It is in fact an interesting read, although at this point I would not yet consider it as being a must read, but then again, I'm only a quarter of the way through it so far. But something did catch my attention while reading tonight. The book is a fiction story in which the author plays the main character. One night he is hit by lightning and finds himself transported 40 years into the future where the church as he (and we) know it in the UK has all but disappeared. Each chapter tells the story of what he learns in this future and ends with a letter written by an individual who is back in our current time reading over the notes of the author regarding his trip into the future.
At one point the person reviewing the author's account of his travels into the future is talking about how the early church met in homes and how in the UK many denominations can't afford some of these beautiful ornate buildings they own anymore because of dwindling congregations. He brings up the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi. This really caught my attention and I ended up googling wabi-sabi. The basic concept is finding beauty in things that are simple, imperfect and humble, thing unconventional. In the book and online wabi sabi is referenced as "a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete."
Maybe it is just because of my recent walk with the Lord and the fact that I'm part of what some might call a house church, but this concept really resonated with me. I've grown more in my relationship with the Lord and with my church family since we began meeting in this way about 4 years ago than I ever did in "traditional" church. Doing "church" for us is nothing fancy - we worship together, eat together, study God's Word together and pray together. Our singing is many times off key and usually led by just a simple guitar. Our prayers are often filled with long periods of quiet and are not usually what one would consider flowery or polished. They are often brutally honest and filled with raw emotion. We don't have a set structure per se. We have a basic schedule we kind of follow but we are open to wherever the Holy Spirit chooses to lead us. This means that if He shows up and leads discussion, worship or prayer in a particular direction we try to follow. Sometimes we follow our "schedule" and other times we'll spend the majority of our time in worship or prayer if we feel His leading to do so. We are becoming very honest with one another and learning to hold one another accountable. We are honest and real with one another without taking offense. We look to the Holy Spirit to be our guide and teacher. Jesus is our High Priest, our Pastor. We do have an individual we see as our "elder" but our leader is Jesus. We are far from having it figured out, but we are all united in our desire to pursue our God together and follow His leading the best we can.
So this concept of a wabi sabi church spoke to me. People make up the church (the body of Christ) not a building, not traditions, not a denomination. We are all sinful people and therefore imperfect and incomplete. As I grow closer to the Lord, I'm beginning myself to see more beauty and meaning in simple things. Jesus was not a flashy preacher who used a fancy sound system and colorful lights. He was a simple carpenter who was humble and felt no need to use fancy advertising or marketing campaigns to draw people in. He hung out with simple people and met them where they were.
As I get older I begin to be amazed at how we as humans make things so difficult. I think many times things truly are much more simple than we make them. I find it amazing how God and His Love for us can be so complex and yet so simple at the same time.
Bottom line for me? I'm not saying that tradtional church, traditions, fancy buildings, sound systems, etc are bad, because they are not in and of themselves. However, if we begin to focus on these things in such a way that our focus comes off of Jesus, then they are a stumbling block. Even if our intentions are good and noble, they can derail us if we stop focusing on Jesus and following Him instead of our ideas of how things should work. The concept of house churches can be a stumbling block if the focus becomes defending what we do and how we do it rather than on worshiping and pursuing our God. In the end, I think I agree with the character in the book when he says at the end of one of his letters -
"I should like to see some wabi sabi worship; modest, humble, unconventional. It would take place in wabi-sabi buildings; simple, domestic, ordinary. And it would reflect perhaps, a wabi-sabi God; a God who delights in things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete, and who wants to bring them permanence, perfection and completeness."