I wanted to share a little about why I love house church. What I share today has everything to do with what happened yesterday.
If you've followed this blog for a while you may remember about a brother named André. I shared a little bit about him on a couple of posts from last year. You can click here to read one of them.
André is a recovering drug addict. Crack cocaine is the main drug that is his addiction.
Last year he left the Christian drug and alcohol rehab center that our house church family supports. He wasn't ready to leave but he was tired of the discipline that's involved there and so he chose to leave.
He quickly found himself using drugs again. Our brother Elinton got him a job, André didn't show up. We looked for him a place to live. He wasn't interested.
Believe it or not, some people choose the life on the streets. André had lived many years on the streets and he was, once again, choosing to live there.
Yesterday we arrived at Cledi's (Elinton's mom) house for our worship. As we walked up the stairs to her house I heard my girlfriend greet someone. I couldn't see who it was but I could tell in her voice that it was someone she knew and was a little surprised to see. I got to the top of the stairs and saw André. He looked rough. Very rough. It was obvious that he was using crack again.
Cledi has a little balcony with a table that overlooks her neighborhood. She fixed André some bread with jelly and coffee. Elinton, Paulo Renato and myself all went out and spend time with André. He admitted he was using crack again. I didn't grow up around any drug addicts or alcoholics (at least none that I know about) so my life around people addicted is limited to less than 10 years but my brothers have taught me what a person addicted to crack looks like. André is definitely addicted. We asked him point blank what he was using. He shared that he was living on the streets again and was using everything which typically means crack, alcohol and cigarettes.
When I'm around men with drug/alcohol addictions and men who are recovering (they never allow me to say "recovered" because they remind me it will be a life long fight) from drug and alcohol addictions I sit quietly and listen. The recovering men are so wise and have so much more experience than I do that I just zip it. They have such wisdom in their counsel. I share occasionally when I feel the Spirit asking me to do so but, honestly, it's not very much. I just sit and listen to the wisdom that comes out of the mouths of my brothers and how they deal with their brothers that need help. They do everything in love. Sometimes it's tough love but it's always in love,
Yesterday I, once again, sat amazed at how Elinton and Paulo Renato dealt with André. They want to see him healed of his addictions but they don't sugar coat anything. Elinton and Paulo know about addictions. They know about recovery. They know about falling. They know about God's love and grace and they know they have a church family that loves them no matter what.
An addict makes excuses. And lots of them. André told us yesterday that he wanted to be off the streets. That he wanted help. But he then said why he couldn't go to a certain recovery place again. He told us why he left another other place and why he wouldn't go back there either. How he didn't do well when he was disciplined. How he couldn't accept being disciplined for not accepting a "silly rule" at the recovery center.
Paulo looked him in the eyes and said, "I would accept that discipline." Elinton nodded his head in agreement. Elinton then said if he were at a recovery center and the director told him to do something simple, like pick up a napkin, and it seemed stupid to him he would still do it because he was the one reaching out to the director for help. It's the directors house and you must follow his rules. You must humble yourself. Paulo reminded him that you always have beans and rice on your plate at a recovery center. You don't eat whatever you can find like you do on the streets and that alone is a good reason to be humble, to be thankful. But these recovery places do much more than put food on your place and give you a place to sleep. They teach you about God's love. They teach you that there is a better way to live. We want that for André but, more importantly, he has to want it for himself.
André put up a fight at the beginning. Lots of excuses. Not much humility. My brothers kept talking to him. He started to listen. Elinton then suggested we go worship together and we would work on a plan of action after our praise time.
We went back in with the rest of the group. Another reason I love house church. Everything stopped when André arrived. Our house church worship time was pushed back, and would've been cancelled if necessary, because we had a brother with an immediate need. We realized he was more important than starting a worship time at a certain hour. And no one complained or looked at their watch.
We sang, read and prayed with André seated right in the middle of me and Elinton.
Elinton prayed for the Lord's Supper. He and I passed around the bread and juice. Something you need to know about our house church family. We believe the Lord's Supper is for everyone. We include everyone that participates with us. Everyone. How do you think that made André feel yesterday? To be fully included with our church family. I know how I would feel if it were me and a group treated me like that.
I was then blessed to follow Elinton out to the balcony where Anderson and Gi were hanging out together. I watched my brother, a recovering addict, kneel down and get on eye level with my boys and smile as he served them the bread of the Lord's Supper. I watched how he loved on them. I watched him be family, real family, to my children. And my heart jumped.
We ended our worship time with people encouraging André. We want him to know that he has a real family ready to help but he must want to help himself. This is the 4th or 5th time he has fallen and we aren't leaving his side. We wanted him to know that. We also wanted him to know that this time needs to be different. He needs to be different and want a life change and not just a temporary recovery. Getting fed, getting stronger, getting a bed for a few months before going back, once again, to the life on the streets.
Paulo and Elinton spoke some more from their experiences. My girlfriend encouraged him from the Word.
We then set André in a chair and prayed over him. Paulo first and then my girlfriend. They prayed for a healing. They prayed for demonic liberation. We loved on our brother.
We have no idea what will happen with André this time. I pray this will be the last time he will ever have to go into a recovery center. That he allows the Spirit to overwhelm him. That he becomes a mighty testimony to God's power.
As we drove home from Cledi's house my girlfriend looked at me and said, "Wow. That would never have happened in a traditional church setting." She's right.
I remember seeing a video a few years ago about house church. About how it can instantly morph into a hospital, a worship place, a place to deal with emotional problems, a place to immediately bless people with your tithe, a place to be real. I like being a part of a group like that. No committees. No meetings. If someone has a need right now we figure out a way to bless them right now.
We aren't perfect but there are a few things I can promise you. If you visit our group you will hear about real life and life's problems. We are learning together what real church is and it doesn't involve "playing church." Where you say everything is good when asked but in reality your world is crumbling.
If you are around our group for very long you will also hear how God takes care of our daily needs from people who trust in God one day at a time. It isn't just lip service. Most every family in our house church family doesn't know how they will pay all their bills from day to day. That can be a stressful thing but I don't hear complaining, just praising when God, once again, comes through and provides.
One more thing I can promise you if you visit our church family, you will be loved. Loved and not judged.
I'm so thankful that God has allowed my family to be a part of a real family. We receive many more blessings than we could ever give.