Growing up, I had a very “institutional” view of church. The church was the people who gathered for weekend worship, coming out of their homes and workplaces to meet together in Christ’s name. The “business” of the church consisted of worship services and congregational committees and programs. To the extent that the home came into the picture, it was as a “feeder” for the church. It was only in my mid-twenties that my picture of the relationship of between home and church was turned upside down. I began to see that the Christian home was not an adjunct to the church but in itself a vital form or expression of the church. The functions or purposes of the institutional church – worship, community, nurture, service, giving and witness – were also functions of the Christian home. Moreover, a key calling for the institutional church was to support and nurture the faith life of the home.
Through further study I discovered for myself the ancient Christian understanding of the home as the “domestic church” (dating back to around the fourth century AD). I also came to a deeper understanding of the importance of the home for the health and mission of the church (rather than simply the other way around) – that it is God’s design for our homes to be “discipleship centres” where faith is nurtured, practiced and shared. God’s church is where God’s people are 24/7, and because the home is where we invest a great deal of our time that is where a great deal of church “business” takes place. As goes the home , so goes the church! (in more than one sense).
Today I read Stephen Adei’s book Called to Lead: Be the Leader Your Family Needs (Focus on the Family, 2005). In light of the above, the following paragraph stood out to me:
The home is to be a place where we learn holiness and worship, with the church serving as a forum for the collective celebration of our individual experiences. When we come together as a church, we are to come with a song in our mouths, a word of testimony or a psalm in our hearts brought from the home.
While Adei’s use of the word “church” here gives the impression that it is somehow distinct from home, I appreciate his point. The Christian life flows from our collective worship out into our homes, workplaces and communities and then back again in the one rhythm that is “church”.