Our family has just returned from 16 days in Vietnam where we got to experience lots of new things – visiting a part of the world we had never been to, eating some amazing food (and lots of it) – and spending quality family time together as well as relaxing, resetting and refreshing. We really did have a great time and have come back feeling much better for the time away together. Holidays and times when we can get away are great and necessary and almost always beneficial, but I have to admit there is truth to the old adage: there’s no place like home.
After spending just over 24 hours in transit from the time we were picked up from our Hotel in Hoi An, to the time the Uber dropped us off at Robina, with next to no sleep, I have to tell you the sight of our open front door was one of the best things I’d seen in those 16 days. Walking into the familiar surrounds, knowing where everything is, having space to spread out, sleeping in your own bed… there’s nothing quite like it… is so good, but often it takes being away from the familiar for us to appreciate what we have.
Experiencing something differently can also be a catalyst for appreciating what we have. I’ve often complained about Gold Coast traffic and I never thought I would actually look forward to driving in it… but after seeing how people drive in Vietnam, my goodness our traffic is a dream!
I’ve always wanted church to feel like home for people, whether they attend every week, a couple of times a month or even if it’s only once in a Blue Moon. As a church leader I’ve always strived to make people feel the same as when they are at home. In my mind that’s always been a sense of belonging, being welcome, and being free to be themselves and who God has called them to be.
It does strike me, however, that being at home is also being at work. Unless you are part of privileged minority who can afford to employ staff to run your household (and if you are I do hope you are tithing!!!) there is no-one who comes in at some part of the day to make your bed and tidy the room unless you do it, so you try to pick up after yourselves (and if you have children, encourage them to do the same). There is no one who changes the towels each day unless you do it, and so you don’t leave them on the floor or in the bath tub. There’s nobody to meet you to take you to your planned activities and so you have to find the best way to get there yourself. There’s no chef on hand in the morning to tell how you’d like your eggs, so you have to make them yourselves or choose a simpler breakfast. There’s no-one to make you a cocktail and bring it to you by the pool each afternoon, so you grab a beer or a cup of tea and watch the news instead.
Church life isn’t resort living, church life is a home where everyone is valued, welcomed and belongs but also where everyone works together in different ways for the good of the others, which ultimately works for their own good as well. It is easy however, to take for granted what we have, to rely too much on the hard work of the few, to think that all we need to do is just turn up on Sundays and go through the motions but, like a household where the work and contribution isn’t balanced, churches can become dysfunctional if this happens too often. The model that we see in the Epistles is that, when churches did become like that, they were corrected and refocussed on Jesus.
My prayer as we continue our transformation is that we would really see our church as home. But I pray that in doing so we would be conscious that this also means that our presence and our contribution is critical. I wonder how you might see church differently if you ask yourself this question: “What do I need to do to make this church feel like home for someone else?”
There is no place like home!