A Vision Too Good to Be True

Being brought up in “Christian” Germany with churches everywhere, I always felt that there must be something exciting about the community that Jesus started in the New Testament —but somehow I could never discover what that was. Together with many friends and colleagues, I dreamed of a community that would be as simple as one–two–three, yet would also be dynamic, explosive, and able to turn a neighborhood and the world upside down. We saw the church as a supernatural invention, endowed with God’s gift of immortality —a means to disciple each other, and to make the life of Jesus rub off on each other. We saw it as an experience of grace and grapes, love and laughter, joy and jellybeans, forgiveness and fun, power and —yes, why not? —paper. Notes, books, sheets —we knew that could not be all there is to church.

We dreamed of a church that wouldn’t need huge amounts of money, or rhetoric, or control, or manipulation. A church that was nonreligious at heart, thrilled people to the core, and made them lose their tongues out of sheer joy and astonishment. A church that would simply teach us The Way to live. A church that not only had a message, but was the message.

We knew a church like this could spread like an unstoppable virus, infecting whatever it touched, and ultimately covering the earth with the glory and knowledge of God. This church’s power would stem from its inventor and be equipped with the most ingenious spiritual genetic code, a sort of heavenly DNA, which would enable it to transfer Kingdom values from heaven to earth and to reproduce them here. In the process it would transform not only water into wine, but atheists into apostles, policewomen into prophetesses, terrorists into teachers, electricians into evangelists, and plumbers into pastors.

The church we dreamed of would be like a spiritual extended family —organic, not organized; relational, not formal. It would have a persecution-proof structure. It would mature under tears, multiply under pressure, and breathe under water. It would flourish in the desert, see in the darkness, and thrive in the midst of chaos. A church like this would multiply like five loaves and two fish in the hands of Jesus, and its people would become its resources, with one name to boast about, the Lamb of God.

Wolfgang Simson and George Barna, The House Church Book: Rediscover the Dynamic, Organic, Relational, Viral Community Jesus Started (Carol Stream, IL: BarnaBooks, 2015).