KOH2RVA: Day 191

microchurch1It was a long trustee meeting at BTSR yesterday, but afterward we all went to Baker’s Crust for dinner and it was there—while I was having a goat cheese and avocado panini—that Susan Rucker asked me about an idea I had brought up at our last meeting. I had asked if the seminary could create a curriculum to train pastors of house churches. Wouldn’t that be a great way to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia? To train a hundred house church pastors and turn them loose on the city?

Susan said she had given it a lot of thought since then, and she had some excellent ideas about how we could go forward. By the time dinner was over we had come up with an action plan and assigned responsibilities. But during our conversation I told her the story of my recent visit to Lucy Corr Village.

It must have been six months ago that I got email from a woman named Linda, a hairdresser at Lucy Corr. She wondered if I would ever have time to come for a visit. She said there were about ten people in the assisted living wing who got together each Sunday to watch the service from First Baptist Church. She said, “They are one of your microchurches.”

I think I’ve told you about the microchurch concept before, but it’s simple: we encourage people who watch our services on television to invite two or three others to watch with them (based on Jesus’ promise that he is present wherever two or three are gathered in his name). We encourage them to share a simple meal afterward and then to share prayer concerns and say prayers for each other. Finally, we encourage them to take up an offering, and use the money to bring heaven to earth right where they are.

Apparently the folks at Lucy Corr were doing that, and Linda thought they would appreciate a visit from their “pastor.” So, we worked out a time for a visit. It took a while, but we finally settled on a date that would work for everybody and I followed my GPS to an address on Lucy Corr Drive, behind the Chesterfield County courthouse. I met Linda at the front door and she took me back to the community room, where everybody was waiting. But they didn’t know who was coming. It was a surprise. And when I walked in they gasped, and somebody said, “That’s my pastor!”

I felt like a celebrity.

We ate lunch together, and I reminded them of the microchurch concept. I said, “I don’t only want you to watch our services on TV. I want you to pray for each other and take care of each other and maybe even take up an offering, but don’t send it to First Baptist Church. Use it to bring heaven to earth right here at Lucy Corr Village.” And they promised that they would.

I drove home encouraged, believing that even if the Kingdom wasn’t coming everywhere, it was coming there, and that if we could multiply the success of that microchurch by a hundred, five hundred, a thousand…the effect would be noticeable.

So, not a megachurch—a microchurch—rather, hundreds of microchurches. And maybe hundreds of house churches, too, until they are in every neighborhood, every community. Maybe that’s why Jesus said the Kingdom is like a mustard seed—tiny—but capable of growing up into something so big the birds of the air can build their nests in its branches.

Makes me excited just to think about it.

Church on the Porch

 

On Sunday, August 24, the last day of my vacation, I attended worship at the “Church-on-the-Porch.” 

 

You may not have heard of it.

 

The porch belongs to my brother Gray, who lives in Summerville, South Carolina, not far from Charleston.  I had stayed overnight at his house on the way back from the beach and since I was still on vacation and not really in the mood to get up early, shake the sand out of my shoes, and go to someone else’s church I asked if we could have a family worship service instead.  That seemed like a good idea to almost everybody.

 

We gathered around the table on the screened back porch rather late on Sunday morning.  Some of us were still in our pajamas, several of us were having a second cup of coffee, all of us seemed to be enjoying the novelty of the experience.  I had located the lectionary readings earlier and my sister-in-law, Debby, volunteered to read Psalm 124.  When she finished, I asked the congregation to offer up silent prayers of adoration, which we did, distracted only slightly by a neighbor cranking up his lawnmower.

 

That’s how the service progressed: a reading from one of the four lectionary passages, followed by some time for reflection and discussion, and then a prayer.  I used the old acronym “ACTS” to guide us through prayers of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  The prayers of adoration and confession we did silently; the prayers of thanksgiving and supplication we offered aloud.  It was moving to hear what each member of our little congregation was thankful for, and tender to hear their requests for prayer. 

 

The time went by quickly and I was surprised to see, when I looked at my watch later, that we had been at it for more than an hour.  As we talked about it over lunch we agreed that although we wouldn’t want to do it that way every week the service had been perfect for the occasion.  The insights shared in our discussion of the Scriptures were as relevant and helpful as any we might have heard elsewhere.  The prayers made it a real worship experience and not just a Bible study.  Perhaps the only thing missing was a rousing hymn or a soaring soprano solo which my brother’s dog tried to make up for by barking at a passing motorcycle near the end of the service.  It wasn’t all that musical, but it came from the heart, and when it comes to worship…

 

…that’s what matters most.