What Is Simple Church? (part 1)OK, in the absence of any other topics pressing on my brain right now, I want to take a few moments to define a term that I've already used in my blog, but may not be familiar to everyone who reads here. That's the term "Simple Church". You may know it as "Organic Church", "House Church", "New Testament Church", "Biblical Church".....there are many labels assigned to it.
I happen to like the term "Simple Church" in comparison to the others. "Organic Church" sounds to me like a bunch of Christian farmers! ;) "House Church" implies that it must meet in a house. While I do believe that a house is probably the best place for church to take place, it doesn't have to be limited to a house. "New Testament Church" is an attempt to say that we are doing things the way it was done in the New Testament. I'm not really opposed to this idea, but I do fear that the patterns in the New Testament are vague enough that we can't really claim to be doing things in the same way that they did. Hopefully, we're close to the same heart and goal, though! "Biblical Church" is unnecessarily antagonistic to the established churches all around us, by implying that they are not biblical.
So, I prefer "Simple Church". I started out using the term "House Church" and so often I verbalize that term. But in writing and thinking, I am trying to condition myself to be more consistent in calling it "Simple Church". Soooo, what is it, you ask?
Let me begin by telling you a little bit about how I got to this point. I grew up in church. My parents were always very active. My dad was always head of some committee, or a deacon, or an elder. And my mom always played piano or organ (depending on the needs -- there were several ladies who sort of rotated on the two instruments). At a young age, I began playing the piano, and by the time I was a teenager, I was playing the piano regularly for the services. Eventually, I went off to Bible college and got into ministry vocationally.
I held several positions in churches: Minister of Music, Associate Pastor, Pastor of Creative Arts... did a lot of "worship leading", preaching, teaching, counseling, etc. And there were many things that I saw in church that seemed to not make sense. But because "we've always done it that way", I just kept my mouth shut and went along with it, assuming it must be me who was wrong.
Several years ago, I reached a bit of a breaking point in this journey. A crossroads, if you will. One Sunday morning, I was standing on the platform looking out at the congregation before church started, and I felt a tremendous emptiness. Not emptiness in me. Emptiness in THEM. Well, it included me, but what I'm trying to say is that it wasn't that I was burned out. I wasn't disillusioned. I was just realizing that we were not really accomplishing much of lasting value in our efforts.
Every week, people came in, sat down, stood up when told to, sat back down when told to, sang the songs that I chose for them to sing (or some just stood there while others sang around them), sat there and listened to the preacher speak for a while, then got up, shared some nice pleasantries with those around them, and left again. I didn't know these people, and they didn't know me. I had no idea what their lives were like, and they knew nothing about mine. Unless I was able to get myself in a position near the right door to speak to them as they left, or unless they deliberately found me to speak to me, weeks and months could go by, and I wouldn't have a clue how they were doing spiritually.
What am I trying to convey here? Well, in my opinion, except for a handful of us who were paid to do things in the church service, and apart from a small group of volunteers who got recruited to do the things we "paid professionals" couldn't (or wouldn't??) do, there wasn't much for people to actually DO besides obey our instructions (sit, stand, sing) and listen to the Word. Is this what God intended "church" to be? A few doing a lot, while many do nothing? It wasn't their fault. If someone in that body had the gift of preaching, there was only one way for them to be able to exercise their gift: Leave and start their own church. There was no way for someone who had the gift of mercy to know that someone needed mercy unless it was announced from the pulpit. If someone had a song burning in their spirit that needed to be shared with the church, they had to come to me and "audition" in order to be "fit in" during some future service, if at all.
In other words, everything was being filtered through us: the staff. And if it didn't line up with "our" vision for the church, it didn't get addressed or allowed. And so we went on from week to week, month to month, year to year. But once I sensed that something was truly missing, I couldn't rest. The uneasiness ate away at me. The sense that there should be something different persisted in my thoughts. And I decided to search the Scriptures and pray.
What has come out of that is my understanding of "simple church". And next time, I'll explain what that means.
Until next time,