Nothing surprises God. As much as we may be taken off guard and thrown off-balance, God isn’t. I think about this a lot as I pray and ponder over our current circumstances, particularly as we navigate what it means to be a church and the Church. Moving services, prayer, and small groups online is just an adjustment. It’s just the first step to a larger shift, a necessary period of innovation that will hopefully move us back to the simplicity of the early Church.
As I’ve reflected this week, this thought again came to me: “Every home a church; every neighborhood a parish.” Although our church buildings are essentially closed, the Church has moved into our homes, where it has always been! With each home a place of worship and prayer, as well as a missional outpost, our individual neighborhoods become the parish our “churches” are responsible for. Here’s the remarkable thing: it’s always been this way. This isn’t new; it just took shuttering our facilities to illustrate this reality. Since we can’t go to church, we’re left with having to be the Church.
In our Wednesday evening community group, we’re finishing up Francis Chan’s Letters to the Church. In so many ways, I think chapter 9 could have been written about us in our current situation.
Let me share a couple quotes from chapter 9:
…everyone has a home. If it’s possible for a church to fit in a home, then we have an infinite number of potential churches to matter where we go.
We all know our world is changing. If we built our current church models on a society that has now changed significantly, why do we assume we must simply keep doing what we’ve always done? Blindly insisting on our current models might not be that different from trying to maintain a Blockbuster video store in the age of Netflix. I’m obviously not arguing that we change the gospel or water down the truth. I’m simply asking us to reconsider the vehicle we use to deliver it. I’m not even trying to argue that we “keep up with the times.” I’m actually calling all of us to go back to Scripture and recover what we’ve lost.
What would it look like if we grew the Church within each of our homes in the coming months as restrictions slowly relax and we can gather in small groups again? What if the people of God who call themselves Christians, equipped with a Bible and empowered by the Holy Spirit, considered their home a church and their neighborhood their parish? What if we took seriously 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (Emphasis mine). If ever there was a time to move from being spectators and consumers to being participants and servants, it’s now. How God will use us to call others out of darkness into His wonderful light remains to be seen, but much depends on our willingness to be used for His purposes.
Whatever comes, I pray we focus on the opportunities rather than the obstacles, because God has already figured it out. Hallelujah!