Less meetings, more friendships

There is a repulsive American phrase – “doing church.” I hate that phrase!! The important thing is not “doing church” or “running church” but BEING church! Churches who focus on DOING church become preoccupied with programmes. If we want to think about BEING church then it is the PEOPLE that matter! BEING church is much more about the relationships we form with people than the programme of ingredients we put into our services and activities. But the programme should just be a means to an end, not an end in itself. Churches don’t need new ways of “doing church.” What every church needs is to discover more and more of what it means to “be church,” to live together as Christ’s body here on earth.
Meic Pearse and Christopher Matthews wrote a challenging book about church called “We must stop meeting like this. In it they say that churches who realise that church is all about the people put less emphasis on “meetings” and events, and more emphasis on relationships and friendships. The more “structure” the less “church”. When we remember that “church” means “people”, we are more of a family and less of a business. We send out fewer pieces of paper and emails and spend more time talking to people face to face! We care less about “church business” and more about each other’s lives. “Visiting” becomes simply popping in on friends.
Our Church services, and ALL our Christian gatherings, should be occasions when we enjoy each other’s company, “being church”. Not occasions when we run through our programmes and then run away again as fast as possible! The programme should help us get to the point where we can begin to trust one another, begin to care for each other and share our lives with each other and bear one another’s burdens. If we race home after services or Home Group or Prayer Meeting without talking to each other about our real lives, we are just “doing church”. We may experience bits of worship and teaching and prayer but we will be missing out on the fellowship which is a huge part of what “being church” is all about. If we are really “being church” we get beyond “meeting-itus.” We’ll want to stay together as long as possible, revelling in the fellowship and only tearing ourselves away when our responsibilities to the world drag us sadly apart. Because the church is not the programme, it’s the people!
That is why a very important part of church life is hospitality. Practise hospitality. (Romans 12:13) Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9) Hospitality is at the heart of Christian fellowship and pastoral care. Hospitality is not a difficult thing. It just means welcoming people into our homes and into our lives. It is simply spending time together. And hospitality is at the heart of outreach and evangelism as well. Paul wrote, We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. (1 Thessalonians 2:8) The Message translates 3 John 5 like this: “When you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible. … It’s good work you’re doing, helping these travellers on their way, hospitality worthy of God Himself! Hospitality is simply welcoming other people. In the words of the song from the musical, Oliver, “Consider yourself at home. Consider yourself one of the family.”
Hospitality isn’t difficult! It only means inviting folk round for a coffee or a lunch or even just a chat. Making the effort to get to make new friends and welcome newcomers. These are simple things we can start doing from today! Less “meetings”, more friendships.

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