is important, but we're starving for intimacy… or we've found it.<br> <br>I'm saying you can find it in many places because it's about you, me, the people somewhere. But the pain as well as comfort costs and risks must be taken no matter the road, house, building, group of people.<br> <br>Hope this helps! -Glenn

  4. Stuff to think about.How ever we associate with other believers–we do need to do so.Accountability is a big thing missing in many quarters these days–even in denominations and other groups.We need accountability as individual believers, as families, as congregations, etc.Ultimately that accountability is to God, but we need to have a way to express that here on earth.I was once part of an independent church, that grew out of a house church–but nobody ever wanted to talk about accountability–all I ever got was -"Our accountability is to God"Yes it was, but how do we express that & live that?I asked about it when the church hit a rocky patch.There were a variety of reasons for that, but one of the roots of most of the problems was a lack of accountability.After repeated refusals to discuss accountability, I was ready to leave, as I felt I was banging my head against the wall–but I decided God wanted me there, and I had made some commitments I needed to honor–so I stayed–but the church fell apart about a month after.Ever since I have been in one that has a good accountability structure–in addition to solid teaching and a heart for mercy ministry. You’ve added some other stuff to the mix–all good to think about.It all fits together.

  5. Thanks Pilgrim. Yes, it does all fit together. In fact I am on an Ev. Covenant worship group in Facebook and they named it &quot;Better Together&quot;. That, to me, is exactly the point. We just don't do well when it's each to his/her own fortress! Mercy! Thanks for sharing, I have have sadly heard the same story many times, re. your own journey. God give us grace to link!!<br> <br>His, yours, -Glenn

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