MY girlfriend Sarah and I recently had a debate concerning furnishings and design. I argued that Christians who live simply shouldn’t care about such things but try to live in a house, no matter what it looks like. Sarah, on the contrary, said that even God cares about aesthetics, that beauty doesn’t have to be expensive and that everyone cares about furnishing – including me. The debate was recorded in a podcast and the response from the listeners was overwhelming: Sarah won.
And I can indeed see her point. I’ve been thinking a lot about what churches look like and what purpose they serve. Most churches don’t meet in homes as the early Christians did (Acts 2:46, Col 4:15, Philem 1:2), but instead they have church buildings that nobody usually lives or sleep in. These are most often auditoriums, big halls in which church members are visitors, sitting in pews or chairs looking in the same direction.
These buildings are specifically designed for you to leave. Their main purpose is to present a show, not to build relationships or brotherhood. Sure, there may be tea and coffee afterwards, but you have to leave the building eventually.
Community houses stand in contrast to this. Being the base for each local congregation, the cosy living rooms with sofas, guitars and books available for people to read, invite people to stay for as long as they want. It’s sometimes possible to sleep over if you need to or feel like it. And there’s nearly always a meal available.
The Jesus Fellowship is fundamentally a house church movement. Yes, the Jesus Centres have started to function a bit like church buildings, and several households have met for their Sunday meetings in public halls. But communities are still at the core, and they are much more welcoming and apostolic. There’s something very attractive of doing church this way.
I’m now almost two months into my training year, and one of the best things I’ve experienced from community so far is the hospitality, friendship and cosiness of it all. Having a community-based church drastically decreases the risk of it becoming an uninteresting institution. No, it’s a family and a fellowship of committed friends. Church is not a show. Church is life.