Years ago I read an article by John Piper. I think it had this title: "Use your home as a weapon for the gospel" - and the idea was relatively simple. We (almost) all have a place where we live, a place we call “home". In our culture, this is often primarily a private place, 'our' place, individual - as in not a place for the collective. Of course, you can't completely juxtapose that, but John Piper's call was something like: "What would happen if we radically opened our homes to others?" What would happen if we deployed our homes as a "weapon for the gospel"? Is this how we see our homes? As places in the neighborhood from which the good news flows? We can't outsource that to "the church”, can we? The church may well begin where our "sacred houses" become Sacred Houses of meeting.
What about that BBQ...?
... what does that have to do with it?
Last summer - which was exceptionally beautiful in The Netherlands - we had our garden full of people several times. Believers, not-yet-believers, children playing and adults talking. It was wonderful. In the corner of the garden a smoking BBQ. Everyone had brought something to eat or drink. A nice and cozy atmosphere. With a few men we turned the meat and as I looked around the circle I became happy with all those people, enjoying time and rest with each other. Enjoying good food and conviviality. Good conversations. Running around in the park. Our garden turned out to be able to 'hold' even more people than my wife and I had thought. What a party! And I thought: Jesus probably did this too. A fire on the beach, friends around, fish on the BBQ and enjoying each other. Eating. Together. Having a good time. That.
In the Gospels we regularly read that Jesus is accused of eating with just 'everyone'. Jesus took time to meet with those around Him and in this He did not look at status or background. He eats with everyone. And I ask myself if we take enough time for this kind of encounter. Eating with each other. Having a good time together. Lighting up the BBQ and raising a glass together. Sharing our lives. Shouldn't church take place much more 'around the table'?
And why the 60cm then...?
Well, last summer I upgraded my BBQ. From a small one to a bigger one. About 60cm across - that's why. Great to have more people around, more people to eat. Does anyone send a What’s app message and ask whether they can come too? Of course they can! There's plenty of room. Come and celebrate with us. It just works better on a size up.
A good friend of mine - Craig Greenfield - lived in a deprived area in Vancouver, Canada for a while. In his book "Subversive Jesus" he writes somewhere: "Cook too much food, and invite too many people" - party guaranteed! That has been our experience too. Everyone brings something. Some a lot, some have completely forgotten. No problem. We share together. And then when the garden is full, I hear that almost every conversation is about Jesus. That guy who just started to follow Jesus sharing with someone in the neighborhood. How cool is that?
60cm. Don't make it all too small, so that another person can easily join and there is plenty of room. A friend of ours wrote that in her house she always has a room ready for when guests come. Very intentional, welcoming, creating space that tells others: You’re welcome!
Summer is coming to an end. Soon I will be getting the BBQ ready for winter. This winter I will be looking for new ways to open my home to those around me. Radical hospitality. Let the people come. That's what I want to learn. Learning - because I'm definitely not there yet. And, to be honest, sometimes I find it pretty difficult.
Paul wrote about the “armour of God” to the people in Ephesus.
John Piper wrote about our home being a "weapon" for the Gospel.
I sometimes struggle to live like this. Although I enjoy these moments immensely, it is sometimes so much easier to retreat into my own familiar circle. (And there are times that it’s ok to do so. To retreat. To cease and enjoy a time of rest.)
But this ‘radical welcoming others’ is what I want to learn too, and what I intensely enjoy when I look around the garden. I realize that my home is the place where people really see me and have a glimpse into my life. I have to be authentic. And it is in this authenticity that relationships are born and nurtured. Isn't that what we all long for?
Our 'homes' - well protected and shielded from others - may, I think, open up more. Becoming homes to others. Isn't that what the church is? Isn't that what we read in Acts 2? Then they become “Holy homes”.
There is a great need for these kinds of "Sacred Houses”. Safe places. Or - to put it another way - places of Shalom.
Can your home be such a place?
A place where the BBQ smokes?
A place where the other is welcome?
A place of Shalom where Jesus works?
"Use your home as a weapon for the gospel."
Written by Mart-Jan van der Maas. Mart-Jan is married to Talitha and father of 3 kids. He pioneers Alongsiders in The Netherlands and Europe and is the author of the (free) book The Diamond of Discipleship. It is his desire to see discipleship live more and more in the church, especially in the younger generation.