In the first century the church met in homes. As people put faith in Christ they were accepted into a family, not a program oriented organization. They ate together, prayed together, lived life together as a loving community, enjoying getting to know each other and talking about all that God was doing. It was a time of connection and deep relationships.
Because their worship gatherings were in homes they had an informal feel that fostered an openness between people that in turn led to the ability to know and trust each other on a deeper level.
But along the way the church moved into larger buildings and began to look and feel more like an organized public meeting that put focus on the organization, rather than the people. I’m not saying that a “home church” is the only God ordained place to gather for worship, home churches can also be nothing more than an organization, and take on a cold institutionalized feel. What I am saying is that the church, wherever it meets, needs to be very careful to keep the focus on people rather than the organization. The needs of people being the priority, being inviting to those who are worn out by the world and are looking for a place that is safe, life giving, and strength restoring.
It’s like this, let’s imagine that you’ve been on a trip and are returning home after driving for 5 hours. You pull into your drive way as you begin to think about your favorite chair. You get out of your car and fumble in the dark to find the key that unlocks your house; hearing your dog’s ecstatic welcome, you smile. You throw your keys on the table and head for your chair in the living room. As you sink down into your chair and the pillows receive your aching shoulders, you come to a place of rest as you close your eyes and say, “It’s good to be home”. We’ve all experienced that feeling and its wonderful.
As a pastor I sometimes hear visitors talk about Christ Community Church and say things like, “the minute I walked into the church it just felt like home”. That’s what we’re after! We want people to experience God and the love of God’s people the minute they walk in the door. We want it to be tangible and unmistakable that the love of God is in this place. Look at the description of the church in the first century.
Ac 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV)
This was not the First Church of Programs, it was the church of Christ, filled with His power and presence and people who loved God and each other. It was a good place to be. It was real. It was a family. It was a place to call home.
As I thought about how CCC could be even more of this kind of church, I thought about the simple things that make a difference. I have to confess that there was a time I thought that what every church needed to be great is great programs – great ministries – great events. I thought to myself that if we have these great things people will come, but I was wrong. They are all important and every church should have great programs, ministries and events, but the things that makes the most difference is how people treat each other. I hope they like our music and I hope they like my teaching, but I’ve come to understand that even if they like my teaching that doesn’t mean that a visitor will stay – no, what makes the difference is how people treat them. Simple things like smiling and saying hello, looking them in the eyes and letting them know that you see them and hear them, and that they matter.
When someone visits a new church they can feel a little awkward. It’s a new place with new people and they wonder if they will fit, if they might find a friend or two there. They are putting themselves out there, maybe to be rejected, and that’s stressful.
I’m so happy to say that Christ Community Church is filled with wonderful people who go out of their way to embrace people and make them feel welcome and wanted. It’s a great feeling to pastor a church like this.
I shared with the people in a sermon a few Sundays ago that we should make every Sunday an adventure by praying and asking God to put someone in our path on Sunday morning that we can say hello to, and make them feel very welcome because it will help answer those basic questions of, will these people like me, will I fit, will I find some friends here. If we can answer those questions on that first Sunday then we may have a chance to answer even more important questions in the future like, what happens after I die, and where will I spend eternity.
We want Christ Community Church to feel like home to you. If you haven’t joined us for worship on Sunday morning yet, please do. We want to show you that you do matter, God does love you, and so do we.