Thursday, February 23, 2006


TWO OR MORE by Keith Giles

Last Thursday Wendy and I attended a Teen Challenge Graduation Ceremony in Santa Ana.

We arrived early, got to meet a few people, and sat back as the flurry of activity took place around us while the team was setting up for the celebration.

They set up tables, chairs, and laid out food and drinks for everyone to share after the ceremony. They practiced their worship songs and ran off copies of the program and lyric sheets for all who would soon arrive.

Finally the guests were all congregating around the makeshift sanctuary, which was a converted two car garage, complete with the large door which remained raised so that people could make their way inside and find a seat.

We opened with prayer and a few wonderful songs of worship, lead by the Director of Teen Challenge himself, Ron Brown, on the piano. His gospel-themed style of piano and singing made us all feel that we were at a Sunday Morning church service, rather than in a converted garage in the poor side of Santa Ana.

After the worship time, Ron got up and introduced me. I gave a short message on The Power Of Weakness, looking at King David, Samson and Gideon as examples of how God looks for and seeks out the most ordinary and simple of people to accomplish His amazing work on Earth.

The most surprising miracle was that I managed somehow to deliver the message in exactly 20 minutes. No one was more stunned than I was.

Next came the real blessing. The Graduates of the 4 month program were to be honored for completing their initial stages of sobriety. One by one they were brought up to the front and given a blessing and a word of encouragement by their counselors for the hard work they had done in successfully completing the program.

Everyone was in tears by the end.

But what God most dearly blessed us with on this day was something very simple and sweet.

The good people at Teen Challenge had spent all this time and energy putting on this Ceremony, and about 50 people went out of their way to drive out and attend this graduation service, for just two men.

That's right. Only two men graduated this day from the 4 month program.

On the drive home, Wendy and I were marveling that this ministry would have such an amazing heart to stage such an event in order to honor just two people.

"Would we do that?" Wendy asked out loud in the car.

I wondered that also.

And then God did something kind of sneaky.

That night, as we prepared our dish for our Thursday night house church meeting, only two people were there. I was very disappointed by this. We held hands to pray and bless our food and I held back a sadness in my heart at my apparent failure to attract and minister to more than two people, one of whom was my sister-in-law.

We ate our dinner together, we talked about life, we shared a bit. But inside I was squirming. I felt like going into my bedroom and hiding away.

Then, one other person showed up.

Still, I felt embarrased. Now this person realized what everyone must already know, that I was a failure. Our house church was a failure. Maybe we really were foolish to think that this sort of thing would ever fly in Orange County?

We finished dinner and sat down to share together what God had been speaking to us this week. As we shared, another person showed up.

I felt a little better. At least now we had four people, and including my family that made eight. Maybe this wasn't so bad after all?

That was when Wendy shared with the rest of us how blessed she was at this morning's Teen Challenge ceremony. How blessed she was that they would do for only two people what most of us would only do for ten or twenty.

That's when the Holy Spirit kicked me in the teeth.

"Would you do that?"

Well...would I?

Suddenly the lights came on. I realized that God had deliberately used this morning's experience at Teen Challenge to show me how to operate in the Kingdom.

Even God Himself, the Creator of the Universe, isn't too important or busy to show up for two people. "Where two or more are gathered, there I am in the midst of them." Why should I treat people any differently?

Now I realize that I was more concerned about my own reputation than I was about honoring and serving the people of God.

I wanted those who have mocked us and put us down for taking this step into the house church model to hear about a "successful" and "growing" meeting in our home. Even though personally I do not equate bigness with success, and I don't personally believe that "growth" equals "depth", I know that those who judge us and criticize us really do draw those parrallels, and I wanted to look good in their eyes.

So, I had to repent. And I do this now, in full view of all men. I repent of my own pride. I repent for wanting to please men rather than to please God. I repent for playing along with those who say that large gatherings equal success and continual growth equals spiritual maturity.

Tonight, our house church meets again in our home.

Whether we have one, or two, or even if our family is the only one in attendance. We will have church. We will invite the Holy Spirit. We will worship God and we will read the Scriptures together and take strength from God's Word and His prescence with us.

I remind myself again, "We are the Church. Wherever we are, there is the Church. Whatever we are doing, this is what the Church is doing."

I repent.

1 comment:

Can Opener Boy said...

Wow Keith, that is a powerful story.

I've long been a fan of looking away from numbers, but your story helped bring clarity to my heart. Se, it is one thing for me to say "Yeah, a church doesn't need 500" or even "Yeah, a church doesn't need 200" -- but as I read your story, I realized I hadn't ever looked at the other end of the spectrum.

I'd never considered: "Would 15 be enough?" "How about 10?" "What about 5?" "Would you still call it a 'success' -- still call it 'church' if there were only 2 or 3?"

Ouch, and thanks.

In Him, and for His,

~ cob