Personal and safe, gathering for a meal around the table allows for natural interactions that lead to deeper relationships over time. Even though this isn't all we do, the shared meal is absolutely foundational. When it comes to gathering as a church, the table is our center. (Picture "center" as the hub of a wheel, not some yin and yang thing.)
Now if you have any experience with common Christian practices of our day, you probably know that Sunday mornings at the church building are a big deal. People gather to greet each other, sing some songs, and hear a message from the Pastor. When it comes to gathering as a church, most congregations place their building, Sunday service, and Pastor's sermon at their center.
Those who are used to the traditional church experience usually ask us one or all of the following:
- When will you get a building?
- Will there be regular Sunday services?
- What about the sermon?
We don't fault anyone for asking these questions. They're good questions and we welcome them! But isn't it kind of interesting that, although we don't see buildings, services, or sermons at the center of New Testament Church life, it just doesn't feel like "church" in today's culture unless we have all three at the center?
For simplicity, let's tackle one of these questions at a time:
"When will you get a building?"
Directly said, "I don't know." For now, we'll rent larger venues when what we're doing doesn't fit in someone's home. The rest of the answer is that when we do land a larger space, it won't be a typical "church building." Why? ...
For one, we don't even see a universal precedent for these temple-like structures being "necessary" in New Testament Church life. It was recognized that Jesus' finished work meant the end of the exclusive priesthood, the temple they served in, and the sacrifices performed there. (Check out the book of Hebrews for more on that.) Thus, the early church did not focus on sacred spaces at all because it was understood that the Church was a sacred people, not a place. (1 Corinthians 3:16-1, Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Peter 2:5) These first few generations of Jesus' followers understood that you don't need a "church building" to be the real Church!
Secondly, having our own location will be driven by a practical need for long-term space where we can facilitate larger dinners, worship circle gatherings, and times of interactive teaching and sharing. Even when this happens, we still foresee the majority of our gatherings being held in homes throughout our community while simultaneously using our larger space in creative ways (e.g. coworking, cafe, events center, etc.) during the week. In short, there is a practical purpose for everything we do/have and nothing will be wasted.
"Will there be regular Sunday services?"
Nope. Sure we'll meet together regularly. We just don't think there's anything special about a Sunday morning. In fact, in the New Testament era, the first day of the week (Sunday) was just a typical work day with Judean-Christians' Sabbath (day of rest) the day prior. Any reference to a designated meeting day in Paul's writings toward Gentile believers simply implies the importance of having a consistent day to gather.
We aren't suggesting Sunday meetings are wrong. We're just saying there's nothing particularly sacred about them. So why don't we scrap the "every Sunday morning" idea, often observed at the expense of healthy family rhythms and rest, and just pick a day and time that works? Could that end up being Sunday? Sure! But it could just as likely be a Saturday, Monday, or Wednesday.
"What about the sermon?"
We deeply value teaching from the Scriptures. We do not, however, think that it should be observed at the expense of (holds greater significance than) other aspects of a functioning spiritual family. For instance, at one of our early dinner gatherings, we were all enjoying each others' company. The meal was delicious and the conversation afterward was engaging and refreshing. One person (well intentioned but not accustomed to this environment) pulled me aside and emphasized how it would be really great if I'd take a few minutes to share something "devotional" in nature with the whole group. I didn't. Know why? Because I would have been interrupting everyone else! There was no need for me to fill peoples' heads with my thoughts because they were already expressing themselves to each other in such wonderful and Christ-honoring ways!
I've given you the example above so you know exactly where we're coming from — we don't promote a celebrity-driven one-man-has-all-the-answers kind of culture. We believe every member was made to function so that we're a complete/whole body. Thus, carving the majority of our gathering times out so that a polished Orator can deliver a rhetorical monolog to a passive audience simply doesn't fit our M.O. (And this conviction is coming from a former Teaching Pastor who really likes to teach!)
Back To The Table
Maybe you've experienced this — we've found that the stuff we need to talk about as a family naturally comes to the surface around our kitchen table. Time together following the meal is often spent discussing it in greater depth. We've discovered the same thing in our church family. Opportunities for discussion and active learning present themselves around the table. It...just...happens!
Matthew 11:28-30 says it this way, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace...."
What could this description of following Jesus look like if applied to our practices as the spiritual family called the Church? We want to find out!