“House churches should stop arguing with the institutional church and start planting Kingdom gardens.”
I wrote this over a week ago in my journal about ideas for this space. It’s been the running theme of everything I’ve been writing from “The God of the Mustard Seed” to “The End of the Argument” to “How to Share the Gospel Without Inviting Them to a Building.” The point is this: Instead of crusades against the past and other believers, let’s focus on Jesus and His Kingdom, making disciples and reproducing house churches.
How do we plant Kingdom gardens? We sow the Gospel message among our friends and neighbors, always combining Good News with good deeds. We invite those that respond (because there will be those who don’t) to become disciples of Jesus. As these new believers respond to the invitation of discipleship we continue to encourage them to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit, love others the way that they have been loved, and share the Gospel with others they know who don’t know Christ.
There is so much here to talk about. Very little of the house church movement focuses on growing up in Christ and what that looks like, but most of the New Testament focuses on this reality. That topic is too large for one post, but the effect of growing up in Christ and growing out through outreach and discipleship is a Kingdom garden. What started as tiny, laughable seeds has blossomed in the right soil and taken over some desolate patch of earth in order to beautify it.
These Kingdom gardens are the proof God is working in our midst. They speak more than our arguments. They speak more than our judgments on the rest of the church that doesn’t do things the way we do. The fruit and the beauty of what God is doing speaks for itself.
My prayer is that we, as house churches, can plant Kingdom gardens and leave the old arguments behind.
God is big. All of time and space exist within Him. He created everything that exists, He sustains everything that exists, and He shows up in these big moments in the Bible like the parting of the Red Sea or Pentecost or Armageddon (the End Times). And because we have all of these gigantic, mind-boggling pictures of God, it can be easy to believe that God exists only in “the big things,” that some how only the big things are significant or if it’s not big, it’s not God.
I don’t want to argue that God isn’t in the big things. I believe there are some things so big that only God can pull them off, but I also believe that if we only see God in “the big things” we miss God regularly showing up in small but significant ways. Consider one of the teachings of Jesus:
Jesus said, ‘How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.’
The Kingdom of God, the place where the all powerful, omnipotent God of all creation rules, comes to the Earth like the smallest of seeds. I think many times this flips the script on what we believe God is like. We’re looking for explosions with fire and smoke. God plants a single seed in the garden of the Earth and watches it grow.
This should tell us a couple of things about the nature of God. He’s humble. He doesn’t need announcements and show. He’s secure. He’s not the Wizard of Oz, using special effects to inflate what we think of Him. He’s not scared of the smallness. He embraces it as a strategy. He’s patient. He will let His Kingdom grow, not insert the full version in one final, dramatic moment.
But we, especially us Americans, don’t like seeds. We like manufacturing and microwaves. We like getting things done. And so this seed-like way of God is often missed by us. Which is unfortunate, because eventually the path of this humble seed is that it turns into a garden plant that birds of the air can nest in. By ignoring the Kingdom in it’s small, seed-like form, we run the risk of missing the fullness of the Kingdom of God in the here and now. The God who brings the Kingdom through seeds also is a God who grows His Kingdom into a large plant right in front of our eyes, if we perceive it.
You see, God is large. He cannot deny His nature. Eventually the largeness of God is manifest in the way His Kingdom touches the Earth. Gideon’s 300 will win the war. The baby in a manger becomes the One to whom every knee will bow. The defeated 120 in an upper room will experience Pentecost. He just first comes in small, often hard-to-perceive ways, so that those who are looking for Him find Him and those who are only chasing greatness miss it.
More on that tomorrow…
It’s a tragedy that’s been around for thousands of years. But every once-in-awhile God lets you see old truth through new eyes.
In short, the story goes like this: David had sinned by dealing deceitfully with Uriah the Hittite and sleeping with his wife, Bathsheba. The judgment, according to Nathan the prophet, was a sword of violence being unleashed in David’s family. This prediction begins to come true when Ammon (David’s oldest son) is killed by Abasalom (David’s third oldest son). Abasalom is banished from Israel, then restored, and once restored he begins to quietly launch a revolution to take the kingdom from David.
When the revolution happens, David is banished from his own kingdom. He takes a remnant with him and begins a war with Absalom that culminates in a final battle. It’s during this final battle that David forces his commanders to swear that if they capture Absalom they will not kill him. All of the commanders take the oath, but Joab, one of David’s most trusted commanders finds Joab hung by his hair in a tree and kills Absalom anyways.
And it’s here that our story really begins–David does what any good father would do–he weeps for his son. We see David’s heart on full display as he cries out “How I wish I had died instead of you!” Now, Joab tries to be the sensible one in all of this. He reminds David that Absalom was his enemy and that many men fought (and died) in order to restore his rule, but that matters little to David. He eventually did pull himself together and honor his army, but we see his true heart on display in his lament.
This is where God began speaking to me. I was reading this story to my sons and my daughters and I could so identify with wanting to take their place even though one of them had tried to lead a rebellion against me. “No parent should have to bury their child,” says Theoden in the Two Towers and it’s this kind of love, however misguided it may seem to others, that fills parents when they think about the demise of their children, even ones who are their enemies. As parents, it’s only right to want to die, believing our children have a better future ahead. It’s what makes us parents.
As I read the story, I began again to see the heart of God–A father who loved his children so much, that even though they participated in a horrible rebellion to overthrow His Kingdom and replace it with their own, would rather die in the place of His children than see them perish. If we feel this way…if us natural human parents feel this way towards our children…if David feels this way towards his son who sought to overthrow him, then how much more must our heavenly Father feel towards us?