Gospel Communities | Together Frequently 1.2 | Together in Homes
“And all who believed were together… attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes…” - Acts 2:44-46
The next location of corporate gathering noted in the gospels, the book of Acts, and the rest of the New Testament, is the home of the believer. Hospitality is one of the important hallmarks of Christian growth, and as we exercise this with others, we grow in the joy of sharing life with brothers and sisters.
This chapter on togetherness will require less explanation, as we regularly experience this in our gospel community gatherings. There is something holy about sharing time together in the comfort of a home, and lives are changed just as much by conversations on couches or at the dinner table as they are in pews on a Sunday morning. However, there are three points worth making regarding our reorientation in this area; while Anthem is really quite strong in practicing hospitality, there are a few principles of growth and realignment we should prayerfully consider.
First of all, the midweek gathering is not the end-all for community. We ask that members of gospel communities prioritize this gathering, but these weekly meetings should serve as catalysts for more time spent throughout the week. The church can only facilitate so much community and discipleship before things begin to feel forced, inorganic, and suffocating. Our hope and prayer is that we would seek to learn more about one another, and let ourselves be known, every day of the week in community. We pray that we might grow, help others grow, and thus strengthen the body. We desire to be a church that exhorts one another and jokes with one another. That laughs together and cries together. That meets for both game nights and prayer nights. That we make memories together and build legacy together. With our scheduled midweek gathering as the starting point, we want rich unity to take root, that the supernatural work of God might be seen by us and the world around us (wonders and signs, Acts 2:43).
Second, in order for this to take place, we need to stretch ourselves and extend our circles. All of us have certain types of people that we naturally gravitate towards: these are people who share similar interests, life stages, senses of humor, etc. Having such friends is an incredible gift, and enjoyment of them brings honor to the God who orchestrated such relationships. However, none of us started this way. All of us came into the family of God uncertain, sitting in the back, uncomfortable. “Is this place really as safe as they say it is? Will these people really love me unconditionally?” Most of us are just so far removed from this initial uncertainty that we forget it still exists. We must be reminded that there are people in the church who are on the outskirts. Some have even been attending for some time and still don’t feel fully included. And as we discussed in previous posts, while there is some responsibility on their part to initiate relationship, there is also definitely a responsibility on our part, as those who have been blessed with the joy of community, to widen our circle, invite someone in, and love them as we were loved.
This invitation will be uncomfortable, and we may not be completely similar to those we are initiating towards, but remember that we ourselves were welcomed by God because of Christ, through no merit of our own. We are to model this radical love through the building of a community that welcomes all people, no matter their background or differences, under the banner of Christ. Are there single parents who need additional support and help? Are there people who are lonely? Is there an older couple whose voice isn’t regularly heard? Keep your head on a swivel, pray for eyes to see, and find ways to draw these people out and include them in the love and light of gospel community.
Lastly, we are to be sharing food with one another, in some manner, in our homes at our weekly gatherings. Just as the early church gathered to break bread, we too desire to model this intimacy. We recognize, in every way, that organizing and executing a meal for 6-25 people on a weekly basis can be extremely difficult. Planning meals, shopping, cooking meals, and following up with people about what food they are bringing can all be hectic and frustrating. Add to this effort everyone’s work schedules, dietary restrictions, and personal preferences, and one might conclude that putting a weekly meal together is more of a logistical nightmare than a holy experience.
In spite of these difficulties, we are convinced from Scripture that a meal, in some manner, should be shared by those who gather in gospel communities. While some might argue that the time and effort to make this meal happen night be better spent in teaching, prayer, or some other exercise, we see that Jesus himself, God in the flesh, took frequent time to pause and share a meal with sinners and saints alike. There is something undeniably intimate about sharing a meal with others. We connect in a deeper way over food, drink, fellowship, and laughter, and this is something we need to continue to practice as a community. With the shared meal as the principle, we leave the logistics of the execution up to each group. We must prioritize the breaking of bread, as the feasts we share here on earth point us towards the heavenly banquet that awaits us (Revelation 19:9).