Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker — also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier — and to the church that meets in your home: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Philemon 1:1-3
“… and to the church that meets in your home.” How long did it take for us to see this? For as long as I can remember, the church has been a building, a denomination, an institution, a cathedral, a liturgy, a Eucharist, a committee, a general assembly, a rock concert followed by a TED talk — anything but a group of people meeting somewhere.
I’m not saying it isn’t all those other things, I’m just saying it doesn’t have to be. That even if it is all these other things, the essence of the church is a group of people meeting somewhere. The church at Notre Dame is a group of people meeting somewhere. It’s the same thing as a bunch of people meeting at Philemon’s house. The art, the inspiring architecture, the choir, the praise band, the sermon, the nursery, the order of service are all well and good, but when you strip it down to what it really is, the church is a group of people meeting somewhere. And if what happens when a group of people meet somewhere can’t happen in what we now call “church” then there needs to be some serious reconsideration of what the church is doing.
The Millennials get this. They get it better than anybody right now. In fact, that’s what they want. They want the stripped-down version. The church has been all the other stuff for so long that they are leery of it all, and well they should be. The tangible can so easily become an idol. The music, the charismatic speaker, the dynamite worship band, the stained glass — even the cross — can all become idols if they take the place of the Lord Christ. Not to say that they do, but they can.
When the church is a group of people meeting somewhere, it guards against idolatry. There’s no spotlight, no certain individuals getting all the attention. Everybody has a chance to talk, to question, to challenge, to worship, to pray. The focus is where it should be — on the Word and on people — on everybody, to be exact. Sure, there are “up front” gifts such as teaching and leadership, but these are not the only people we hear from.
I can see in the not-too-distant future a lot of hollowed out, empty church buildings, while meetings in homes and rec. centers flourishes. It’s already happening. We need to follow the Millennials on this one. They have the inside track. And why not, when you realize that the church is nothing more than a group of people meeting somewhere?