Here is another guest post by Sean Steckbeck. Sean lives in Israel and he brings a unique perspective.
Preparations had been made all day, and an intensive time of cleaning the house. The family is expecting the guests to arrive at any moment and the table is set. Finally, a knock on the door welcomes a house filled with guests, mostly family and close friends. The dinner is prepared and is neatly set on the table and at its center piece, the bread and the wine. The head of the household begins to tell a story from the Bible, uses sensory symbolism, and asks inductive questions especially to the kids sitting at the table. The interaction is electrifying and even sometimes erupts into heated debate. The bread and wine are taken, and then an enjoyable meal starts as everyone ponders on the story that was told at the table, the questions which were asked, and the discussions that proceeded.
What do you think this event was? Was it a house church in Asia or America? Was it a typical house church meeting? No, this took place in an Orthodox Jewish home in Jerusalem, as well as nearly all the Jewish homes around the world in an event called Passover. Although it has all the elements of a typical house church around the world – eating together, story-telling, inductive learning and discussion, community — taking place in the home.
Oftentimes, when we talk about restoring the New Testament church, we are forgetting that many of the elements we want to see restored are actually concepts from the Old Testament. We speak of the “temple mentality”, but don’t realize that temple worship for the everyday person in Israel was only three times a year (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles). Most historians and archeologists even agree that during the 2nd temple period the synagogue was a multi-purpose community center rather than a religious building. The synagogue becoming the center of weekly religious Jewish life happened around the same time that church buildings became the center of the Christian church’s life.
The central theme to the Jewish people is the Shema, which is mentioned in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
“ Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”
Impressing the commandments to our children.
Talking about them when sitting at home.
Talking about them when walking along the road.
Does this sound like organic church and simple church?
Are we restoring the New Testament Church, or something God had planned from the beginning?