Sunday, October 7
House Churches or Church Houses?
This is truly an accurate visual representation of the Ecuador House Church Movement. The juxtaposition of a common indigenous house with a traditional church facade symbolizes the way church planting has developed over the past dozen years in this country.
To some it might seem strange that I would chose to represent the church as a structure rather than people. Of course, I would agree and affirm church as the Body of Christ, people, family of God, brothers and sisters joined together under the Lordship of Christ. In that sense this piece might be better entitled, "The Structure of the Ecuador House Church Movement."
The incongruity of an indigenous house with such an unnatural entrance has bothered me since the day this painting was given to us. Either gather as a church in a home, or build a building according to historical traditions, but don't mix the two!
And yet I believe this painting accurately represents the true Ecuadorian reality of what Christ is doing to "I will build my church" in our context. It is not what I personally believe Scripture teaches about the church, nor is it what we have sought to teach. Yet, after 12+ years of "painting" this is the reality of what we see emerging. Whether good or bad, THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE!
The house is small. She is built with natural, indigenous materials like the thatched roof. Electronics might be inside, but they are not part of the visible structure of the house. Between 10-15 people can fit comfortably inside the house.
The facade on the house seeks to imitate the inherited traditional church structures. There isn't money to build a complete stone temple, but the two columns with the cross on top let everyone know this is a church. There is a strong desire for outsiders to know that this is not only a house, but a place where the living church of Christ gathers.
The awkward stone teams and pillars which support the roof are in the shape of a cross. This cross is below the wooden cross representing Christ on the roof, but the stone cross is actually bigger. While Christ is certainly acknowledged as "over" and "above" his church, the visible stone cross at the top of the stone facade is not only bigger in size, but stands on top of the other stones that make up the stone entryway into the church.
I have long noted that church leaders/pastors/shepherds in Ecuador (and Latin America in general) tend to take a hierarchical position above the other common church stones. There is a strong tendency for two mediators between God and men--Christ AND the pastor. Petitions, requests, permissions must first be cleared through the pastor or local church leaders before making their way to Christ.
In my opinion, this is the main obstacle as to why we have yet to see this nation come to Christ. By the high position of authority that is given to pastor/leaders, Christ's will and voice are often supplanted by those very leaders standing at the foot of His cross.
Some have rightly called this Latin American phenomenon church houses rather than house churches. For me this painting depcits the strong influence tradtional church structures continue to have on the overall house church movement taking place in Latin America.
What do you see in the painting? A house church or a church house?