Not long ago I met with a group of people who’ve been sharing life as a house church over the couple of years. They had read a lot of my books and articles, but we had never met. In preparation fo our time together, they sent me a list of the questions they were hoping to cover when I was with them. Here’s what they sent:
- What are the areas of holy living that we cannot ignore as true disciples of Christ? (the standards for living)
- What about headship and accountability in the small group setting? Who is responsible to keep order, make decisions, deal with breaches of conduct?
- What kinds of information is appropriate to share; what kinds of questions can we ask others that will be helpful to the growth of the body, and which will cause division?
- How do we deal with differences in age, education, economic levels, geographic, standards of dress or entertainment, strong opinions on health food, home schooling, etc.
- How can we overcome roadblocks to real relationships? (personality quirks like stoicism vs. epicurean, giftings such as speaking vs. serving, training and backgrounds like Baptist vs. Pentecostal, paradigms and thinking patterns such as models for church vs. Holy Spirit led, etc.)
- How do we grow and develop a deeper love for one another which would cause others to see something special?
- Where do we find fellowship with a larger circle of believers?
- What are some specific things we can do to humble ourselves?
- How can we turn our focus to Jesus instead of ourselves in conversation without sounding pious or super spiritual?
- How is speech that is full of grace characterized?
- What part does prayer have in the unity of the body of Christ? Are there standards defining who we pray with, how often, or of quality that we should be aware of?
- Describe a Spirit-led person. Describe a Spirit-led gathering.
- How do fear of rejection, fear of conflict, etc. interfere with relationships? How can we overcome those?
- Is the house church just another model, if so where do we go from here? Are there those breaking out of the house church model? Why?
I got tired just reading down the list. While there are some good questions here, when I first read them I was struck with how preoccupied they were with the life of ‘the group’ as an entity and not with our life in Jesus, who does have first place in all things with the church. I found myself hoping we’d forget about the list, and find the choicest fellowship at Jesus’ feet.
And that’s exactly what happened. When I arrived to gather with these people, we spent Friday evening sharing our journeys, talking about the amazing work Jesus accomplished for us on the cross and how he is calling people to himself these days. It was an awesome time of fellowship. We even had someone in the room that was a bit resistant to some of what was shared, but that even allowed us to see how to treat folks who don’t see things the same way we do.
Halfway through our time on Saturday, I said to my host, “Do we want to work on some of those questions this afternoon?”
He smiled at me and responded, “Don’t have to. They’re irrelevant.”
I loved it! I didn’t take it to be a slam on the questions, but a refocusing of our life around Jesus. As long as we are focused on the group, we’ll have an endless array of questions to deal with. When our focus is on Jesus, the questions become less important. In his presence and with his leadership he’ll make his way clear in our hearts. Having him, nothing else really matters. We went on to have a great weekend together and come away with hearts more clearly focused on his work in us and how we yield to him each day.
That’s why I’m so convinced that people preoccupied with creating fellowship rarely find it. They only end up with an unreasonable facsimile there of. But those who set their focus on Jesus and his kingdom, will in time find more fellowship than they will know what to do with.