There's been a lot of talk around my church lately about George Barna's book Revolution that came out recently. Barna predicts (often with accuracy bordering on creepy) that within the next 25 years, the Church (big "C") will move out of churches (little "c") and into houses and living rooms, as described above. The RLP couldn't be more right in describing how his own idea feels to me. My heart knows that it would feel like going home. But there seems to be some resistance to the idea among some of my colleagues on the church staff. I can't tell if it's because they don't like the idea, because it means the destruction of their current career, or if they genuinely believe it's crap. Frankly - I LOVE the idea, and ironically, I'm really the only one on this staff who doesn't have other options, as far as employment goes. I've got no other real skills (some would say I've no skills at THIS job, but I digress), so if things go the way of George Barna, J.T. and the RLP, then I'd be in trouble, and probably be knocking down the door at the University of Phoenix (they do have a door, right? And it's not just a virtual one?). But material success has never been all that important to me (sorry Casey Adams, lol), and if it serves the Kingdom better, and makes better disciples, how can I oppose it? I might be permanently out of a job - but what a way to go!
What if we could do church any way we wanted?
First of all, we probably wouldn’t call ourselves a church. That English word is rather tired, I think. It really doesn’t communicate very well, and it’s not a biblical word in any case. We might call ourselves “A Gathering of Friends,” or perhaps, “A Community Living in the Way of Christ.” I don’t know what we would call ourselves; maybe we wouldn’t have a name at all.
I don’t think we would concern ourselves very much with what individuals in the community say about Jesus or even believe about Jesus. It’s not that what we say about Jesus doesn’t matter, but this community would begin with real living. There will be time enough for pretty Jesus words later on.
We would begin with between five and fifteen people who are committed to following in the way of Christ, confessing their weaknesses and turning their lives over to God as they understand him or her. We would make certain commitments to God and to each other:
- We would meet once or twice a week to worship together. This meeting would be a very high priority in our lives.
- We would make these friendships intentional ones and make it a point to spend time together.
- We would agree to pray and study the scriptures together and on our own.
- We would nurture each other and care for one another, especially if one of us was hurting or in need.
- We would simplify our lives to the point where we could give 10% of our income to the community. Some who have been on the journey longer might give more.
- Each of us would find a personal and fulfilling way to serve God by serving the world. Finding your joyful place of service would be a central part of being in this community, for we would agree that Christianity is a way of living more than a set of doctrines.
We would never pay anyone to be a professional Christian. There would be no staff, no paid ministers, no salaries, and no overhead. If there were even ten wage earners among us, our collected offerings might be between twenty and fifty thousand dollars. With no salaries, buildings, or other administrative costs, almost all of this money would be used to do good things in the name of Christ.
Maybe once a year we would sit around a kitchen table and say, “What do you want to do for God this year?”
There would be a little money left over to buy coffee or even a guitar if someone wanted to play it during worship. Maybe twice a year we would all go on an extended retreat together. Those with limited funds would never have to worry about being able to afford that sort of thing.
If there were children among us, they would sit on our laps and worship with us. We would not have children’s classes. We wouldn’t need them. We would teach the children ourselves and let them be a part of everything we do.
We would never purchase or rent a place to worship. Homes would suffice. If and when the gathering became too large to meet comfortably in a living room, we would divide into two groups. Perhaps the two living room churches would meet together once a month at a park or in some borrowed space. We wouldn't worry about what will happen someday. These things will work themselves out. I’m of the opinion that there is far too much planning in churches nowadays.
We would never advertise our faith community. Advertising tends to cheapen things, and I think we wouldn't want to start going down that road. We would bring friends with us as we felt led. I’m sure some would find us in very mysterious ways. We would trust that those who are ready to find us would find us. Anyone would be welcome to meet with us in the living room, of course. Some might join the community when they felt ready to embrace our commitments.
If there is preaching, it would be done by everyone. All who feel ready to share would take their turn. You would have weeks or even months to read your passage of scripture prayerfully. Then you would simply share the wisdom you found in the scriptures with your good friends.
The best news of all is that we would lay down the terrible burden of planning and strategizing for the business of church. Large budgets, buildings, and programs require business plans and outreach strategies. But you see, the big picture would not be our concern. The future would be left in the hands of God. We would content ourselves with our simple lives of service and devotion. What happens beyond that would be God’s business and not ours.
It sounds refreshing, does it not? And vaguely familiar. Even if you’ve never been a part of something like that, your heart knows that it would feel like going home.