Acts 2, home church...and the unfolding story...

Just something I wrote back in 2005 that I thought about again today after running up against the machinations and mechanics of this machine called church...some days I wonder about the house church model. Believe me when I say I've talked to enough people who have tried this that have run into a whole other set of there isn't a perfect world out there, but still. I guess is the grass is greener on the other side of the fence it could very well be that there is more manure of there...who knows. was my knee jerk still nags me on certain days...

when churches met in homes...

It's strange really. I've been giving a fair bit of thought to the days when they had no idea what a pulpit or a pew were. If you would have mentioned these words you would have gotten the same reaction God got from Moses when he told him to build an ark because rain was in the forecast. When people invited someone to church, they were essentially asking them over to their house or the house of a friend. Imagine inviting someone to "House" (not the television show mind you, brilliant though it is) instead of inviting them to "Church".

Imagine this...
"At this sort of church, you knock before you come in. Someone greets you at the door and you're invited in. Pleased to make your acquaintance, the host would then ask if they could take your coat for you. As they gathered your families coats, you watched as they took them into the side room and piled them on the bed with everyone elses. You then did what anyone does when they're in someone's took off your shoes. This signified an acceptance of the invitation to relax. No one takes off their shoes in church these days. As you moved toward the kitchen, you rounded the corner to find pockets of people mingling with food in hand. The counter was stacked with all kinds of delicious foods and deserts. Someone handed you a plate and told you to "get your fill" and before you knew it you were talking with your mouth full trying to answer someone's question about where you live. There's something about eating that disarms you. Before you know it you're sharing about your father's illness and they're offering their prayers and encouragements. You haven't even told your friends some of the details that these humble folk drew out of you.

From the living room, you hear an obnoxious voice trying to get people's attention. He seems to be making some jokes while attempting to corral the bodies that were spread out all over the house, even the bathroom. As people made their way to the living room, there weren't enough chairs for everyone, so people found a square foot of space and plopped down on the floor with unwavering joy. Some offered thier seats, but most refused the polite gesture. Some even commented that they would rather sit on the floor, something about stretching out. It took what seemed like forever to calm people down, but they didn't seem rushed to get things started, in fact, the pastor said that things were already started. I thought that was strange since we hadn't begun the service yet. But the longer I sat there I realized that you didn't ever quite know when things started or stopped, it just fluidly moved from one thing to the next without so much as a word of transition.

The time started with a story from a lady who lost her husband last year. She started to cry and as I looked around, men and womean were crying with her. Someone handed her a box of tissues and everyone laughed. She said something like, "I'm just glad I can be myself around you guys!" I didn't even know her and I started to feel my eyes fill with tears, but I held them back for fear that someone would think it strange for the new guy to cry. Then the wierdest thing happened. This woman turned to the guy holding onto a guitar and asked him if he could play a song. He happily agreed and as he started to play, people started to sing along with him. I didn't know the words, but I was blown away with the sound of hearing everyone singing this song about God being with you through the good and bad life dishes out. I don't remember the verses but they sang the chorus over and over and it went something like, "Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed is his name." (in fact, I was singing it in the shower that next morning)

From there, they sang a few songs and then watched a movie clip from my favorite movie, "Patch Adams". It was the scene where he was making that sick little girl laugh by dressing up and acting out ridiculous characters. After we watched it, the pastor asked if anyone felt anything about that clip. I was awaiting awkward silence, but instead, people started sharing what impressions that scene had made on them. You won't believe this, I even did. I share that I have always wanted to affect people's lives in that way. It wasn't alot, but I was floored that I even opened my mouth. I'm normally shy in new settings. But something about his placed made me feel "at home".

Then the pastor opened up the Bible and shared a verse about "Blessed are the poor in spirit..." He sat on this stool in the middle of the room and talked with animation and humility and humor and relevence. I understood what he was talking about which was a shift from my prior church experiences. But it wasn't even what he was saying, it was that I was sitting on a couch and we were talking about God in such a personal and casual setting that at times I wondered if this could be called "a church" because it was just too different from church to be called such a thing.

As I was drifting into these internal arguments about the semantics of church vs. home vs. worship vs. gathering vs. conversation vs. sermon, the pastor said something that I'll never forget. He said, "This home is not the church, nor any building erected adorned with steeple, for it says in Acts 17, God doesn't dwell in places built by human hands..." then he said something about God giving men life and breath and "everything else". The pastor laughed when he said "everything else" and made two or three jokes about the author who wrote this piece of literature and what he was probably thinking. I don't remember what he said, but I remember people laughing hysterically as he used what he called his "sanctified imagination". I never have heard of that term before...but I kinda liked it.

I could go on and on about that two hours of time that felt like forever, but not the kind of forever it felt like in the other church I went to when I was growing up. That kind of forever meant that you don't think it will ever end. The kind of forever I'm talking about is the kind that you never want to end. We ended with a reading from some old desert father from the early 1600's. As this lady read it, I sat their suspended in time. It was beautiful...and I'm not even artistic. It made you want to write more, want more, be more. We ended the living room time journaling on this simple 3x5 card. The statement we had to finish was, "If I could take what I've experienced today into my week I would..." I thought that was a great idea because I rarely thought about church in those terms before...when it ended, it all ended. I didn't give it a second thought. But the pastor said that we are the church...that church doesn't end, it just moves about. He said it's always afoot. I don't know what that means, but I'm sure it means something cool, cause that pastor was cool. I didn't feel like he was preachy even when he was preaching. It didn't feel churchy even thought it was church.

I left that church, I mean house or whatever you want to call it, never wanting to leave. Sometime I'll tell you what I really loved about it."

I was sitting in Barnes and Noble today wondering why I love Act 2 so much. As I let my mind wander...I think I know why now.


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