House Church Reflection 051112

Wow.  So not sure what to expect –not because it wasn’t planned but because it is hard to know when starting something new how it will come together. 

We had 11 people come for chili, cornbread, brownies.  Nine adults and 2 children – 4 families.  We had an hour for dinner and conversation as people came as they got home from work – lots of talking and laugher.  I put the bubble machine on in the backyard, got out the tennis ball and Olive fetched it when it was thrown into the pool.  When most of us were done eating, we moved to the family room and I shared a bit about what a house church is and our focus on discipleship, mission and community.  

We did an opening icebreaker where we shared what we were looking forward to with the summer coming.

For our teaching time, I had picked Nooma 011 – Rhythm by Rob Bell.  I selected this after a lot of thought on what might be a good foundation for us as a group.

I love this video and if you haven’t watched it, you might want to check it out. I love the idea of connecting the Christian life with music and that following God is about “being in tune with the song.” I love this way of thinking about our faith journey as it is much easier to get this rather than what is meant by the often-used phrase “having a relationship with God.”  What does it mean to have a relationship with the God who created the universe?  That is often a hard one to figure out–and because it is hard to figure out, it can confuse and even disconnect people from their faith journey.

But music, most all of us can connect to the idea that when we think of God we hear a song and following God is about learning to be in tune with the song.  Jesus shows us what this looks like and following him through living as he did enables us to hear the song and be in tune with the song.  I love the clarity and accessibility of this notion.  Sure, living into it takes our whole lives but having this clarity enables me sense what the journey is about – being in tune with God.

This is especially important to me because over the years I have been struck by how often people will say they don’t know enough about God or the Bible and will discount their experience of faith, believing that without all the knowledge and background their faith and walk with God is less valid. I see this as I work with folks in the local church too much and it undermines people’s connection to –and walk with– God.

Yet with music, all can enjoy the song—sure some people are musicians and can hear the music and its parts more clearly, they may even be more concerned with small issues within the music but everyone, no matter what, can enjoy the song.  Everyone can participate in the music and have a valid and real experience of it.

This idea really speaks to what I hear the house church movement being about—everyday seekers of God learning to hear and follow God more fully.  The faith journey is about learning to let go and hear the song, love the song, and live into the song as our text for the night says (John 4: 24, The Message version): 24 God is sheer being itself – Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

 We shared prayer requests and wrote them on a wall-size post-it.  People shared concerns for family and friends, joys at end of the school year & what was next, as well as joy for the birth of a new baby.  The children shared their requests including that we pray for Disneyland because it turns out they were  going there tomorrow for 3 weeks (which was corrected to 3 days). We invited folks to take a photo of the list with their cell phones so they could pray during the week for those we lifted.

Then we had time to talk about mission and how we would make a difference.  Various projects were shared including a local meal in need of helpers, a group of youth in a shelter in need of a meal, etc.  We selected one and one person took on getting us all more information so we could participate.  We think we would do two mission projects a month – something hands on we could participate in.

Then, I had the children help me prepare Communion—one put the bread on the plate, one poured the grape juice (“Grape juice?  I love grape juice!”), and then I did an informal liturgy with everyone.  One person let me know this was her first time receiving communion and so I spent some time before communion sharing the meaning of communion.  Lately one of the images that draws me to the Table is how communion gives us strength for living so I shared on that and then served.

We closed by joining hands and praying the Lord’s Prayer.  

Some of the group left to go home but some stayed and we lit a fire in the backyard fire pit and sat around together.  During this informal time the kids told stories and an adult and a child from one family talked with me about baptism at our next gathering (in 2 weeks). We talked together about what it meant to follow Jesus and how baptism was part of that journey.  The child asked why we use water and so we talked about washing, birth, growth, new life and how water was part of that—she noted that to use grape juice instead would probably just make you sticky.  Love how kids think.

I took away two thoughts.  One was just an strong sense of this is what church can be—simple, friendly, low-key, people being who they are and sharing hopes and dreams—it was spiritual, moving and real.  I also noticed how I felt in the midst of it—so often as the pastor on Sundays I am focused on moving things forward and “what needs to happen next” whether it is a meeting or getting to someone Sunday to double check they are going to read the text or setting something up. But tonight when I was aware of having this thought I realized, no, there is nothing I need do, it is about relationships and I have all the time in the world to just be with people.  And that felt life giving.

So we begin.  I won’t be sharing like this every week but I thought this first week it might give people a window into what house churches are about and how one house church is living that out.  If you are feel God calling you to a fresh expression of faith and church, I’d be happy to talk with you.  Blessing – Nicole