Intimacy in the Church

“Rather, speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:15-16. (ESV)

“Ok everybody, let’s gather in the kitchen,” said our host. The small gathering of about fifteen people stood in the corner of the New York townhouse, prayed and partook of the bread and unripe wine. I looked around, noticing how almost every person was smiling and laughing as we participated in the Lord’s Supper.

Gathering around a meal

I suddenly thought about a wooden carving on the wall of our dining room portraying the Lord’s Supper with a table overflowing with food. In Luke 22, Jesus commanded Peter and John to go and prepare the Passover feast. He then reclined with His disciples – His community – and broke bread together. On His last night on earth, Jesus chose to institute a ceremony during one of the holiest feasts of the year to remember Him by. Not only did Jesus save the world, He must have been a foodie too. Part of our internship training includes learning what a biblical church looks like. One simple definition I liked was, “A church is how many people can fit around a table” – or in this case, a kitchen. This “housechurch” model of church looks quite different from the traditional western model I grew up with. It invites communal intimacy in a way pews and programs do not. This intimacy born out of a meal is then carried throughout the service. After a casual worship session singing along with YouTube videos or someone playing guitar, we watched a video series on the book of Nehemiah and his compassionate heart. Formatted as a Bible study with a facilitator rather than a sermon with a pastor, the study allowed everyone to participate and learn from each other.

Pursuing intimacy

People often shared how God worked in their lives the prior week and offered encouragement and prayer to each other. This intimacy was in the DNA of the church — from the meal to reading scripture together. This small gathering was also somehow more diverse in ethnicity, age, gender and backgrounds than most churches I have spent my life in. And yet, those barriers were bridged with grace and truth, simply for the sake of loving Jesus and each other. It is by our love for each other that people will recognize us as children of God. So I do not know if Jesus was a foodie, but He was big into community. Attending this model of church has challenged my understanding of what it means to live in community with fellow believers. Intimacy is intimidating. It requires much grace, compromise and a willingness to be vulnerable.   But at the end of the day, it can be so much more rewarding than sitting in a pew.

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