I wasn’t quite sure what to call this post, as the group I had the privilege of visiting this past Sunday doesn’t really have a formal name, structure, or building.
But they certainly do have very comfortable sofas, and plenty of time for discussion, worship, prayer and eating together in a relaxed family environment.
A couple of things really stood out to me. The first was the inclusive nature of the meeting. In one church I was in recently I was carefully guided to a back pew and reminded of my ‘observer’ status. But at the house church I was invited into the family living room, and actively encouraged to join in the discussion. Everybody’s input was expected and welcomed. This was a pleasant change to passively listening to an hour-long lecture!
The other thing that caught my attention was the focus on discipleship. This might be a small gathering, but there is actually a reason behind that. We talked for a while about the fact that it’s humanly impossible to disciple, pastor, or coach large numbers of people simultaneously. Even Jesus focused much of his attention on a small group of 12 followers. Perhaps four or five individuals is the most that it’s reasonable to expect one person to be able to effectively disciple.
And so rather than adopt the common pattern of having many people gather together once a week to hear a teacher speak from the front, this church has deliberately chosen a model that allows intense, personal interactions between the leadership and members. I think this is an idea that’s definitely worth exploring. I’m convinced that the purpose of the church is the transformation of people towards the model of Christ. But I’m not at all sure that all of our church models are very good at achieving this. So I’m very interested in any approach that tries to create better environments for this transformation to occur.
This was also by far the longest ‘service’ I’ve been to. I arrived at 4:00 in the afternoon and didn’t leave until 10:00 that evening. But while I can’t imagine sitting in a pew for 6 straight hours, this felt far more like hanging out with good friends, and I was in no hurry to leave.
I’m glad I found this little group. They may have no official title or building, but they showed me that there are some good things happening under the radar in Barrie.