the weblog of Alan Knox

The church meets here…

Posted by on May 17, 2007 in community, fellowship, gathering, service | 25 comments

I live six miles from my work place. As I drive to work, I pass at least seven church buildings. Each building has a sign out front announcing the name of the church that meets in the building. (To be literal, the signs actually name the building, but I’m assuming that the people who erected the signs actually meant to name the group of believers that meet in the buildings.) On Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, temporary signs pop up around the downtown area announcing several other churches that meet in downtown businesses. Each of these signs is intended to announce the meeting place for a church.

I’ve been wondering lately what would happen if we started finding signs saying “The church meets here” in more diverse locations. For example, we know from the New Testament that many times the church met in homes. What would happen if someone put a sign in their front yard that said, “The church meets here”? Or, even better, Acts 2 says the church met from house to house. What if that sign followed the believers from one house to another as they met together in different locations?

Taking it one step further, we know that God intends for his children to love and serve others. What if the church met in the most dilapidated house in the community? No, not the most dilapidated house owned by a member of the church, but the most dilapidated house in the community. What would happen if the church met in that run-down house and renovated it as they met together? After remodelling that house, the church could begin meeting in another house in need of repairs.

Some of you may be thinking, how would anyone know where the church was meeting? Isn’t it interesting that the church in the first century was able to meet from house to house, but, in the the twenty-first century – with twenty-first century communication – we don’t think we could meet in different locations. (I have a theory… I wonder if the desire to have one meeting location has less to do with whether or not other believers know where the church is meeting. Instead, we want others to know where the church is meeting so that they will come to the meeting, and we can call ourselves evangelistic, without ever communicating the gospel to anyone. It’s just a theory.)

Similarly, some may be wondering how the church can meet without a stage, sound system, microphone, instruments, pulpit, etc. Well, I think it might just work anyway. While it is good to use modern innovations (such as communication), it is not good to be dependent on those innovations. Which of these are necessary for the church to meet?

Also, some may wonder about teaching and preaching. I think that if the church meets together in a run-down house, and over the course of several weeks the church renovates that house, there will be plenty of teaching and preaching. In fact, I think there will be plenty of friends and neighbors who come to see who these fools are who would give up their time and money to help someone that cannot pay them back. Oh, it might not happen after the first or second meeting. But, what about going into the second year, after the church has renovated fifteen or twenty homes around the community. I wonder if the church wouldn’t find a much more receptive and interested audience for their preaching and teaching.

But, let’s not stop at dilapidated houses. What if the church met in prisons or hospitals? What if the church met in an area frequented by the homeless or prostitutes? What if the church met in a nursing home or retirement center? What if the church met in an orphanage? Now, I’m not talking about going to visit once per year. I’m talking about the church continually meeting in these locations. Wouldn’t it be easier to take care of those whom God wants the church to care for?

I wonder, if the church began to meet in places like this, would a sign even be necessary? Can you think of other interesting locations where the church could meet and serve people at the same time?


25 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-17-2007

    This is a wonderful blog. Thanks for so much insightful content.
    I’m curious what you think (if anything) about the “local church” movement of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. Are you familiar with it? Do you consider it valid, or exclusive?
    I’m asking because the considerations you have (and your commenters in other posts) are ones that have caused many saints to meet as the “local church,” meaning having the name of the city and nothing else. And yet there are now all sorts of problems in the movement that bring the Nee/Lee perspective into question.

  2. 5-18-2007

    Very good thoughts here. Our national team does this kind of thing when we do a project in a village. We go worshipping from house to house and serve the needs we find there. This post has given me some ideas on making that methodology more intentional but I can tell you already that it works.
    As for the comment above- as I understand them, the problem with Watchman and Witness was/is not the methodology of church gathering but the misunderstanding of authority and leadership. If we can learn from them and go on to stand on their shoulders we could see a new chapter begin in the Kingdom around the world.

  3. 5-18-2007

    Alan-
    Good questions. Our “assembly” just got a new sign for the old school building that we rent. It says “meeting place of Living Hope Bible Church” to take the emphasis off the building as the church. We still have a long way to go, however, in enacting the church, instead of just inhabiting it.
    Kat

  4. 5-18-2007

    Alan-
    Good questions. Our “assembly” just got a new sign for the old school building that we rent. It says “meeting place of Living Hope Bible Church” to take the emphasis off the building as the church. We still have a long way to go, however, in enacting the church, instead of just inhabiting it.
    Kat

  5. 5-18-2007

    Alan-
    Good questions. Our “assembly” just got a new sign for the old school building that we rent. It says “meeting place of Living Hope Bible Church” to take the emphasis off the building as the church. We still have a long way to go, however, in enacting the church, instead of just inhabiting it.
    Kat

  6. 5-18-2007

    Alan-
    Good questions. Our “assembly” just got a new sign for the old school building that we rent. It says “meeting place of Living Hope Bible Church” to take the emphasis off the building as the church. We still have a long way to go, however, in enacting the church, instead of just inhabiting it.
    Kat

  7. 5-18-2007

    Alan-
    Good questions. Our “assembly” just got a new sign for the old school building that we rent. It says “meeting place of Living Hope Bible Church” to take the emphasis off the building as the church. We still have a long way to go, however, in enacting the church, instead of just inhabiting it.
    Kat

  8. 5-18-2007

    Alan-
    Good questions. Our “assembly” just got a new sign for the old school building that we rent. It says “meeting place of Living Hope Bible Church” to take the emphasis off the building as the church. We still have a long way to go, however, in enacting the church, instead of just inhabiting it.
    Kat

  9. 5-18-2007

    Alan-
    Good questions. Our “assembly” just got a new sign for the old school building that we rent. It says “meeting place of Living Hope Bible Church” to take the emphasis off the building as the church. We still have a long way to go, however, in enacting the church, instead of just inhabiting it.
    Kat

  10. 5-18-2007

    Alan-
    Great post. Our church has just gotten a new sign for the building we rent stating, “meeting place of” Living Hope Bible Church. We still have a long way to go, however, in enacting the church instead of just inhabiting the building.
    Kat

  11. 5-18-2007

    Alan-
    Sorry I goofed up my comment by posting it 2x. I hate that word verifier thingy when it assignes different identities to me!
    Kat

  12. 5-18-2007

    Alan-

    Great post! I have had the same questions lately. How can we get connected to everyone on our community? You bring up some excellent suggestions of where we can be the church. I particularly liked the part about going into nursing homes to care for those in need of the love of Jesus. I guess the bottom line is that we need to be available for God to use us wherever He wants us to go.

    Thanks for planting a seed in my thoughts in this area:)

  13. 5-18-2007

    Alan,

    You have inspired me to try something new locally in a community with subsidized housing (most residents Hispanic). Our church already serves people there but we are not planting church, yet. We also have a new Asian church start that will meet in an insurance office. I am blessed to be part of a church that thinks outside the box and beginning to get outside of the walls of their building.

  14. 5-18-2007

    I have to ask myself, why does it need to start with a home church on Sunday? Shouldn’t we already be doing this ourselves on a individual level? And if not, why not? Is there currently a home bible study going on in our own home? Are we as individuals out in the community ministering to others, such as on a Saturday, in the projects or other parts of town that Alan mentions, tutoring, mentoring, sharing the gospel, working on building projects, etc? If we are not doing this now, why not? As for signs, the Inn down the street from me has a sign out every Sunday that says either “Church meets here” or “Bible study meets here.” If God is calling an individual to start a home church, plant your sign! I would be afraid that without a sign, however, the church would be exclusionary, a club. I have had two individuals who do not belong to our (God’s) church come to our (God’s) home bible study and have wondered what would happen if I put a sign out on Weds to open our (God’s) home up to anyone who wanted to attend. Hmmm! :)

  15. 5-18-2007

    Anon Believer,

    I have read one of Watchman Nee’s books (Assembling Together) which I blogged about earlier this year. Besides this, the only thing I know about Nee or the “local church” is what I’ve read on wikkipedia.

    Strider,

    I like the way you combined the idea of worship and serving people. I appreciate that your experiences shows that this works. I think, though, that whether or not this “works” depends on how someone would define “success”.

    Kat… Kat… Kat…

    First, thank you for the comments… ;) I thought this was an interesting statement: “We still have a long way to go, however, in enacting the church, instead of just inhabiting it.” Thank you for sharing this with us. I’ll be thinking about this for a while.

    Christy,

    If you decide to try something, I hope you will share what happens with us. btw… Thank you for the link on your blog!

    Tim,

    As I mentioned to Christy, I hope you will share what happens with us when you try something new.

    Mary S.,

    I appreciate the hospitality that you’ve shown in opening your home to others. These are some of the things that I have been asking myself: Do my neighbors know that the church is meeting in my house without a sign? Should they know the church is there because we plant a sign, or because we serve the people? How can we interact more with those around us?

    -Alan

  16. 5-18-2007

    Alan,

    Interesting insight. I like it. The only problem I see is that the world might see it as invasive. Only because when they think of church, they think of a bunch of people coming into a building to hear some guy speaking.

    I wonder what the logistics would look lie, and how we could avoid this perception of the church.

    Anyway, great post, very thought provoking.

    Lew

  17. 5-18-2007

    Alan,

    You and your correspondents are showing me the truth of the fact that God’s ways are not our ways, and that with God one day IS as a thousand years. He has no timetable.

    I found myself thinking, “How I wish I had these people (you and your correspondents)around me 25 years ago!” It excites me to hear the things you are saying regarding the practice of BEING the ekklesia.

  18. 5-18-2007

    Alan, Great questions!
    “Do my neighbors know that the church is meeting in my house without a sign?”
    Ouch! You know, I have never invited any of my neighbors to Wed. bible study! :O We are presently maxed out on Wed seating, but have discussed doing a Sat Bible study, since the current one will need a new home soon.
    “Should they know the church is there because we plant a sign, or because we serve the people?” Both! They are not mutually exclusive. With lots of discipleship and fellowship mixed in!!
    “How can we interact more with those around us?”
    Intentionally!! Schedule it on the calendar! Contact the nursing home, senior citizen’s center, Meals on Wheels, and other charities. Pick something that you are interested in, such as tutoring kids on computers. I like gardening, and saw in yesterday’s paper that the local Center has a gardening program for kids in long term suspension. The really tough part will be to do it regularly and not when “I am feeling charitable”. Dedicating oneself to God’s work is to be taken seriously and with long term commitment. I have to ask myself how committed I will be, before making that call. Will I disappoint the kids and my Lord? I think I would have to make a commitment to serve for minimum length of time, and until the Lords releases me. Thank you for helping me take that next step!

  19. 5-18-2007

    best post I’ve read in a while, Alan. Thank you for these thoughts. Powerful stuff. I like it.

    And, who wouldn’t look back on their journey and not remember times where they were in a small group of believers or at a youth camp or something other than what we typically call “church” and say, now that was the best worship time i ever had or the best fellowship, etc. Why? Because there was real relationship, openness, intimacy, worship.

    And, your thoughts about taking the church to the community and to the lost are spot on.

  20. 5-18-2007

    Lew,

    I suspect that unbelievers have valid reasons not to trust believers. That probably means that we should work harder to show that we desire to serve them instead of get something out of them. Unbelievers will not trust our motives at first, but, again, what about after a year or two of serving with no strings attached?

    Aussie John,

    Unfortunately, for me, much of this is conjecture. However, I am interested in implementing more. Hopefully, there will be others interested as well. If not, well, I guess if God has convicted me about this, then I am responsible for obeying whether others do or not. Thank you for the encouragement.

    Mary S.,

    I appreciate your enthusiasm and wise words. You are correct: we must count the costs. But, as I think you have concluded, the costs are well worth obedience. I’m looking forward to what God does through both of us – and others.

    Bryan,

    Thanks again for the encouragement. I think we might be amazed what God does when we combine real relationships with real acts of service. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it – at least not for extended periods of time.

    -Alan

  21. 5-19-2007

    Alan, some have said in the past this sort of statement: “It’s too bad that the church isn’t doing it. The parachurch has had to fill in the gap.”

    I’m not so sure there really is parachurch. I think that is a figment of our gnostic imagination. Hmmm, I don’t know where that thought just came from but it sounds like the beginning of a post! needs unpacking.

  22. 8-21-2012

    I think that is a great idea! There were no sound systems in Jesus’ days and much less microphones. Jesus even said for the Apostles to go from *door to door* to preach the Good News! The only ones that do it are the Jehovah’s Witness and the Mormons. No one else bothers but ring the church bells to remind the sheep it is time to come! I always hated those church bells that hurt my ears more than anything else and I don’t need *bells clamering to remind me to go to church..anyway..I don’t go to any church as so far none are following the Ten Commandments etc..as supposed too.
    One church told me not to come back because I would not accept to be a hypocrite to get baptized and the other ..I had to prove..they were the true and only true church of God..really now..so I just gave up on all the churches and do my thing at home..actually was thinking of starting a bible study for women in my home and rotate by going to other women’s homes and help them out with whatever they need. I am church burned too..

  23. 8-22-2012

    Now that’s an idea, Alan!

    As for the “regular” meeting in homes, the Tuesday night group with whom I meet does move around the different abodes of those who are take part. We normally end up staying at one person’s place for a couple weeks, then we move to the next for a couple weeks.

    However, despite the ease of communication via email, Facebook, cell phones, etc., we invariably have people who still show up at the previous location when we move. (It happened last night.)

  24. 10-5-2012

    We hold a series of church meetings every second Saturday and Sunday with two three or four of us going into the Prison Farms outside of Zomba, Malawi, Africa. After just a 21 months, our group of attending Inmates grew from 12 to 15 at one facility til over 210 made cdecisions to follow Christ (15% of the inmates.) Now we regularly see a total of 120 per weeking in the three facilities. We hold Communion once every two months too. 160 inmates were baptised down at the river since July last year. many finish sentences and get Released, so now we “meet” our friends in the Markets of the surrounding towns and encourage them to continue in their new found faith. And, oh, at least 12 of these young men were Muslims before we began meeting in the Prison Farms.

  25. 10-7-2012

    Interesting thoughts. However, I’m inclined to see the NT focusing on mutual edification when it gathers. The places and projects you have described seem like opportunities for community outreach, inclusive perhaps of a more evangelistic meeting & message since more contact would be made with people outside the fellowship.