Our church doesn’t do any marketing, doesn’t have a building or a sign that signifies its existence and doesn’t have a formal name.
Since that’s the case, when people get invited by a church member to a social gathering or even a more formal structured gathering for singing and/or sharing, it can be a little confusing for some people to identify what’s going on. They can tell pretty quickly that the relationships between the people are family-like and there tends to be a magnetic quality about it.
But, it can take a little time to understand what we’re doing and why.
What are these people?
This played out when a family in our church brought someone from their neighborhood (we’ll call her Theresa) to join us for gatherings. Their first interactions with Theresa consisted mostly of seeing her walking her dog around their neighborhood until one day the woman in the family (we’ll call her Emily) was inspired to introduce herself.
Emily told Theresa that if there was ever anything she needed help with to just let her know. She was in her late 70s at the time. Theresa asked Emily right there on the spot if she could get some help with her Internet :), and a relationship was born.
Later we learned that Theresa had grown up in very traditional forms of church, and hadn’t attended anywhere for a while. Over the years, she had grown lackadaisical and disliked going to church alone. Her sister was a nun and when Theresa made the same attempt, she felt like she wasn’t “good enough” to follow through with it.
From the time she started coming to our gatherings until what I’m about to share happened a couple months after that, I don’t believe anyone mentioned anything about why we gathered the way we gathered or did what we did.
I’m not exactly sure what she thought we were at the time – maybe some kind of small group or a bible study connected to a larger church.
They’re technically a church
In one of these gatherings in particular, we were discussing how God’s design for church life and went through some Scripture about it. I’m actually not even sure why we were discussing it, nor do I remember why it came up. But, I do remember one comment from her because it is fascinating in a rather simple way.
As we discussed, Theresa abruptly halted the conversation to say something like this…
This might sound crazy or I might be off here, but if what the Bible is saying about a church is what we’re going to use to define it, then the group sitting here in this living room would technically be a church.
Multiple smiles filled the room as multiple people affirmed her astute observation.
According to the Bible, a church is simply a group of people living in shared-life community learning to live by divine life together.
Sure there are a ton more details beyond that under the surface to deal with or I wouldn’t have so much to write about :). But, when you extrapolate what the church is from Scripture and break it down to its simplest definition, this is what you end up with. Anything that hinders being that should be done away with.
Feeling like part of the family
Theresa had seen a lot in her life. Not only did she attempt to be a nun at one point, she also considered Alcoholics Anonymous to be her church at another point. But she’d never experienced this kind of church (although some of those experiences may have given her a glimpse).
And she actually wasn’t even invited. She asked if she could come! She disliked going to church alone, but now she didn’t have to. She had Emily’s family.
But even soon after that, Theresa would show up when Emily didn’t. Why? Because you can’t gather with us for very long without feeling like a part of the family.
As I write this, it was over a year ago this happened and she is now a committed member of our church. I asked her how her experience of church life now differs compared to the rest of her life and she said to me…
I love our church and its members because the people care, which is evidenced by their willingness to keep in touch, help each other spiritually, emotionally, and physically. That is what I believe Christianity is all about – being a family, accepting the truths of Christ, helping one another, and loving each other.
I think that pretty much nails it.