In Chinese, the term, literally, is “underground heaven.”
I now know why.
There is something special when believers are together, in a very small setting, sharing their own revelations from God.
In a previous post I wrote of how the first Christians worshiped and shared. In the years following the ascension of Jesus, and as Paul began to plant Jesus in various parts of the world, small gatherings of people met in homes, sometimes daily, and shared the moments in their lives when God was active. These groups of believers did not have church buildings or facilities. They had no bibles, and many were Gentile converts, and may not have even known Abraham or Moses. They had no preachers, or ministers, and certainly had no one who received a salary. And, initially, they had no elders.
The revelations they shared, described in 1 Corinthians 14:26, were just one part of a larger worship order that probably offends most contemporary pastors, preachers, and church leaders …
… because, in that “worship order,” there appears to be very little order. Everyone participated in the gathering. Women, men, children, slaves, nobles, aristocrats and commoners. It was a gathering of people from varying degrees of life, sharing the most intimate moments of their lives together. And God was alive. He was seen.
I am a fairly gifted teacher. I’ve won an award or two for teaching in the collegiate setting. I’ve heard testimonies from former students, both in college classes, and from our own church, of how their lives were changed because of the things I said, or taught. And those compliments are fine, and I praise God for any benefit anyone has received because of, and in spite of, me.
But my ability to lead a group of any size pales in comparison to what happened in my small group last night. Because God showed up, and the meeting changed into something that felt a lot like heaven.
We’ve built a series of expectations with our students in this small group. Through the first six or seven weeks, I have encouraged them to envision a different life by centering each week around one central question: What would your life look like if your future was planned to solely benefit the Kingdom of God?
Students aren’t really taught to answer that question. Historically, we’ve built a society, and an educational system, to push personal success above all other achievements. So to ask that question is quite radical. I dare say most churches may not even teach their students to answer that question. But it offers a unique plan for life.
What if every career choice, and relationship, and dream, and plan, was all determined by how that choice or relationship or dream or plan would benefit and expand the Kingdom of God?
I was never taught to ask that question. You probably weren’t, either.
So from there we emerged into a couple of weeks of teaching on how God moves us, and then how God moved Paul. We ended last week with a simple assignment: notice, through the week, the moments when God is revealing Himself to you, and then be prepared to share that at our next meeting.
And so, last night, we did that. And there was a moment, felt by all, when we realized that something very special was happening. The meeting took it’s own course, it’s own shape, and I was aware, even if others weren’t, that I was no longer leading. I felt that.
A very intense time of sharing began. Students, and adults, spoke of their own revelations. We all left with the sense that, while God works in our own lives, and while we pray deep prayers for intervention, God also works in the lives of others. He is active. He is alive.
And it was this “order of worship” that literally changed the entire world. Believers in Jesus, in the first few centuries after Jesus’ ascension, literally set the world on fire, just by meeting together, and hearing each other’s revelations from God.
Remember — we had no curriculum. We had no bestselling book as a discussion guide. I offered no teaching moment. We just invited the Spirit of God to join us, and were all in agreement in that invitation. And then it happened.
In China, where Christianity is, for the most part, a persecuted faith, Christians must meet together, in secret, in homes. And their word for house church is simply translated into English as “underground heaven.”
After last night, I know why.
There is more that will happen, and should happen. We are in a society that would rather not show hurt or despair, or even adulation, when the Spirit of God is revealed to us. Because of this aspect of our culture, we aren’t expected to share any sort of revelation from God, in part because we are taught that God no longer speaks … or we are taught that God’s Word is His final spoken will to us. That cannot be true, though, especially if the church flourished without the Torah, and certainly without the current version of the Bible we own.
Also, we have great difficulty even looking directly at people when we do share with them, simply because our churches are designed for us to see just one person. We are taught, inadvertently, to access God through just one leader standing before us.
I am quite confident, though, that we will become more comfortable with this ancient-yet-emergent format, as this group continues to experience something that is very, very special. I am praying prayers of protection now, because when God comes in power, there is serious opposition. I expect it, because I saw, and experienced, the power of last night.