Church or Sofa? Where would you like to be? goes the question put to me by The Church Sofa Blog.
My Church is on my sofa. My church has gone sofar.
I believe that the original Church in Jerusalem is our best model for a Kingdom of Heaven shaped society, the most direct demonstration of the body of Christ, because it’s the one that the Holy Spirit initiated at Pentecost before anyone had any idea of what Church was supposed to be like; it’s where it’s at! The first 3120-ish men and women were filled with the Holy Spirit with Jesus’ words and life still in their heads, in their hearts. The core 120 of them knew him as man to man. They knew his heart for humanity and his intention for his people, and from that sprang the community that we call Church.
So what was the early Church like? We’re told the early Church was “of one heart and soul”, so much so, they made a thing of selling their valuable assets (Tithing? So Old Testament. Chuck it all in!) They put the proceeds at the feet of the Apostles for them to distribute to the poor. This was so successful that it was said “there were no needy people among them”! Talk about Christian praxism & charity, eh!
Another thing I’ve noticed from reading Acts is that the Church would regularly meet in the homes of it’s members. In fact, it seems that the extended families common to that culture each became ‘Churches’ in the City. There’s fifteen direct references to the church in the home in the NT, from:
“Likewise greet the church that is in their house”
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts”
Up until persecution broke out after Steven’s stoning public spaces were important gathering points for Jerusalem’s household-Churches, so we do see a good case for mass fellowship gatherings. However, Churches were primarily house-based, as they shared their most important meal together, the agape communion meal, in their houses.
My third thought on the example we have of Church is that Jesus himself said that when a couple of people are gathered in his name, he’s there too. So according to Jesus, a bunch of Jesus-people together is all it takes to be a Church. No bells & whistles, no incense or lecterns, no big screens, fancy lights or drumkits. Though all of these can be useful, like the temple courts they’re not what the Church is made up of, they’re just useful.
Forgive me if I go on but I’m getting inspired now! In Luke 10 Jesus sent out his 72 closest followers and disciples, and gave a few simple instructions:
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.”
Jesus was teaching these guys how to build Church; make a friend, invite yourself to a meal around their house (like he did with Levi & Zacchaeus), stay there, show God’s power & tell them all about it. That’s it. Church.
So yes, I do prefer my sofa. That’s because my sofa is my Church as it’s shared between about 550 of us (we don’t sit on it all at once!) We’re a group of household-churches up & down the UK who share everything- money, cars, dinner, responsibilities… though not toothbrushes or stuff like that.
In 1973 God gave my Church a vision to share ‘all things in common’ like the early Church. We were a traditional sleepy village baptist Church until the baptism of the Holy Spirit hit us, and the old baptist chapel soon became packed with radical former bikers, hippies, and a few ‘straight’ (educated) folk too.
Practically, it started with the chapel noticeboard being filled with ‘givings’ and ‘needs’ notices (often more of the givings). Then people started moving in with each other, sharing cars and selling houses to give money to the poorest and to fund our first communal house, an old rectory on the edge of the village. People recklessly jacked in high paid jobs to start communally owned businesses together, and houses started popping up all around the country right up to today, when we now have about 40 shared homes across the UK.
Personally, I share my life & stuff with a household of two families and ten other singles. I seek to pour my time, energy and love into this community of friends. It’s my lifestyle and I recommend it with the whole of my heart, not because it’s easy, but because it is radical, devoted and it’s the way that Jesus lived and taught.
Sofa now I’d say in conclusion that Jesus probably loves the sofa, as well as his Church.
Acts today – Sam Hailes spent a day at London Jesus Centre. He described what he found there as “like the early Christians”.
Fire In Our Hearts – The story of the Jesus Fellowship (complete free online book)