My wife suggested that we have “church” at home this past Sunday. I love it when she suggests that. We haven’t done it much, but each time it has been something special.
There is just something really sweet and simple about our family gathering around the dinner table to talk about our faith, to share our hearts and our stories, and to give examples of how God is working in each of our lives.
Of course we currently don’t have high expectations of Will, our three year old. Just last week he told us he knew what God looked like. After we inquired as to what God looks like he replied, “Well, God has pink hair.” From the mouth of babes, right?
But for our girls, 15 and 12, this is an amazing opportunity for my wife and I to shepherd them with our words and example, while teaching and encouraging them in the way of Christ. It’s not that we do not do this on a daily basis already, because we do. It’s just that when we intentionally gather around the table for the sole purpose of discussing our faith, there is a level of intimacy and depth that we may otherwise miss. It’s so easy to get caught up in the rat race and to only have daily superficial conversations with each other in passing… without ever truly getting beneath the surface to discuss those things that really matter, those things of substance, those things of the heart, those things of the Spirit.
So I began by asking the questions each of us would answer. What gifts and talents has God given you and how are you using them? As you examine your heart, in what areas of your life do you need to “deny yourself and pick up your cross daily” in order to be more like the example of Christ?
As we went around the table, each of us looked inward and shared with profound vulnerability. We talked about the way God had wired each of us so differently. We listened as each person spoke about the talents by which God had blessed us. We even encouraged each other by mentioning other gifts or attributes we could see in that person.
It was a beautiful thing… each person feeling loved and cared for.
Then we began to look introspectively at the ways we had fallen short of God’s glory. Each person opened up doors of the heart that had previously been locked, exposed dark areas that had been hidden from the light. We shared about our self-centeredness, our lack of grace to others, our bitterness when wronged by others, and our reluctance in caring about the feelings of others.
Our confessions to each were real and raw. They cut to the heart and exposed all the ways we had easily remained hidden from each other. They even brought us closer together, as we discovered things about each other that we had not previously known. We even walked away knowing how to pray for each other more intimately. There wasn’t a hint of judgment or self-righteousness. There was compassion and healing and unity in our shared brokenness and we knew in these moments God was doing something amazing for our family. We were each moving from places of personal, individualized faith to a place of a shared, relational, and communal faith as a family.
And it was in this, our time together around the table this past Sunday, that I saw something I didn’t quite expect… I caught a glimpse of the future church.
It’s a church that continues to find ways to center around Christ and disciple one another in smaller, more intimate, more relationally connected ways. In fact, it is precisely these characteristics that will become the defining hallmarks of the future church.
One only has to look at the trajectory of our culture to realize that people are starving for meaning, purpose, substance, real and intimate relationships, and a place to unpack all of the burdens they have been carrying around. This cultural trajectory affects every age demographic, but it is the most pronounced and is having the greatest impact on younger generations.
I just met with a young man the other day who has been contemplating suicide. He is a regular church attendee. He is actively involved serving at his church. All outward signs look good, but yet he is silently wrestling with the demons of suicide.
It is examples like this, and I have witnessed many over the years, that continues to prove to me that the church of the future will be one that gathers together more intimately (and less formally) to talk about our faith, to share our hearts and our stories, to honestly discuss our heartaches, burdens, and struggles, and to give examples of how God is working in each of our lives.
The church of the future is a place where the playing field is made level and everyone (pastors, elders, lay-people, and seekers) realize that we are all sinners, that we all need to bare our hearts and souls to each without fear, and that we all need the encouraging words, love, prayers, and care of others.
The church of the future is one that is raw and bare bones in its vulnerability and honesty, and also renown for its depth and hunger for Christ. It is a church that lacks pretense, judgment, and self-righteousness and simply allows people to come together around a table, to roll up their sleeves, and to speak with an honest heart in pursuit of the healing, mending, and restoration of God… even if laced with a few F-Bombs or coming from someone who is high off the street.
The table of Christ always has room and there is always an empty seat of invitation to everyone.
It’s only in this non-sterile, unvarnished, and truth-seeking place of meeting where the sick (all of us) can meet together with the doctor. It’s only in this place where the doors of our hearts will be unlocked, and where the dark places that we have so easily hidden from each other will finally be exposed to the light.
The church of the future is around a table- breaking bread and taking the cup together. And it is in this place where we move from a personal, individualized faith to a place of shared, relational, and communal faith as a family.
That is what my family taught me this past Sunday.