Erin Rathier

musings of a ragtag heart

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Hello!  I feel like it has been forever since we have been together.  Well, I guess it has.  I have been in a really busy season with my kiddos…wow, they take a lot of time.  With so many activities and homeschooling, sometimes the days just disappear.  Anyway, I am happy to be back here with you.  God has been rolling many thoughts around in my head, and my favorite place to work through those thoughts is right here.

I shared with you, a couple of months ago, about the struggle I am having with church.  My feelings of dissatisfaction, because I cannot help but feel like there must be more.  Again, I am not condemning all the churches out there.  I have worked in a church for 20 years, I know many Pastors, and have attended many churches, who are all working hard to build the Kingdom of God.  However, my heart has been stirred by the thought that maybe we need to get out of our own way.  Article after article tells of the attendance decline of evangelical churches in America, and how less and less people are identifying as Christ followers.  While they may not all be totally accurate, I wonder if we need to go back to the starting line.

Eight years ago, mega-church pastor and Christian author, Francis Chan, made the crazy decision to leave the church he started and watched grow to an incredible size, because he felt like something was missing.  The church was healthy, he was popular and known world-wide, but as he says, he began to lose his “peace and humility” with all the growth.  His family spent a few years overseas, doing ministry, and depending on God to tell them where to love people, but eventually Chan felt God calling him home to the United States.  To make a long story short, Chan began a network of home churches, that more fully mimicked the churches we see in the New Testament.  No paid pastors, no building to fund, no stage or programs…just followers of Jesus living out the gospel and loving each other.

A few months ago, I began to question how we do church.  I told my daughter and husband that we need to dig into God’s Word and really examine the church.  I said, “As far as I know, every time “the church” was mentioned, it was people in houses.  The Church at Ephesus was all the people meeting in houses, the Church at Corinth, gatherings in houses, you catch my drift.  Now to be totally honest, I have not dug in yet, so I cannot 100% say there is not something else.  I know there is the temple, but that was a bit different.  I asked the question, what if today, people gathered in homes, studied God’s Word, no paid staff, no overhead, and all the tithe (giving), went to a local or global cause the group decided on?  Again, I did not do anything more than question, because in some ways, I do not want to be responsible to “start” anything.  I keep joking that I have developed commitment issues.  Ha!  In addition, I was not totally sure if this was God stirring or me just reacting to the church search we were on.

You know how God works though, once He starts stirring, He usually just starts stirring faster, and a few weeks after this conversation, I was sitting in a room with a few thousand women at the Propel, Activate conference.   Wow!  Talk about a heart stirring day!  Christine Cain, Lisa Harper, and Lisa Bevere, all sharing the power of the gospel, and the authority we have been given, was nothing short of intoxicating.  During the conference, my daughter and I were invited to attend a smaller lunch where Christine Caine would speak and answer questions.  She of course said many great things, but one thing stood out to me.  At one point, answering a question, she flippantly said, “Well America is the only place in the world where people are paid to be Christians.”  Aaaahhh!!  This stopped me in my tracks and I had to process.  Woah…seriously…I was one of those people.  Again, I wondered, how could God grow His Kingdom, by followers who were not weighed down by a building and staff salaries?

My Post(19)

God did not stop here.  Recently, I have had a number of friends struggling with decisions their churches are making.  They are reaching out to find out what we are doing, where we are attending, just wanting encouragement for their confusion and hurt.  Again, I am struck with the idea of how church, the way we do it, always leads to a numbers game.  We need more programs or staff for all these people, then we need more money to fund it all, so we need to grow, and the focus becomes how to grow.  We decide this growth is good because it will enable us to reach more people. While this is not inherently wrong, and I myself have supported this thinking at times, it seems that with those thoughts, we begin to forget about the people as individuals.

People who do not fit in with our growth plan are pushed aside and even become expendable, in order to keep growing.  We as church leaders will say, “Well, people will leave, but it will be ok, because we will keep growing.”  By church leaders, I mean me.  I have said this phrase and believed it.  (I will share more in another post).  At what point did the people we want to join us become more important than the people God already brought us?  Read that sentence one more time.  I now see there is something wrong with this way of thinking, for a church.  So I am once again brought back to the idea, what if there was no building, no paid staff, no programs, no stage…

This last week, my daughter was assigned Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love in her Christian Worldview class at school.  She came home a little wild-eyed and excited and said, “Mom, you have to read this book.  Do you know about Francis Chan’s church?”  Admittedly, I did not, so we started researching his story, and I was stunned by what he is doing with his house church network.  I was especially struck with what they call their “Practices“.  This is what God had been stirring in my heart, almost exactly, with a few new ideas I had not thought of; namely, using everyone’s gifts and the idea of what fruitfulness really is.

On his church website, Chan asks the question, “If you had no history or exposure to the church at all other than reading the New Testament, what would you expect to see if someone invited you to a gathering of a church?”  Wow!  What a question!

So, what if we had a house church, no overhead, no paid staff, just people, digging into God’s Word, doing life and serving the community together…all the money we give, going to a cause important to our group…what would God do?? How would we grow?? How could the Kingdom grow?? What if it wasn’t about us? What if we weren’t consumers? What if there were no programs? What if there was no stage??  Could be an exciting experiment…

Thank you so much for reading today.  I would love to hear your thoughts on “church” in the comments.  Please know, I am not bashing any church, or the way we do church.  We are currently attending a local church and loving our time of worship and preaching there. I am simply sharing what God is doing in my heart.

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7 thoughts on “We Are The Church

  1. Steven Wyse says:

    very important questions here!
    I wonder if there’s a house church near my home and local community…

  2. Michelle says:

    “At what point did the people we want to join us become more important than the people God already brought to us?” Excellent question, Erin. Something I’ve really been struggling with.

  3. “At what point did the people we want to join us become more important than the people God already brought us?” That’s an excellent question, Erin. One I am really struggling with.

  4. Linda Owen says:

    Glad that you are back.

  5. Steve says:

    Erin, I found your article on church refreshing. I, too, am struggling with the present way of doing church. So much money goes into putting on weekend services that it leaves little to go toward ministry in the community, as well globally. In my new phase of life I’m finding it difficult to find a church that is significantly serving it’s community–beyond offering a service. As a pastor, I know the challenges facing Pastors today. It isn’t easy! However, I think it will take courage and the ability to swim against the present current to change the direction of the church. May God bless His church!

    1. erinrathier says:

      Thank you Steve, so much for your insight and heart for people. You are truly a gift!

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