Exciting times in Bloomland. We’ve recently launched 5 more house churches, which means that we’re up to 12 or so communities of 15-30+ people meeting throughout the Denver metro area seeking together to “live into” all that God is in Christ Jesus. Our house churches stretch out from Broomfield to Arvada to Lakewood to Aurora to Highlands Ranch… its sweet stuff… gardens of resurrection, planted all along the Front Range… that’s our dream.
This past Sunday I gave one of the most important talks (and y’all know I’m not prone to making such declarations as “this is the most important thing you could ever hear from me”) I could give at Bloom, and it was on the “why” and “what” of our house church structure. I’d encourage you to listen to it – http://bloomchurchdenver.com/media.php?pageID=10 – especially if Bloom is your home.
At Bloom, we say that our central quest is to “take Jesus more seriously than any other thing.” And we really mean it. But it deserves some elucidation. You could easily subscribe to the herding-people-into-a-Church-Box-to-make-a-decision-for-Jesus philosophy of doing church and say that you also were trying to “take Jesus more seriously than any other thing.” By the same token, you could easily, without careful clarification, subscribe to a philosophy in which being part of Jesus’ people is not really all that important, since what counted was YOU, the individual, taking Jesus more seriously than any other thing.
When we say at Bloom that “our quest is to take Jesus more seriously than any other thing”, what we mean is that in the Life, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Ongoing Presence of Christ Jesus, God is forming a People for Himself to bring life to the world, to bear witness to, in word and deed, the already-and-not-yet reign of God.
The apostle Paul declared that the ekklesia, the “church” (which is by definition a “gathered” and “corporate” reality – I remember seeing a picture floating around the internet one time which declared, speaking in the voice of a lone individual, as though it were some kind of anti-institutional war cry, I AM THE CHURCH… I remember thinking, “That is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen”, as “ekklesia” literally denoted a gathering in Greco-Roman times) was the “fullness of the One who is filling everything in every way” (Eph 1)… This is bigger than mere “decisions for Jesus.” It’s even bigger than mere “doing life together.” It’s about together realizing the eternal purpose of God that “now, through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Eph 3:10).
Or to put it more succinctly, for us, House Church is about forming family around the mystery, presence, and person of Christ Jesus, so that we become all God intends us to be for the sake of the world.
When Bloom began back in 2007, the guiding concern was not “How can we create an edgier gathering?” or “How can we repackage Christianity so that it will be more ‘relevant’ to the masses?” or “Let’s be awesome 2nd generation Christians and ‘do church differently.’ ” Puke. Those goals are far too low.
The guiding concern, that which is STILL the guiding concern, of Bloom when it began was, “If this is what God is about–the formation of a people who will walk with Christ Jesus into all of life for the sake of the world–then what would it look like for us to live a corporate spirituality together that embodied that theology, making its ‘enfleshment’ more possible?” Nothing was “taken for granted.” If it served the goal of forming a people together for God’s purposes in the world, it was claimed or re-claimed. And through that process, much was REclaimed, even REfigured around these new concerns. Everything takes on a new color and texture when you refigure it around corporate, formational, and missional concerns. Prayer, worship, meditating on Scripture, preaching, sacrament, accountability, eating together… all of it looks, feels, and smells differently when you begin with the question, “How can we together be faithful to Christ Jesus in all of life?”
Though it is not the TOTAL answer to that question, our House Church structure is an important way that we embody this. House Churches are places where together we encounter the presence of the Risen Christ in our midst and find ourselves rooted, healed, transformed, challenged, and sent into the world. Sometime about taking the inescapably corporate and deeply relational meaning of “church” seriously has a profound effect on how we individually live out God’s mission in the world. We’re not sure how it happens. We just know it does. God’s grace goes into effect as we find ourselves rooted in community, and we cannot help “shining like stars in the heavens as we hold out the word of life.”
In addition, importantly, it is this structure that allows us to not sweat about the question of whether or not we’re “missional enough.” I can tell you that as a pastor of this particular church, I do not have a trace of anxiety about that. For this I know: our people, ALREADY, are buried like yeast in the dough of the world. They are doctors and lawyers, baristas and artists, schoolteachers and social workers. They live in neighborhoods of all kinds – from upper middle class to impoverished. They have kids in schools, they shop in the local grocery stores, they have friends who don’t (yet) know Jesus, they participate in the ebb and flow of life in the city of Denver.
ALREADY they are enfleshing God’s presence. How insanely foolish, organizationally self-centered, and myopic would it be for us to think that we weren’t a “missional” church because we the staff and leadership were not constantly making up really awesome stuff for people to do to “serve the city of Denver” out of some misguided anxiety about what our job was and whether or not we were doing a good job at it? My goodness. Church leadership can really be the epitome of narcissism, can it not?
No, they are ALREADY there. ALREADY mustard seeds in the ground. ALREADY salt. ALREADY light. ALREADY yeast in the dough of the world. We see our most important task as making possible the kinds of experiences in community that help root and plant people in all that God is for us in Christ Jesus, together, so that through us, both together and separately, Denver, and the world, may be blessed.
So that’s what this is for us. I am sure that as we grow together, we’ll develop a more and more complex and sophisticated ministry structure. It’s probably inevitable. But the guiding focus, the “center” of the bullseye will never change–how can we together be a family being formed by God for all of his purposes in the world? And if it does, we’ll either change what we’re doing or turn off the lights. It’s really that simple.
If you’re a Bloomer, you can head to the website this week to see where all of our House Churches are or email email@example.com to find one in your area.
Grace and peace to you.