Rocky has gotten me in the habit of checking TripAdvisor and online restaurant reviews before going out of town. Why risk eating at some run-of-the-mill place when one might be in the vicinity of a more outstanding restaurant? His food mentality, which I now share, is like mine with worship possibilities. When I am going to be away on any given Sunday I look online for area churches.
Last week I searched a network called “The Gospel Coalition” in Bristol, TN. CityChurch looked good so I jotted down the address. When I followed my GPS directions Sunday I was wondering how in the world there would be a church in the residential area through which I was winding. I ended up at what looked like a small home. I checked the website again to verify the address and saw that it was a “house church.” My immediate thought was that I still had fifteen minutes to make it to a “regular” service, but decided to stick with my original plan.
Inside there was a large open room where a few musicians were warming up. People began trickling in a bit before 11:00 to the connecting kitchen for coffee and to bring in their crock pots and casseroles. The wife of the lead pastor and several others were quite engaging. The service consisted of several traditional and modern Getty/Townend type hymns and some liturgy. Elders and members shared about their common Bible readings from the week. After a particularly good 40-minute sermon we were invited to partake of communion. This congregation of fifty or so people celebrates communion each week and stays for lunch. During the meal I enjoyed conversation with a former missionary family.
Later, I went back and read more about the church on its website. “In our experience, it’s in the intimacy of community that we move from merely conveying knowledge (which transforms our THINKING) to conveying a wholistic life transformation (which includes our passions and desires as well as our actions). A house church is more like a family than an organization. We belong to each other, not a ‘church.’ And like a family, we’re open and honest about our struggles and joys. We share a deep commitment to helping those in our family become all God intended them to be. Our passion is to move church from the pew to the porch – from merely passive intellectual engagement to active conversations of intimacy as we open up to one another about our struggles, our fears, our hopes & dreams.
… Investing in each other is not a Sunday program – but life on life, lived and shared throughout the week. There’s no room for games – pretending – or hiding in a house church…any more than you can hide in a family. You’ll never be put on the spot, but you won’t be able to get away with faking it either.
Relationship. Life on life. Authentic. Food! Laughter. Tears. Real people, trying to become more like Jesus – and to invest this love back into the broken rubble of Bristol.”
The experience reminded me a lot of the account of the early church in the book of Acts. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42; 46-47)