Those four words sum up Felicity Dale’s An Army Of Ordinary People: Stories Of Real-Life Men And Women Simply Being The Church (Tyndale/Barna, 2010). Dale and her husband have been involved in the simple church/house church movement for many years, planting organic faith gatherings in neighborhoods and workplaces in the U.S. and U.K., then coaching people hungry to be the church without the institutional constrictions of “legacy churches”, as Dale calls institutional, building-and-denominational congregations.
There have been a number of books in recent years dedicated to this move of the Spirit building including George Barna’s Revolution and Neil Cole’s Organic Church. But where those titles have focused on offering a Biblical, practical apologetic for this movement, Dale’s book invites us into the living rooms and kitchen tables of ordinary people who live into their calling as ministers of the gospel. This 279-page book has 21 short chapters filled with stories about what being the church, 2 or 3 or many more gathered, can look like. Each chapter concludes with Dale’s practical coaching about how to simply be the church.
I was involved in a house church for a couple of years, and it was both life-changing (some of the most powerful, prophetic prayer times in which I’ve ever participated) and difficult (there were as many as 8 kids under the age of 10 in the house and we never did solve the “What to do with the kids?” question adequately). Dale’s book describes, but doesn’t discuss, the sometimes brief life-cycle of these simple congregations. Some exist for a season, and then, as the Wind of the Spirit shifts direction, these gatherings dissipate, as ours did. Others go on for years, and, at least in some cases, eventually take on a more formal structure.
But Dale’s main focus is on the kind of Spirit-led evangelism that comes from relationship-building. She writes:
“Church is not about buildings or meetings; it’s not about church structure or charismatic leaders. Church is about relationships – first with Jesus and then with those in His body. Jesus needs to be our primary focus – pleasing Him must be our highest calling and communicating with Him the heartbeat of our existence. Above all else, if we are in love with Jesus, not only individually but corporately, then our expressions of church are likely to be healthy and vibrant.”
Reading An Army Of Ordinary People will challenge you to rethink your assumptions about church. It’s a reminder that the first-century church can happen in the twenty-first century – maybe in your own living room or in your favorite coffee shop.
Note: A copy of this book was provided me by the publisher.