About 10 years ago I developed cataracts. It seemed to come on suddenly although it had been progressing for years. Images became blurry. I had trouble reading and strained to focus. Oncoming headlights caused a terrible glare. Apart from the miracle of modern eye surgery, today I would be blind. Blindness is perhaps the worst handicap of all.
As humans prone to sin, we develop a defect. Our eyesight grows dim. We descend to a place where we can't discern the reality of the spiritual dimension. The only cure is the new birth. In Christ, our vision becomes clear. May God open our hearts to see (Ephesians 1:18).
Today I have better vision - 20/10. This is excellent eyesight. I wear glasses to drive but read well without them. Having clear vision is something we take for granted - until we don't have it. We need clear vision to see what's right at hand and to see what's farther ahead.
In the Bible, Acts 20:20 is a timely verse. The apostle Paul was writing to pastors at Ephesus, "How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house." (v.20) Paul didn't hold back anything. He taught the whole counsel of God, "...repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." (v.21)
Notice that Paul located his labor in two settings: public and private. Why would he do that? As modern Christians, we gather publicly for worship or to hear preaching in church buildings. Historically this has occurred outside facilities: in a town square, a sports arena, or in the days of Wesley, Finney, Moody, Whitfield, Roberts, and Graham, under a tent or in an open field. That's about as public as you can get.
It's the private aspect that intrigues me. This is a missing aspect of our common Christian experience. We don't meet in homes anymore. Nor are most believers being taught the whole counsel of God. For many years, I enjoyed the refreshing power of informal house meetings. The early church practiced their faith in each other's homes. These were cell churches, not congregations. They had no formal church buildings. Historically, buildings devoted to Christian gatherings didn't develop until the third century A.D. House churches were hotbeds for multiplying disciples in the body of Christ. They networked with traveling apostles and local elders until they carpeted their city. I explain this in my book, Houses of Prayer in the City.
We know what usually happens at church. It's very organized and rightfully so. The bigger the crowd, the more programmed it must be. We sing, we hear a sermon, we give offerings. We go our separate way. That's the problem - there is very little community. We're missing the hospitality, serving, testimonies, or expressing gifts. There is no Q & A or dialogue. Parents and kids are split up. Big meetings aren't the right setting for life to be spontaneously shared.
Don't eliminate congregations but adjust our objectives. Why are we meeting? The church with preachers is where we go to be equipped for ministry. Gathering in homes is how we can practice our faith. This is seeing the church with 20/20 vision. It's relational, familial. It expresses organic church life, not merely organized religion.
-- Ron Wood is a writer and minister. Email him at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.Editorial on 01/01/2020
Print Headline: Vision for 2020