Tuesday, February 09, 2016
ADVENTURES IN MOTEL CHURCH
I’ve talked a lot about our adventures in “Motel Church” over the years. For those who might not be up to speed, our family started serving people who live at a local motel about 12 years ago. We started out just bringing free groceries and setting up a bounce house for the kids. No one preached, no one passed out literature. We simply loved people and blessed them. When they asked us why we would do this we told them about the love of Jesus and let them know that because Jesus had loved us, and because He loved them, we wanted to share that love in tangible ways.
Eventually another church showed up [Saddleback Church] and started serving breakfast on Sunday mornings. We helped them out with that for a few years, and then eventually our partnership developed into starting an actual church that meets every Sunday morning in the back parking lot. We read through the scriptures together, one book at a time, and we share breakfast together, and we pray for one another and try to learn what it means to follow Jesus where we live.
Today, several other Christian brothers and sisters from other local churches have showed up to serve and to share to help out. It’s been really amazing to partner with these wonderful people in this Kingdom work.
For most of this time, our house church family has not been directly involved in this work. Yes, their offerings have been spent to help people in need here, and their donations have made a huge impact over this time. Several in our house church have shown up to serve now and then, but these were usually limited to our monthly Saturday grocery ministry, not the Sunday morning Motel Church services.
This was partially by design. Wendy and I, and our boys, have always felt a calling to this motel. We’ve actually been serving here longer than we’ve been doing house church! But as much as we feel called to this, we also haven’t wanted to impose our passion and calling on anyone else. So, we’ve always shared what God was doing through this ministry, and we’ve always let people know they were welcome to join us, but we’ve also gone out of our way not to make anyone feel pressured or guilted into anything.
Once a month, when I would teach at the Motel Church, our house church family would meet without us. That was also by design. We were actively trying to help everyone see that we were not “the leaders” and that there was nothing special or overtly spiritual about our home, or our leadership within the house church family. During that time it was actually great to hear what the Lord was doing on those Sundays when we weren’t there!
But about a year ago I invited our house church family to consider taking one Sunday a month and serving breakfast at the Motel Church. At first it was just a suggestion. They could have said “no”. But we talked about it and everyone was interested in trying it – at least once. If we didn’t like it, we could just say, “that was nice” and move on. No expectations were placed on anyone by anyone. So, we tried it. It was great. So, we decided to try it for the next three months and reevaluate after that. We did. Everyone loved serving, so we decided to commit for a six month window. That turned into an every month commitment.
Now, I want to tell you what just happened.
Over the last few months, I have taken a step back from my usual role as teacher at the Motel Church. As much as I do love to teach, and as much as everyone has been encouraging me to continue doing it, I really felt like I needed to give everything away. So, I did.
Actually, it wasn’t even my idea. It was my youngest son, David, who suggested it at first. We were talking about how to engage people at the Motel more in our discussion time. He suggested we break into smaller groups and get more intimate with everyone to hear what they were thinking about the scriptures and to listen to what they were struggling with in their daily life.
The first Sunday we tried that, it was great. I introduced the scripture we were going to cover and we each took turns reading verses out loud together. Then I passed out a few questions to some of our own house church family members who were each seated at various tables. They started asking the questions, and then people started talking, and sharing. I stood back and watched them listening, nodding, sharing, and even spontaneously praying for one another. It was glorious!
I even gave away the guitar playing during worship time which allowed one of our younger members to step in and lead, and people seemed to respond even more to what was happening than when I was doing it all myself.
Last Sunday I sat back and marveled as our house church family showed up early, shared the food they had prepared at home, served it to hungry people in the food line, sat down at the tables alongside everyone else, helped lead the discussion from the book of Acts, and hold hands with people at their table as they lifted up their needs in prayer. I also watched them lead worship, clean tables, stack chairs, make friends, share life, pass out hugs, make new friends and step deeper into the lives of these dear people we have come to love and cherish at the motel.
My heart is so full! We get to be the church in such marvelous ways. We get to make disciples by being disciples who disciple one another in beautiful ways.
Honestly, I am so glad I stepped out of the way so that the rest of the Body could grow into their calling and embrace their identity as servant lovers in the Kingdom of God.
This new season we’re experiencing together is really wonderful and I’m loving every minute of it!