A Community of Love

by Bill Ireland

House church is also called simple church for a reason: House churches dispense with most of the accoutrements of formal Christianity. The list of things we donít include in our practice is long: formal liturgies, titled clergy, vestments, sermons, and offertories, to name a few. Since weíre meeting in homes we donít have altars, pews, baptisteries, pulpits or lecturns.

But of course, there were good reasons for almost every practice that arose in the institutional church. One of the advantages of a larger, traditional church is the ability to specialize: youth groups, missions committees, menís and womenís ministries, singles groups, Sunday school, counseling services, choirs, and a hundred other offshoot ministries are common in most churches. And who among us hasnít visited a big church to partake of some specialized ministry offering—even if it was just to hear a great Christian concert?

To be blunt, most house churches donít have any of that.

So, once you strip away all those things, whatís left? And why would anyone want to be part of such a bare-bones enterprise? Are we trying to reinvent the wheel?

In a way, yes.

But take heart: Dissident Christian groups through the ages have had a similar impulse, to simplify and purify their service to God and their corporate experience. There must be a reason that transcends fad or culture.

After we jettison the external trappings, whatís left is us—the people who comprise the church. That can be awfully deflating for those who crave the excitement of big programs, great music, and a smorgasbord of ministry offerings.

But isnít that all Jesus had? When He left, there was no organization or structure to carry on His work, beyond the loose association of 12 guys who were called apostles, and the other people who had followed him. No buildings. No liturgy. No seminary or Bible school. Just people. That would have made their prospects pretty dismal, except for the presence of one other Person—the Holy Spirit. Twelve guys plus the Holy Spirit was enough to transform the world.

What was the most important thing for those people to do? Love one another. Programs, mission organizations, counseling ministries and all the rest can flow from that. But love is the wellspring, without which all else is meaningless. We think we can impress the world with our large-scale projects. But the Lord said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).

Yes, He gave the apostles their commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel. But after the gospel was preached, the church groups that sprang up in all those corners of the earth would be recognized by—their love.

So if youíre wondering what a little group of disciples can do, in the absence of big programs, hereís your answer: Love each other. And that will fulfill Godís command.

Itís that simple.

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