Monday, January 24, 2005

bringing the church home

Thanks to Ben for reminding me that I've not posted for a week. I've been travelling - well I've been up and down the M1 more times than anyone with a brain should.

Hours in the car mean that I've had concentrated periods listening to great music. Over the past week I've been especially into James Grant's Holy Love. He's a Scottish singer- songwriter with a catholic heritage and nice line in laconic love songs dripping with Christian imagery. He has a wonderful voice too.

He sings songs that capture the struggle of faith in the modern world. Particularly good is the closer The Soft Option. Well worth checking out.

Looking forward to new offerings from mercury Rev and Low - hopefully out this week - and Athlete (Wires is my favourite single of 2005 so far!)

I've started reading House Church and Mission - the published and translated form of Roger Gehring's PhD. It's something I've been waiting for (sad boy that I am!) as it reviews the latest scholarly discussion on how Christian groups were organised in the first century.

In all the talk about emerging church and the desire to recapture something of the dynamic of early church life, the issue of structure and especially the use of homes is rarely prominent. Often indeed the talk is of hi-tech wizzardry and lavish production values that only large groups in well equipped spaces can mount. Not that there's anything wrong with this per se, of course.

We're just starting looking at the possibility of doing new outreach work on an estate near our church and I am keen to explore the use of homes not just for initial work but as the essential long term structure of any 'church' that we establish.

Clearly 21st century south east London is not the same as first century Thessalonica or Corinth; houses (oikos/oikia in the orginal) do not fulfill the same function as they did. But meeting in homes does offer the flexibility to do things in a way that you can't do them in a meeting place such as a church or community hall.

For instance, there's a limit on the size of group that can meet which means that all gatherings have to be interactive. Then, there's the informality of homes, the relaxed atmosphere and the fact that it's easier to centre any activity round the meal table (something the early Christians seemed to do). Finally there's agreater equality between 'ministers' and 'others' at the gathering.

Baptists have always believed in the priesthood of all believers - a strong New Testament theme - but we have always fallen into the trap of having a clerical class (in the form of ministers and latterly worship leaders) who dominate proceedings.

I want to see if centring activities on homes will lead to greater equality between all particpants and offer those with questions about faith a greater freedom to explore what Jesus might mean to them.

I'll keep you posted. I'd love to hear from people who are trying this. I realise that there are lots of you out there much further down this road than me. In particular I know of groups that are doing 'table life' church - if any of those would like to comment, I'd be grateful.

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