Welcome to Thursday’s podcast. Our reading today is 1 Timothy 3: 14-16.
Today we’ll focus on verse 14-15:
Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing to you with these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
If we were to go back in time to the the first or second century in the Roman Empire and find some Christians and ask them this question: “Can you draw me a picture of your church?” it’s most likely that they would draw a table.
Paul’s sees the church as God’s household – his Oikos. Extended families – living radically different from those around them. Fathers, ‘Paters’, living with integrity and women being treated with dignity. A place where people from all walks of life would gather, as one – in a fragmented and divided society around a table – in a home united by Christ. The thing is that Christianity grew like wildfire during that time – often among the poor & the marginalised. No clergy, no mega church, no cool Instagram preachers or cathedrals. Just a simple model of extended family – training up ordinary people and it touched the world. Oh Lord, do it again…
My daughter came home from school last year and told me all about her RE field trip. They had a visited a local Anglican church and from what I could gather had learned about various aspects of the church building: the pulpit, the font and chancel. I was really struck that their experience of visiting a church would really focus on the function of the church building because when I was a kid when our Vicar came and did assemblies he taught us a song. I don’t remember most of it but I do remember bits: ‘We Are The Church. I am the church! You are the church. We are the church together. All who follow Jesus. All around the world. Yes, we’re the church together. The church is not a steeple….’ And so on. I’ll be honest, I thought the Vicar lived in the church.
I read a book several years ago called ‘The Insanity of God’ by a man called Nik Ripken. It’s a book about God moving throughout the persecuted church.
There’s one story of a man called Dimitry, a Russian who saw a small revival in his village. He started a small Bible study in his home which grew and grew. Before long 50-60 people were coming to his house and God was doing remarkable things. The authorities became increasingly concerned and as equally threatening. Well over 100 people would pack out this man’s home as they sought the presence of the Lord. Dimitry was imprisoned for hosting his group in his home for nearly 20 years and throughout that terrible time God uses his life dramatically.
One of the things that struck me was at his interrogation he was accused of starting a church or unofficial religious meeting. In his defence he genuinely and humbly asked the question ‘how can I have started a church. We meet in my home…’
It’s not that buildings are bad – they’re not, on the whole. But they can, as the former Bishop of London once said, be ‘palaces of a forgotten king’. One of the aspects of STC life that I love – are Clusters. They’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but Cluster communities try to capture something of the missional power we see in the New Testament. A group of people the size of an extended family sharing life together. Each person contributing something – food, a prayer, a word; sharing life together on the discipleship journey.
To the apostle Paul there was a right way to act when the house church met. Why? Simply because God shows up. He gifts us with his presence. Encourages us to use the spiritual gifts he’s given us and operate in our 5-fold gifting – to see the church grow in depth and number. To pray, worship and learn from the scriptures. He uses the phrase ‘living God’ which is a very Jewish phrase – but to Paul, when we meet in Jesus’ name then God dwells in and among his people.
It says in Hebrews 10:25 ‘do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing…’ community is so vital and it’s easy to stop meeting together. For life to take over: busy, struggles with kids. When we meet in God’s name – he’s there and it’s such an encouragement.
Jesus I pray that we’ll persevere and continue to meet in your name. Thank you for Clusters and Cell groups. Amen.
BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 3:14-16
Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing to you with these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.