Thursday, June 19, 2014

Life Together (with Coffee)

Home group. Cell group. Kinship. House church. Call them whatever you like, these are (imho) the best vehicle for community. The larger, corporate gatherings on Sunday can be great as well, but it's in the smaller settings where lives can be shared on a deeper level.

(Note: when I use "corporate" in this context, I just mean "everybody gathered together".)

Wendy & I have a ton of fond memories from many years of home groups that we've been involved in (like the one in Winnipeg pictured above):
  • that time when we didn't organize who was bringing what to our monthly potluck meal together.
  • The house group of teenagers and college students (about 35 people) all brought one of either two options: Dinner Rolls or Ice Cream.
  • the Record-Breaking Home Group Marathon
  • It was always our practice to tell people: "Okay, you can stay as late as you want... until midnight." Usually, that meant waving good-bye at 12:01 in the morning. On this one evening, however, people began to arrive around 6:00 (an hour early) to hang out in the kitchen drinking coffee; the "actual" house group started meeting at 7:00(ish); and at 11:45 PM, a prayer need was suddenly blurted out, resulting in a group prayer time that lasted until 4:00 AM.
    That's a 10-hour home group. Just sayin'.  
  • Teenagers inventing crises in order to "crash" the youth leaders' house group.
  • The youth leaders began meeting weekly in the parsonage (where Wendy and I lived with our three-year-old daughter). What began as monthly leaders meetings had morphed into a weekly gathering for the senior high youth leaders (10 plus Wendy & I). Teenagers began regularly showing up in some form of crisis five minutes before the meeting would start, and then would stay for the house group after receiving prayer for their "crisis".
    After a few weeks, they stopped inventing crises and just unofficially became part of the youth leaders' home group. They came for community, and in the process, were discipled into youth leadership (without titles or position -- gotta love it!). 
This week, our house group from The Well crammed into a living room, complete with snacks (ice cream & Timbits), coffee, a guitar (mine), and a divergent group of 20-somethings, 50-somethings, and a smattering of folk in between those ages.

We didn't do anything remarkably new, innovative, or revolutionary. We hung out together, caught up with each other, laughed a lot, sang some worship songs, talked about the previous Sunday's sermon, and shared prayer requests and prayed for each other, as well as sharing answers to prayer requests from previous weeks.

Sounds pretty normal, eh? I wouldn't miss it for anything.

The level of vulnerability in this group is amazing. When we first started meeting a couple of years ago, we were pretty typical: prayer requests were short and usually of the "safe" kind. That's very normal at the beginning of any new house group. It takes time for the personality of the group to develop, and with it, the trusting relationships that allow for greater vulnerability and sharing of our lives.

And with the development of a "safe place to take risks", the fruit is evident in how freely people worship; how our Bible studies are a mix of a-ha! insights, serious questions, and laugh-out-loud funny observations; and especially the vulnerability shared during our times of praying for and with each other.

And our most recent gathering was no exception. It's inspiring, and an honour, to be part of a group like this. All stumbling heavenward, full of faith and full of questions, rejoicing and weeping together. Gathered around the Bible, worship, and prayer in a living room while children play on the floor.

I've been a part of house groups, in all shapes and sizes, for most of my life. There are always ebbs and flows, triumphs and failures, Holy Spirit highs and human brokenness lows. But this is where community gets real and gets deep. This is where we share our lives together.

This is starting to sound like an advertisement for home groups, isn't it? Well, I guess in a way, it is. :)

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