Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Starting with "What if...?"

It all started with "What if?"

About five years ago, my wife Wendy and I were part of a local church plant. We were serving the poor in our community and leading an exciting Kids Rock program that we loved every week. But God began calling us to plant a new church in Orange County.

At first, we thought it would be a traditional church like the one we were helping to launch, but over time we began to make our lists of what this new church would be like. We began to hear the Lord's voice leading us to make serving the poor a priority; about involving children in the service; about welcoming the poor to sit alongside us and to be more than an outreach but become our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Eventually I came across an article written by Ray Mayhew called "Embezzlement: The Corporate Sin of American Christianity." I can't remember now where I found it, but that little 30 page PDF document rocked my world and it changed everything we thought we knew about Church.

Essentially, the article simply documented the high priority the early church placed on the poor. Starting with the book of Acts, the article quoted first and second century Church Fathers and referenced church history to reveal that God's heart for the poor was an essential ingredient for those who followed Jesus from day one.

In one section of the article I read about how one community of faith responded when a stranger showed up in the village just after they had distributed the weekly allotment of food to the needy. Rather than say, "Sorry friend, but we've got nothing to share with you right now" (which frankly is probably what I would have done), these dear followers of Jesus nearly fought one another to see which one of them would have the honor of fasting for one week in order to let the stranger eat their food, or sleep in their home.

As my wife and I marveled over these testimonies of faith and charity, we started to ask ourselves, "What if our new church family shared all their money with the poor like this?" The more we considered this, the more we knew that the Church that God was calling us to plant should give 100 percent of our offering to help the poor in our community. There was no question.

Our hearts began to beat faster as we imagined a church like this. I tried to picture the conversations I'd have as I explained to people that our church didn't spend one penny on salaries or utilities, or anything other than the poor. I couldn't wait to get started, actually.

But then one evening, as Wendy and I were talking about the new church I asked, "How are we going to pull this off?" We both sat there for a second or two, and then Wendy looked at me and said, "We're talking about a house church."

I knew she was right. I searched her eyes for a glimmer of resignation or defeat, but all I saw reflecting back at me was joy. "Yeah," I said. "I think you're right."

And that was it. We both knew that God was calling us to start a house church, but we didn't know (yet) how to pay our bills and support our family. Only that I would find a job in the workforce and our yet-unformed church family would meet in our home.

That little "What if?" started the ball rolling. I had no idea just how long it would take for me to find full-time employment outside the church (about a year), and I had no clue that in between our "Yes" to God and our first day of house church we'd have to endure so much pain, condemnation, uncertainty, and self-doubt. But now, five years later, I can honestly say that it is still the best thing I've ever done with the word "Church" on it.


1 comment:

NoahM said...

Did you mean "Embezzlement: The Corporate Sin of Contemporary Christianity"? http://www.relationaltithe.com/pdffiles/EmbezzlementPaper.pdf