It was 10 years ago this coming fall when my wife and I moved back to my home town. We had been living about an hour from here. We relocated after she got a job here. I commuted the hour to work on a daily basis. I worked at a large university and provided computer support in numerous campus buildings and labs.
The town we left was very small. Its only "claim to fame" is the university. And make no mistake about it, as a new believer, it was a very intimidating place to be even back then in 1999. All the BGLFA "safe zones" and all that. A very "dark" place to work.
Of course, for a while, she commuted here. And we looked for a home here. And prayed that the Lord would provide. Meanwhile, we put our home up for sale. It didn't take long to sell. But we hadn't found anything yet. But I kept praying.
And I didn't just pray for *any* home. I prayed for *the* home. The kind that would be amenable for home church meetings...specifically a basement that could be put to such use. From what I saw going on between society and Christianity, I was thinking "home churches are coming!"
See, when you work on a university campus, you get a glimpse of what the next decade may bring...for the kids who attend college today will be gaining control of the agenda in the next ten years. It didn't take much mental arithmetic to understand what was happening. And it sure didn't look "Christian friendly".
So I prayed. I prayed that the Lord would not only provide a home for us here but also one that would be suitable for home church meetings. The thought being, of course, that the open practice of Christianity appeared (even at that time on that campus) to be in peril.
Well, like I said, our home there sold. But we didn't have anything here yet. Mind you, my parents were real estate brokers. At that time they operated their own office. And mom, even though she professed Christ even then, was rather jittery for us. I asked her why. She said "Your home has sold and we don't even see anything here that would be suitable for you two! There's hardly anything in books right now. It's a seller's market!" And, back then, it was!
I asked her if she really believed God would provide (not meaning to be snotty but I figured it to be a good question). And after she said "yes", I asked her where her faith was!
It was three days later (to my shock) that my wife said she got a call from mom. There was a house she wanted us to look at. It wasn't a "regular listing". It was a home that was owned by some acquaintances who wanted to sell the house directly without going through an agency. Knowing my parents, they chose to ask them to help and my parents did it out of their home.
So, my wife drove up and took a look. She loved it! She wanted me to get up here and look at it right away, which I did. Indeed, it was the perfect home. And, the price was more than reasonable. It was a "custom deal" seemingly made for us! And of course we were the only ones who even knew about it.
We made an offer. No stress, no mess. And it went perfectly. Not only that, the former owners gave us the keys before the deal was even closed, so we could start working on things. But it gets even better than that; One day we came up for a visit (even before we got the keys) and I decided I wanted to show the property to some friends that day. I just happened to show up at their home just before they got home from a trip. I saw them on the way home, turned around. Yes, they came over and took a look but it seems that while I expected to only be able to show the outside of the home it would appear that the Lord had other plans...for when we got here, the front door was (freakishly) standing slightly open. As if to say "It's ok, come in! Welcome Home!". We did. Mind you, the deal hadn't even closed yet!
On another date, our former pastor and his family stopped by. They had their kids with them. Remember my prayer about a home with a basement for church meetings? The youngest son had been downstairs and then ran up to the attic. What did he say to his parents? "Did you see that basement? We could have church down there!"
From the mouths of babes...
There was really no reason for that kid to say that; our church was meeting in a Jr. High School near here and was building a traditional building. They weren't looking for what I was praying for and what he saw... But it was a jaw dropping time for me when my wife informed me of what she heard that young boy say. I could tell it had given her a goose bump or two as well.
So many stories about how in the early days we'd need something and open a drawer and "voila", there is what we need, left by the former owners. The first time this happened, I told Jackie "Just look in the drawer to the right of the sink". I hadn't looked in there. I just said that...in part as a joke because that's what we did at our old home. But what we needed was there. Many times, right there. But other times, in other places in the house. This just doesn't happen. At least not to "normal" people.
It was such a profound time. But it kept happening.
But then I found work closer to home. Away from the campus. And of course you forget. The memories soften. For so long now, we've been in our little "incubator".
One thing I've noticed over the years however, and that is a kind of "it's time to let go of things". Even while I was out of work or underemployed in recent years it's kind of been like "God will provide, don't strive, just focus on today".
The trials we have gone through trying to find a decent church. Zero results. Want to follow Rick Warren or Willow Creek? You're in luck. Want easy belief? Sure! But do you want to hear exegesis? Forget it. Want a fellowship where people are serious about Fellowship, breaking of bread, doctrine and prayer? Never mind. Churchianity 4, Real Christianity 0.
So, we began meeting at home this past September.
And today. The inauguration. And the White House website stating their position on "Civil Rights". Such a stress on new legislated "respect" for BGLT and all the rights to be given them under the new administration. Hate crime laws. They have ramifications, you know.
Then it came back to me. The prayer. And the memories of my time at the university. And how eerie to sense it maybe coming to pass. Christianity slowly (or not so slowly) becoming illegal in the U.S.
And while I would certainly hope to be wrong, I can't help but wonder.
It wouldn't take much. The passing of hate crime laws. Advocates of aberrant lifestyles "visiting" traditional churches, lying in wait for the pastor to mention Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9, etc. just to report them to make sure they are "punished" for their "intolerance" and "hate".
Think I'm off base? It's happened in Canada. And after it starts here, the slippery slope gets worse.
Should this begin, we could see pastors who preach the truth be fined or go to jail. And the real church could be forced underground. The traditional churches? Ah! Seeker sensitive! So, no need to mention sin such as homosexuality. No harm done. Business as usual. And the Lord puts their lamp out. No thanks. Won't go there.
We'll work our jobs quietly and reach out to those around us with the Gospel as we can. Leading quiet and peaceful lives as Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 2. We'll meet in our homes in very intimate fellowships. And we will depend on one another like no one in the "country club churches" ever dreamed. See, being a Christian may keep you from being able to work. After all, part of the new hate crimes laws may have to do as well with employees having to sign on to "tolerate" homosexuality in the workplace...or face termination. I could smell this coming at the university ten years ago. Now, it wouldn't surprise me a bit.
Kind of makes for new challenges! Thankfully, our mortgage is down to four digits as of this past month...and there still are no such hate crime laws on the books. And while I think it's not "if" but "when" and "sooner" rather than "later", I prefer to remember that we have relative safety as believers *today*.
My understanding is that there is a trend of growth in those who have home churches. Don't remember where I read it or heard it but I do remember it. It's mainly (currently) to do with our reasons for doing home church -- the sad state of established churches. More like clubs than churches. No teaching, really. "Old McDonald" preaching. "Old McDonald has a topic, e i e i o", then "one verse here, one verse there, here a verse, there a verse, everywhere a verse verse". All out of context to prove the pretext.
Of course, I could be wrong. And I do pray I am. But like I said, that old prayer and the answer we got has made a rather eerie return to my mind in recent days.
But in any case, let's be faithful to the calling that we have been called to. Let's ask ourselves just how tightly we've been hanging on to the toys of this life. What's important to us now? What will be important to us 200 years from now? A Thousand? And how will the answers to those questions change us today?
I love playing my brasswinds. As recent as 5 years ago, I was playing them at a church we attended. Then the pastor left and the worship team took over. Window rattling iWorship. 7-11 lyrics. Older members standing outside the church out of disgust for what had transpired. Being told by others "If you don't like the music now, just leave!" Ok, thank you.
And there the horns sit. Nice to look at, but maybe it's time to let them go? It all seems so starkly frivolous now.
Let's pray for the Church in America. Let's pray that we will have a surge of true repentance. Let's pray that I'm wrong.
I'd like nothing better. Believe me.