Shifting the Locus From Church Building to Home

We often think of Judaism’s worship as being centered around either the temple or the synagogue. What is missing is that the vast majority of the spiritual life in Judaism was in the home. The Shema (Deut 6:4-9) was recited daily. The 18 benedictions were recited or prayed daily (could well be “the prayers” mentioned in Acts 2:42). They had hours of prayer they stopped for during the day (we see that in Acts 3:1). Meals were seen as a time where God’s blessings were present. It has often been noted that the Jews saw their homes as “mini temples” even baking two loaves of bread for the Sabbath just like the loaves that were laid out in the temple. That idea is that God is not just present in Jerusalem, in the temple proper but God is present in the home as well.

It wasn’t the priests, Levites, scribes or Pharisees who were in charge with passing on the faith to the children. That was the parents’ responsibility. They had assistance through training by the Rabbis at the synagogue where kids learned the Torah but for the most part it was on the parents, not just to train their children to do faith stuff but to help their children see God in everything. So for them, spirituality wasn’t confined to the synagogue or to the temple or to special holy days. Spirituality was in all things and the home was the main place these things took place.

Sometimes it feels like we Christians lost that little bit of DNA. We isolate and segregate our time into the spiritual and the secular. We try to confine God to particular times and places as if he were to be contained in our own mini-temples that we can come and go to as we please but then keep God out of the rest of our business! We have lost something in all of that. We have lost the connection between God and every day life, between God and our blessings…it has become harder for people to see God’s intimate involvement in every day life because we have marginalized God’s involvement in our lives, especially our dependence upon God in all things.

How do we shift the locus from church building back to the home? First, we must realize that no one is going to do that for us. No church program is going to make it happen. It will only happen if we make it happen. Second, if we have to reconnect God with every day life. That should show up in the way we talk about things and in the way we pray. Our prayers become normal parts of the day and the words we use often has God as the subject not as the object. For example, there is a difference between saying: “I had a great day today, thank God.” and “God is so good to me…He even blessed me with a wonderful day today!” One of the things you learn when translating Greek is that words of emphasis are often placed first in the sentence so that the thing that is most important is said first. One way to test our focus on God vs our focus on self is to see how many times “God” is the first word we say in a sentence vs “I”. This shift also requires hospitality. If we see our home as a place where God is present and where spiritual things take place, then it only makes sense that we would want to experience that with others or invite others into our special place to do spiritual things with us for the Lord.

How have you successfully made your home into a place where spiritual transformation is fostered?

6 Responses to Shifting the Locus From Church Building to Home

  1. Jim Campbell says:

    Hi Matt, I hear what you are saying – Christian communities used to be like that before rationalising materialism permeated our modern outlook. However don’t you see the sad parallel to your point on how we mention God in conversation with the position given to places of worship in our communities: a community wasn’t seen as anything without it having a church building for the assembly of believers and to show thankfulness to God. I think the policy you are advocating will tend to make Christians more invisible in the community and accelerate any slide into apostasy. You need to.be in our position where we are able to meet only in a house, and our witness impact on a largely apostatic society, which views church worship as the acceptable norm, is severely marginalised. Whether or not the Jews had a supportive God-conscious home life, from at least the time of the Exile, they always built and supported synagogues in their communities, and it was to there that much of the Church’s early ministry was directed. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the Jews knew Who they worshipped: if God had influenced them to meet in synagogues, then we should not be de-emphasizing meeting in churches in this secular age, or we risk no longer being an active presence in our society (where we are supposed to be a visible witness).

    • Matt Dabbs says:

      I hear what you are saying but I would counter by saying that the church multiplied like rabbits for well over 100 years in a highly secularized and idolatrous world that was far more hostile to Christianity than what we have going on in the West today. So I think the visibility you mentioned is actually increased by having churches meet in homes in the community (dozens of locations) rather than one centralized location that sits vacant most of the time. I think even given your concern that all of these things are still best addressed in the home.

  2. John says:

    A. J. Heschel, a wonderful Jewish scholar whose writings are sheer poetry, stresses this very thing in one way or another in all his books.

  3. Royce says:

    ;Locus or Focus?

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