BACK TO THE BUILDING!

Six years ago we did something that must have left many of my ministry friends scratching their heads. After spending ten years planning, building and paying off a new church centre … we walked away from it. And the reason? Well the reason is well documented in my blogging at the time but basically we came to the conclusion that the future for the church of Jesus in general was for it to get back to ‘how it was in the beginning’. Back to when the Holy Spirit breathed on the fledgling church and something unique sprung into view – an organic community that was fresh and simple and had in it the seeds for  growth and revival. There were no buildings, programs, hierarchical structures, distinctive church names or advertising gimmicks – just believers around a meal table sharing their lives in Christ.

Six years ago we were attracted by a vision to recapture that simplicity and, although we can’t say we are there yet (because it involves more than leaving a building), we know we did the right thing and aren’t looking back. However, following the vision did leave us with an interesting dilemma. What does a house church do with a building?

Well it actually didn’t turn out to be much of a dilemma since, as it turned out, there were many with a different vision that were happy to use it. In fact over the ensuing years four other churches, the local bridge club and our own successful playground were happy to call it home. And while they did so we wrestled with our own longer-term vision for the building.

And the result of our wrestling? We’re going back!

Let me explain …

When we stepped out of old style church I also stepped out of paid ministry, meaning I now needed a job. After various short time jobs, including driving a bread van and early morning cleaning the local Sailing Club, I was eventually snapped up by the local Salvation Army to manage their Red Shield Family Store (Op Shop). And although it turned out to be a God thing, re-employing my natural skills and putting me in touch with the community in a way that I never was before, the down side was that I inherited a shop building that was awkward, hot and very un-inviting. It didn’t take long before I knew we needed another building. And … well yes, you guessed it. After searching all over town for a more suitable place I found the keys to the perfect building hanging up in our kitchen.

And last week, after some months of arm-wrestling with beaurocracy and a couple of weeks of transforming a sparsely used meeting place into a potentially week-long meeting place, we moved back to the building! We now have the classiest looking Op Shop in town in a building that you would swear was designed exactly for that purpose.

Plus, we now have triple the rental income coming in to sow into local and overseas projects, such as the school we are helping Lhoy and Venus Edaniol build in the Philippines.

How wonderful and surprising is our God? Who would have thought that He would lead us back into something we thought we had no further use for? Or that I’d be pleased to be going back? And I am. The Op Shop represents a great opportunity to befriend a whole level of people, both shoppers and volunteer workers, who may never have stepped into the building for a church service but who may well be lined up by God to experience his love via a different and more inviting channel.

Thank God for the Salvos! And thank God for the building!

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STANDING AMONG THE ASHES

victorian-bushfire

A Salvo House Church is a Centre of Hope After the Fires

The following came from Les Smith, a Salvation Army house church guy that found himself heading up some of the Victorian bushfire relief effort. It’s an encouragement to those of us in house church that you don’t have to be big to be effective. Reprinted from www.oikos.org
 

 

Hey mate,

 

Sorry about my tardiness in getting back to you, been pretty busy here as you would imagine. Although things are still sometimes tough and extremely challenging we feel very much that we are engaged in the work God has for us to do.

 

Early on in the bushfires whilst the Salvation Army was still working out how best to respond, I almost accidentally (although we know it wasn’t really by accident) found myself representing the Salvos at the fire front and found things very tough indeed. It was both physically and emotionally draining and I was not entirely sure I would be able to continue to offer assistance; it was taking a toll on me. My brothers and sisters from house church rallied to support me (and the bushfire survivors) and they were just incredibly amazing.

 

House churches are like that – supportive, caring, flexible and easy to adapt.

 

The fire stopped only 10 minutes up the road from where and I live, one house church family was put on stand by to evacuate, another missed the fires by minutes (wind changed direction) and all of us saw the smoke – not realising just how close it actually was (we thought it was 100s KM away, but it wasn’t).

 

We felt very strongly that we had to make a response.

 

Together we setup a massive warehouse at Whittlesea which has become the main distribution centre for bushfire survivors in Whittlesea, Kinglake, Flowerdale and the surrounding areas. Whilst many other centres have already closed, The Salvation Army is planning to maintain services in this area (through this facility) for at least the next 12 months.

 

God has been good to us,

 

I keep meeting people that I know – affected by the fires – and the stories I have heard (many of us from housechurch have heard) are truly horrifying and impossible to imagine. Whilst the despair of the whole thing hit us in the first week, now we are blessed to be part of the healing and restorative process that has begun, we can see Gods spirit at work in spite of all the tragedy.

 

There is a way to go yet but the support we have received from other housechurches around Australia has been very humbling indeed. Please pass on my thanks to all those involved – I really just can’t express how inspiring and encouraging this support has been.

 

Please keep us in your prayers.

 

Thanks again mate

 

Peace to you

 

Les Smith

Salvo House Church