Place matters. A person and a people’s story is impossible to understand apart from their place of origin and life lived in a place. They learn their way in a place, they show their way in a place, and they make decisions to be in a place. We see this in the Lord Jesus Christ. He himself was like us in every respect (Hebrews 2) including His attachment to and choice of place. So, it is important to consider what places the Lord Himself chose to spend His time. And what He did when he was in those places.
The Gospels record the ministry of Jesus occurring in three places: public spaces, the synagogue, and the home. Each has an obvious 21st Century counterpart. But in Jesus’ time it was the home that was considered the foundation stone upon which the rest of society was built. As went the home so went society. Considered rightly alongside Scripture’s teaching on the importance of family and home, it should stand out to us that Jesus placed a special emphasis on homes as a place of intentional ministry. There are over 50 instances of this across the four gospels. Even later in His ministry, Jesus began to move away from primary ministry in the synagogue and public spaces, moving more to homes.
I am not setting out to prove the home as a primary place of ministry and evangelism. I’m just saying that Jesus already did. His practice of proximity in the most personal of places matters for how we see ourselves and our ministry. If we model Jesus, we see that ministry is often best done in community that allows intimacy. And there are not many places more intimate than someone’s home. Home Groups at The Village Church are our effort to shrink the church from corporation to this kind of closeness of camaraderie centered in Christ. They are our effort to do the mission of God much like Jesus did in many respects.
Jesus used the home to build relationships and heal others, thus allowing Him to demonstrate the very power and truth He came to teach. It was His apologetic in many cases. He used the opportunities that were made available to Him through the relationships and miracles to teach on matters of faith, law, grace, and general truth on various subjects. If we were to say it in a way that includes the modern day believer living as Jesus did, we may see the home as a place set apart to build relationships and provide a healing presence so that others may be open to the truth of the gospel. That they would have a reason to wonder why we believe what we believe because we first lived our belief right before their eyes. And that place of intimacy and safety becomes a place of revelation.
In this, Jesus’ ministry in homes was a ministry of love. Such love in the most private of places was a most potent apologetic to an unbelieving world. It still is.
In Jesus’ day, homes were places of hospitality and intimacy where the host would, in a way, open up their heart like they opened up the physical door of their home to others. They were places for knowing others and being known in the context of family and friendships. They were a context for bearing burdens and in many cases the primary context for ongoing participation in Christian living and witness to neighbors.
The potential and potency of such a live parable still exists in our day. Jesus shared hard truths in homes. Could it be that in this context He might do so in a less confrontational manner where the persons present may have listened closer and accepted more readily the insight of the Son of Man? What does this mean for we who are being conformed to His image who have homes to open? Nothing but possibility, so far as I can see.
First Century Jewish homes were a place of belonging and hospitality known by other peoples/nations (i.e. Not God’s People), so anomalous was the practice of welcoming a stranger in those days. This was the first and final apologetic in ancient Jewish culture. It still could be. Should be. Jesus clearly took advantage of homes to instruct, develop relationships, and perform miracles such that everyone present in the home left saying, “we’ve never seen anything like this!” So too is the possibility when we see our homes as a genesis in ministering Christ to the believer, to the lost, and to spiritual skeptics. That’s the possibility of a gospel-centered community that meets in a home. We won’t innovate a faithful way around this and we are fools to think we ever could surpass the Master’s plan of evangelism and ministry.
God sent His Son to dwell with His people. Jesus came in the midst of a culture that, unlike the peoples/nations around it, welcomed strangers and were hospitable to all. This is as it should be. God expects more of believers than He did or does of nonbelievers. God expected His people to be hospitable. He still does. And Jesus demonstrates it in acts that resonate to set the desire and direction across space and time. The incarnational God is revealed not only by Jesus coming to this earth, but in Jesus going into homes.
Whether or not the home is or should be the primary and most effective place for ministry in these postmodern times may depend upon context. Certain urban areas will have a difficult time with such home ministry because people may not want people in their space. There may be safety concerns. There may not exist a cultural memory of having someone in your home. If you have a home at all this week. In such very real contexts, the church building can be a sanctuary of a place. But this does not tend to be our context at The Village Church. We are sub-urban, we have dwelling places prime with such potential to affect for Christ.
It doesn’t take a program. It doesn’t take a budget meeting. It starts personally and starts in your homes and Home Groups. Begin by opening your home for a community to be affected by Jesus.
The Village Church’s community is costly. If you think what God has done here is easy then you don’t understand. We cannot be explained merely by the clear biblical truth that is preached powerfully and effectively; we cannot be explained by the fact that we have a staff of heavy hitter ministers, capable men and women working at the top of their game unto God; Those two things are important and they are a gift but The Village Church cannot be explained if you remove the third aspect. And that is there has been community here. And it has been costly community.
It is a costly thing to open one’s home. My wife and I have lost wedding gifts and family heirlooms because of it. We’ve personally welcomed people -- even pastors -- who struggle with their faith in God, who struggle with sexual attraction to their same gender, struggle with being a minority person of color, struggle with deep grief and health defects. We’ve lost sleep and time and money; we know members of this church who’ve lost so much more than that but gained a brother or sister in Christ because of it. It doesn’t take a program to minister the gospel like Jesus did. You don’t have to convince the elder board. All you have to do is open your home. Francis Schaeffer writes, “And there is no place in God’s world where there are no people who will come and share a home as long as it is a real home.” A compassionate, open home is part of Christian responsibility, and each family should practice it up to the level of their capacity. Jesus made no distinction between home or foreign missions -- it was all evangelism to Him. Home Groups are our attempt to regularly emulate this practice as a people after Jesus.
Place still matters. It did to Jesus and it should to you. The home as a primary place of ministry mattered to Him. That’s why Home Groups matter to this church body. When evangelism and ministry happen in homes it seems to Scripturally and experientially be more effective than not. That’s the plan. That’s the place. That’s the why, what, and wonder of Home Groups.