Every now and then we need to go backwards and mine the past to find a really good idea. The wisdom of the past gives us wisdom in what to do today, and I think it’s time for quite literally a good old idea. Here’s why.
Look around Wayne County. There are churches which mostly do the same thing. The same schedule. The same approach. Classes on Sunday morning. Then worship in rows in a sanctuary, singing and then listening to a lecture style sermon. I like that. It makes sense to me. It feels like church. It’s all I’ve ever known or done, and the same is true for you. It works well for us and for some people. But church hasn’t always been done like this.
Now look at Wayne County. While we are worshipping on there are thousands of people who are not worshipping anywhere. In fact, as near as I can determine, two-thirds of the people of Bible believing Wayne County are staying as far away from church as they can. There are all kinds of reasons. They don’t believe, for one, or they don’t feel they fit in. Maybe they’ve been hurt or burned by church in someway. Maybe they’re bored with classes and lectures and sitting in rows.
Two statements now I want you to pay attention to. Here’s the first: Those people are proving, Sunday after Sunday, that they will not come be a part of what we do on Sunday morning, at least the large majority of them won’t. Here is the second: We are absolutely required by God to reach those people. So if they won’t come, but we still are required to reach them, what do we do? This is where we need to look back and find an old idea.
Church hasn’t always been what we call church. In the church’s first 300 years especially, it looked radically different. Churches met around tables in homes and sometimes other public places. “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” Church happened over a meal. And over that meal there was worship and teaching and prayer and fellowship. It worked. Well. “And the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.” In 300 years, a church that started with 120 people survived persecution, conquered Roman paganism, and spread around the world a dinner at a time.