This morning Matt, one of the pastors at our gathering, and I met to discuss what’s happening in our body, plans for the fall, and basically how things are going. A phrase Matt said stuck out from the conversation that was worth remembering:
Our worst housegathering is our best housegathering.
Matt described how some house gatherings really struggle. We gather in homes as missional orders in the geographical neighborhoods. Part of the missional order is to be with people that we don’t choose to be with but rather are with in geographical proximity. Part of the missional journey then is learning how to talk share, support, pray for and edify people that are different than you. Sometimes, especially at the beginning, it is not a feel good time, a comfortable time or even an enjoyable experience. And so, as we were talking between us, we thought of times, when someone had to be challenged more than once to stick with a housegathering. Often people are challenged to rethink the instinct to leave something ‘which just isn’t clicking.’ Many times we pastors might be thinking “this house gathering is our most dysfunctional gathering,” Age group differences, lack of affinity between people, even theological differences make a missional house gathering a struggle in our suburban culture where people are so accustomed to choosing their friends. We’d find ourselves saying this is our worst housegathering. But then a major breakthrough, some trust, and the true story of someone would come out in said housegathering and incredible learning, healing and a heart for mission would burst forth. The maintaining of the difference in the composition of the house gathering was the very thing that made it a place for learning how to love. Something unimaginable, something profoundly deep, life expanding and mission inspiring would take place. IN OTHER WORDS, IT IS THE HOUSEGATHERING STRUGGLING THE MOST WITH DIFFERENCE, our worst housegathering that would become our best housegathering. And it was the preserving of difference that made way for such a missional order of community where a.) people can learn to love the other and b.) become places of hospitality, ministry and service for Christ’s mission.
Charles Taylor, the brilliant philosopher of language, epistemology, and history of modernity offers the following description of pseudo community in modernity.
The primacy of self-fulfillment, particularly in its therapeutic variants, generates the notion that the only associations one can identify with are those formed voluntarily and which foster “self-fulfillment, such as the “life-style enclaves” in which people of similar interests or situations cluster – e.g. the retirement suburbs of the South, or revocable romantic relationships. Beyond these associations lies the domain of strategic relations, where instrumental considerations are paramount. The therapeutic outlook seems to conceive community on the model of associations like Parents without Partners, a body which is highly useful for its members while they are in a given predicament, but to which there is no call to feel any allegiance once one is no longer in need. (Sources of the Self p. 508).
I worry that so much of what evangelicals call community is built on affinity, self-fulfillment and common interest. And when people change, or needs change, we up and leave the community we have chosen to participate in. The group is easily discarded for some other community that best fits my needs and lifestyle. Missional orders are of a different ilk. They are built on difference and the common commitment to mission. And because of this, amazing growth and supernatural engagements with God working in us and thru us in the neighborhood are possible. The housegatherings we might think the most dysfunctional are the best housegatherings.
What has been your experience of difference in your house gathering?