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?