The temple and the home.

Both/And rather than Either/Or – my exploration of some of my favourite tensions in the Christian faith. Holding multiple things in tension is a good thing – hence why I am writing this blog series. I’d love to hear your thoughts, please comment below.

Everyone’s a critic. You don’t have to attend church (or any gathering of people for that matter) long to realise a lot of people have lots of ideas about how best to do this thing we have called “church.” I have my critique too, as I believe critique can be good. What isn’t good is cynicism.

You know the kind I mean. The kind of critique that isn’t drenched in humility and grace, but instead pompous arrogance. The kind that says “I know how to fix this…but I won’t be.”

The critique that breaks my heart the most is the one about church gatherings. There seems to be a couple of camps on this one, but let’s put them into two major piles. There’s the crowd that’s all about the big church gathering on Sunday and then there’s the crowd who’s main thing is small gatherings in authentic community in homes or similar.

I’ve experience both of these wonderful worlds and I have experience dead and useless versions of them too. For every great church gathering I’ve seen some that have repulsed me and caused me to think “Is this really what Jesus had in mind?” I have also had wonderful times in great small groups and then tragic experiences sitting in what I can only label as some sort of “holy” grumbling group.

So which is it? The big, vibrant and raucous Sunday gathering – or the small, vulnerable and intimate gathering of just a few friends?

Wonderfully, the Bible paints a great picture of both. Jesus honoured the Temple and the home. The Apostles had time of being at the Temple and in homes. The church today must be a place of both the “temple” and the “home”.*

The temple is the big gathering where everyone comes together from their experiences of the week. A meeting place of life, colour and wonderful noise, where a large group of people can be together to love God and each other. A place where they can learn a bit. A place of experiencing difference existing within unity. You can hide in this gathering, you can be part of the crowd and that’s OK – because this is the place of the crowd after all.

The home is the smaller gathering where a small group of closer friends can gather. It’s more intimate, and perhaps more authentic. You can’t hide here, you’re guaranteed to be noticed. You’ll have to share, you’ll have to contribute and it will cost you. This is the place of less-is-more, a place that seeks out depth.

Here’s what’s amazing about the early church though – they loved both. They spent time at the Temple and they spent time in their homes. In fact, archeology shows us that they knocked out walls in their little homes so that they could squeeze in one, or two, or three more people. The home was important, but it was still a place of mission, and it was a place of growth. It didn’t just stay “them”.

Today I hear people all too often draw lines around either the big gathering, or the small gathering, and that’s that.

“I’m off to church.” Well, it’s ironic because the church has been you all along.

“You must invite your friends to church next week…” Interesting, because your dinner table could be a better start.

“I don’t like going to church, it’s too showy.” True, but that’s because it’s where the crowd and the raucous noise of resurrection people is meant to be. Maybe your cynicism has helped you forget that.

So, I hope you see that going to your Sunday gathering is about you taking your presence to be before God with others, and celebrating the new life a community of people who shouldn’t have anything in common now have – Jesus.

May you see that Sunday will never be enough, that at some point you will have to be exposed a little more and share your life humbly with others in some kind of smaller setting. It will cost you – true community always does.

May you have to knock out walls in your own home to fit in another one, or two, or three as you love God and love others, and then go to the Sunday gathering to celebrate that with all the others who have done the exact same thing.

________________

*I could list a bunch of Scriptures here – but I won’t. What I think you should really do is grab your Bible and read all of the book of Acts in one go. Go on.

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3 responses to “The temple and the home.”

  1. andredebeer says :

    Hi Dan, some great points…I can also relate to the various scenarios…

    Over the last while I have been considering weather we have the ratio at an optimum level….ie. Large vs small as orchestrated by “The Church”.

    Considering how society encourages social engagement to be more of an “at an arms length” interaction, an over-reliance on Fb, blogging, Skype, e mail and texting to engage and socialise are like popping vitamins for a healthy lifestyle…… quick, easy but no substitute for real face to face “iron sharpens iron” face time. (Pun not intended)

    Question: Maybe our larger gatherings need to be fewer (Still very necessary)whilst available non-office/work time intentionally made accessible for the purpose of these small gatherings?
    Of course, market time (work time) remains an amazing place to engage, and be salt and light, after-all…that’s predominantly why we have our jobs, right?

    Families are stretched for time, reserving mostly weekends to spend “quality time” with eachother. This time when spent in small gatherings more often I believe can facilitate more of the “It takes a village” approach, where burdens can be shared, victories celebrated, life-styles modelled, and genuine care expressed….not to mention faith shared.

    This weekend I met another neighbour, and now have spoken to and introduced myself to 5 of our neighbours in the area we live in. It is often that we are rushing off somewhere, or off to do grocery shopping on Saturday, when I pass by my neighbours. They all tend to take Sunday as the chill day…..do the lawns….with more of them working on Saturdays.
    To cultivate these relationships takes time, and short hello’s and goodbye’s just won’t eventuate into a relationship that is rich and fruitful, or meaningful.

    So am I confusing “mission” with “fellowship”? Which one should take priority? If we allow things to just happen organically, do we risk not being intentional enough about our current and future (New Jesus follower) relationships?

    Maybe once a month is enough for the large gathering, with the other 3-4 sundays used to “cultivate” and “grow” current and future relationships?

    BTW…..I have invited Peter at no 23 to a barbeque next Sunday, we will be sampling his “home brew” beers…..not being a beer drinker myself it will be interesting…….. 🙂

    Any thoughts?

    • dansheed says :

      Great response Andre – Love the grass-roots connection with neighbors that’s happening.

      Regarding the use of the Sunday, I am a huge fan of the Sabbath being a day to stop doing, and to remember I am a human being made in the image of God. How I do this, and believe is a great rhythm to do so, is to gather with the biggest group of people I can find to do this together first: AKA, Shore Vineyards. I do this every week as I believe the act of doing so keeps me focused on the bigger picture of doing the mission of God outside of those walls.

      Then, the drinking of home group beer can definitely commence…

      Your mention of fellowship and mission being two different things is interesting… What if they could just be the same? What if intentionally loving a neighbour, listening to them, talking with them, drinking their home brew, praying for them and keeping an eye on what the Father is doing in amongst all of that could be mission?

      I can sense another tension emerging…

      • andredebeer says :

        Hey Dan, that’s my point precisely……I think the two are inter-twined……”mission” and “fellowship” ……Jesus did it with Matthew and his tax collector buddies…….at a wedding…..and many other day to day encounters……and for a healthy and thriving walk with the King (In the streets)so do we…..I guess it’s called doing life.

        I look forward to discussing this more, whilst doing alot more about it too…but have to get the kids to bed, read and pray with them and get ready for tomorrow…..(great chatting…love it!)

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