by Maurice Smith
O.K. I confess. I love old movies. I’m one of those afficionados who genuinely believes that the best overall movie ever made was (and still is) “Casablanca” (Yep, I have the 50th Year Anniversary Edition, just in case you were wondering – which you probably weren’t). When my wife and I are in the mood for a movie, we often turn to an old classic. And nothing is more classic than watching an old song & dance musical. Even as I write this I’m watching an old FredAstaire movie (The Band Wagon) in which he dances with Cyd Charisse to the music of “Dancing In The Dark.” Talk about beautiful music combined with incredible gracefulness. It’s the story of two very different dancers who must learn to dance together, despite their differences. O.K., if you think that’s tough, in “Royal Wedding” Fred Astaire dances with . . . a hat rack, and he makes the hat rack look good and the whole thing look easy!
So, what’s all this got to do with house church you ask. (As my daughter says when we’re translating Greek together, “Wait for it, dad, wait for it!”) If you ask the question “What is house church?” among house church participants you’ll get a wide variety of answers, which reflect the varying interests and emphasis of the different house churches. If you were to visit on one particular evening devoted to prayer and worship, you might conclude (both rightly and wrongly) that house church was a prayer meeting. If you were to visit on a different night when teaching was being emphasized you might conclude (again, rightly and wrongly) that house church is all about teaching. On yet another night when a mature 5-fold prophetic individual is ministering, you might conclude that house church is all about a ministry of giving and receiving prophetic words. And on still another night when God is moving and all the gifts are functioning thru many people you might conclude that house church in borderline pandemonium (and you would be right . . . and wrong . . . again). By now you should be getting the point, namely, that house church is about all of these things, and yet, it is about NONE of these things.
So, allow me to return now to my dancing metaphor. House church, like our individual relationships with God, is about learning to dance with God . . . and then with each other. Dancing represents a very intimate relationship between two people. It requires communication, practice, allowing someone else to lead (control!) while you and I follow, and becoming so intimately acquainted with another person that you can sense (and eventually anticipate) their every move by looking in their eye or watching the inflection of their body. And it requires a deep level of trust. If you have ever watched ice dancers in the Olympic games, then you have seen the intricate moves which require each partner to trust one another, often at substantial personal risk. But when it comes together it is beautiful to watch. I still vividly remember Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean performing their intricate and intimate dance toRavel’s “Bolero” at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo (earning them 12 perfect 6.0s and a gold medal). Wow.
O.K., let’s go back to the question. What is house church? At its most basic and intimate level, house church is the pursuit of God in the company of friends who are learning to dance . . . with God and with one another. Is house church about more than that. Yes, of course it is. Revival, church planting, city-reaching, neighborhood and community transformation, and much more. But ultimately, all of those “other things” are dependent for their success upon people and house churches who have discovered, practiced and are learning the intricate and intimate art of dancing with God and with one another.
Several years ago blind Christian recording artist Ken Medema did a song that I’ll never forget. I don’t recall the title and have since lost the album (bigger than a CD and played on something called a “record player” – just in case you were wondering). But the words went like this:
He asked me to dance though I’d never tried dancing before,
I had visions of saints & angels laughing us right off the floor,
Although I protested it just wouldn’t be any good,
He gently insisted and finally I told him I would.
Unforgettable, he was the coming of Spring on a cold winter’s day;
Unforgettable, he taught this singer to sing in a whole new way.
So, tell me. How are your dancing skills, both with God and with other believers in your house church? This is a challenge for those of us who have grown up and spent most of our Christian lives in what I call the “rationalistic wing” of the church, where what little dancing that occurs is very carefully scripted and choreographed to make everyone look good. Unfortunately we want to bring this carefully rehearsed script into house church, and the results thus far havebeen , , , disappointing. As the coming season of spiritual awakening and outpouring begins, I believe God is once again going to teach His people the intimate and intricate art of dancing with Him and with each other. There is a certain degree of risk here, the risk of “saints & angels laughing us right off the floor”. But trust me (and I’m still learning this). If Fred Astaire can dance with a hat rack and make it look good and easy, chances are that Jesus can dance with you and make it . . . unforgettable.