Getting to Church
This morning begins like any other Sunday Morning at our Home Church. Immediately after breakfast at 8, the host family turns into a Prep Team to turn our Living Room into a Church Sanctuary—Dad, Mom, 9-year old, and 8-year old. We move the tables, sofas, chairs, and coffee table. We vacuum and dust. We turn on all the lights, and open the shades. Mom finishes preparing the Baked Ziti, kids prepare their offerings, we print out song sheets (20 today—we always want “more than enough”) and stuff them with offering envelopes and prayer request cards.
Mom starts playing through the worship for the morning, filling the Home Church with praise, while the rest of the family continues getting themselves ready for the guests.
The Church Family starts arriving about 9:45—church starts at 10 AM. Oftentimes, the kids are the designated “greeters”—welcoming everyone from their post on the front porch. Some enter through the front door, and others through the back. This particular morning, the congregation includes ages 70’s, 60’s, 40’s, 30’s, Teens, and Pre-teens. We are African American, Latino, and White.
Coming Together in Crisis
This morning, as we are in worship, I receive a text from a church member: “My family is real crisis this morning. It’s been going on for a while and I haven’t asked for prayer or said anything, but today I really need a spiritual intervention. I want to come to church, but I don’t know. There is a real stronghold on our family right now. We may or may not be there. Please pray.”
The family in crisis arrives during worship. They are at a point of tears, and while one member is quietly praying for them, I verify that it is “OK” for them to share their burden today with our church. After worship, I introduce the idea that part of our role as the Body of Christ is to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “grieve with those who grieve”. We invite people to share ways God had shown His goodness since we last met. About ½ of the adults bring paragraph testimonies for a total of about 10 minutes.
Our three 9-year old girls serve Communion. One is African American, one is a Single Child of a Single Mom, and one is part of a “blended family”. Everybody takes the few steps to come forward and receive. Young rowdy kids and grandmas with canes. Multi cultural, multi generational, multi ethnic. The Body of Christ.
During announcements, we point to the basket for offerings, then we pray for the preteen kids and release them to their Sunday School. Adults stand up, grab a cup of coffee, and move the chairs into a circle.
A Change of Plans
Rather than continuing directly into our scheduled Bible Study on “Who is Jesus” based on Mark 2, we feel God is asking the Body of Christ to be a true family, to come around the struggling, and offer “listening ministry”. The text’s author confesses that she was feeling like an “awful Mom”, and had a serious argument with her teenage daughter this morning. But this is just the “tip of the iceberg”—she feels like a failure all the time.
As a group, we ask her teenage daughter, who is sitting on the same couch, to tell us how she is feeling. She cries out she feels “unimportant and ignored all the time”…that nobody can hear her, and that she feels all alone. Many in the room react with understanding to those feelings.
Bearing one another’s Burdens
We continue a discussion with both, sharing ideas and asking for feedback to make sure we are “hearing correctly” and not going in a tangent. After about 15 minutes, it becomes clear to both Mom and Daughter that they are in a place of continuing to believe lies about themselves…they are NOT actually “awful Mom”, “unimportant”, etc.
One of the group sits up and said “it sounds like you are being abused…you are abusing yourself”. When Mom agrees with that statement, someone says “would you like to forgive yourself”? We guide Mom through the process of forgiving herself, asking God for forgiveness for believing the lies, and declaring God’s truth about her.
As we finish helping her pray through this, we remind Mom that the lies will come back as soon as she leaves the front door, but she has the choice to reject the lies, and be quick to forgive herself when she fails again, asking for God’s forgiveness too.
Sharing A Meal
We invite someone to pray over our group and the meal, and we share lunch! We go through the lunch line and find a place to sit at the dining room table or in the living room (adjoining). Kids and adults mingle over lunch, then kids go play downstairs until parents are ready to leave.
Each week, we share whatever people bring. This week, its Baked Ziti, Tortilla casserole, salad, chips and salsa, hot dogs (for the kids) .
God’s Unplanned Plan for Kids Ministry
Ironically, at the VERY SAME TIME, God was dealing with our kids downstairs with the VERY SAME MESSAGE! A 6 year old boy said “I feel like my older sister hates me”. As a group, the teacher gathered up the kids, skipped the planned lesson, and invited the group to share about how to go through the forgiveness that leads to freedom, and how to replace lies with the truth.
As we compared notes over lunch, we were SO AMAZED that God had our WHOLE church doing the same lesson today, as a group. Although we had plans to do something else, we strive to really listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to do, and we have space and grace to go with that.
Next week, we will come back to the planned lessons. We were ready this week, and we will be ready next week. Wait, because of the way we gathered around family in crisis, hopefully we will be even MORE ready to share the planned Bible readings next week….
Most people are gone by 1 PM…but we have never “kicked out” anyone. We leave and go about the rest of our Sundays…on the way out, many hugs and “keep in touch”.
Is this a “successful” Sunday morning church service in a Simple Church?