The house churches at the Renew Community started last week and its been so exciting to see their initial birth and formation.
On Sunday afternoon Tracy and I facilitated a training session for our House Church Shepherds.
At the beginning of the session I handed each one of them an ash tray (97 cents a piece at Wal-Mart) and asked three questions:
(1) What are you thinking and feeling when you see this?
(2) Why did I give you one of these as a house church shepherd?
(3) How can this object work as a symbol to remind us of our mission?
We had a great discussion.
People caught on quickly.
They knew where I was going with it.
We say that we desire for Renew to be a faith community for skeptics and dreamers.
We're wanting to focus on the dechurched and the unchurched (rather than the overly-churched).
We say that the only rule is that no perfect people are allowed.
We say that we are here for people who are not here*
Just over 1 in 5 Americans smoke (21%). If house churches at Renew are not going to be Christian clubs for the already convinced but instead are outward-focused communities of love where each month they are exploring, celebrating and serving together what it means to be in a relationship with Jesus, then there's a good chance that people will be using these trays.
House churches at Renew are going to be messy.
They are going to be uncomfortable.
And we've got to learn to be okay with the mess.
In fact, in some ways the beautiful messiness is appealing.
When we look at Jesus in the Gospels we see the God-man who was accused in a derogatory manner of being pals with sinful people (though I am sure he took that as a compliment). We see that he's accused of being a drunk and eating way too much food. We read that he was accused of being around the wrong crowd. This begs the question: If we are passionate and obedient followers of Jesus living in his ways, might we be accused of similar things?
There's one thing I'm convinced of as I read the life patterns of Jesus in the gospels: if Jesus were here today, in 2008, he would be hanging around in places with people who would need an ashtray.
The point of me giving ashtrays to our Shepherds is not to make a statement about smoking.
It's not a judgment against smokers (I have friends who smoke).
Whether our house church shepherds see their trays being used in their house churches or not is not even the point.
The point is that these ashtrays can act as a helpful metaphor to remind us to stay on mission, to be an externally-focused community of faith who exists to see people enter into a life of unbelievable purpose and adventure and joy, whether they light up or not.