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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rearranging Homes for the Gospel

The Holy Spirit piqued my heart this morning to give thanks for a particular people...(Warning: This is not a Pro-"House Church Movement" post).

As I was finishing Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church this morning, I tried not to breeze past the "Final Greetings" so I might catch my Pop Tart while it was still warm but not yet burnt. So I read:
The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord (I Corinthians 16:19; cf. Romans 16:3-5).
Rearranging Homes: A brief history. I then caught a quick note in some I Corinthians study material that claimed there exists extensive archeological evidence from many different cities demonstrating that some homes were structurally modified to host such churches. My Pop Tart now charred and beyond recovery, I researched a bit deeper: The best piece of archeological evidence is at the edge of the 3rd century Roman world at a garrison town on the banks of the Euphrates River, called Dura-Europos. Around this time the city tried desperately to prevent an attack against the Persians by heaping a bunch of mud and dirt against its Western Wall and, in doing so, preserved the structures buried underneath for archeologists in the 1920s & 30s to uncover in pristine shape. One of the three major structures was a home converted into a church. A wall had been removed in the dining area making more room for congregants, benches were installed around the walls of a courtyard likely as a place for instruction (think Sunday School), and one bedroom had pipes rearranged so it could hold a baptismal font. In fact, homes were so modified for the sake of more people hearing the gospel truth - that eventually, church leaders just received them as donations (no longer lived-in but used exclusively for church ministry purposes), which paved the way for much grander church structures in the 4th century and beyond. In other words, people's gospel-flexibility and gospel-sacrifice with their homes was so immense that it made their home unusable for living and ushered out the era of true house churches. 
The Bedroom with Baptismal Font at Dura-Europos

Rearranging Homes: Today. Our church, Sunrise, meets on Sundays for Corporate instruction in the Word & worship through Song in a Performing Arts Theatre. However, the church really accelerated in unity and growth almost four years ago as we started to hold Bible Studies in homes, which came to be known as Community Groups. Today, we are toward the tail end of Stage 1 of an effort to reach not-yet-Christians through Christianity Explored Dinner Groups - again hosted in ten or so homes. Homes are the real "theatre" in which the bulk of gospel ministry takes place in and through our church.  

Rearranging Homes: Thanksgiving. Katie and I, though we are "people people," are not particularly strong in the area/gifting of hospitality via our home (our children, however, are professional home "rearrangers"'s like they earned a Masters-level degree in it). So it was good this Am for us to take time to give thanks for those who are and I want to encourage you, dear Reader, to do likewise - for those who have selected homes based on hosting people for worship and fellowship, for those who take time to add scents, sights, and sounds that are pleasing to the senses, for those who have modified permanently or rearrange regularly both their homes and lives to host the saints and anyone searching out the truth of God's good news in Jesus Christ. 

I am so grateful to, You, Abba Father for: Thomas and Lyana Bolas who weekly strain to add furniture and tables to a room that barely accommodates it, for Eduardo and Emilie Del Risco who both work and host while parenting a little girl, for Karl & Janine Nyyssonen who have faithfully hosted for years with the warmest of atmospheres, for Neil & Marida Montgomery whose lives and personalities are buoyant, for the Morgans and Wendles who I know share the love, for Kevin and Maggie McCormac who welcome you warmly as soon as you enter, for JP & Lisa Welman who have permanently modified their very lives to readily host, for Genevieve G and Rose Smith, for Wes Heistand who has stretched himself to weekly have people over, Jeremy & Sheena Strickland who have people plop down on their comfy sofa to "chill-ax," for Avril Ward and Brent & Leslie Novak who have hosted Women's Fellowship Breakfasts, for Jeff and Susy Cummer and Jim and Sherrie Ehman who have hosted events for our teens, for my good friends Gordon and Anna Macrae who've hosted a multitude to their home (including our family quite regularly) and even had an upstairs built exclusively to host those in need. And I'm sure I've left someone out...I give thanks for you too!

Rearranging Homes: You. Perhaps God is calling you to rearrange your Home for the Gospel. Consider the following: 

  • (1) Do you already find joy in having people over at your home - even slightly disappointed when they say they must "retire for the evening"? 
  • (2) If you are unsure, try it on for size to see if this kind of hospitality is a gift/talent that fits your life -- after a few tries, if you walk away tired and grumpy, with a frustrated spouse, and notice little fruit, that's okay. There are plenty of ways to serve God's church!; 
  • (3) Are you part of a local church and have you asked your pastors/leaders if there is something upcoming for which you can make your home available? Perhaps it is better to first try a singular event versus a long-term commitment; 
  • (4) If the pastors/leaders say "not really" or "yes, but it'll be a while," consider being hospitable to a newer someone on a Sunday morning and then inviting them over to your home for lunch after the worship service. New people, especially if new to where you live, are looking for an immediate community-connection -- better to the church of the living God than some place else. 

If the above isn't a long-term fit, consider thanking, encouraging, praying for and asking how you might support (with love, leadership, childcare resources...and of course food!) those who have permanently modified or regularly rearrange their homes for the sake of the gospel.

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