USING A CHRISTIAN HOME
- by Lt Col Jeremy Clare
Jeremy Clare was a Captain in the RAEC when he wrote this article.
He was based at a military unit in Germany with his family at the
Despite the fact that Christians are "all one in Christ Jesus"
it seems that one of the hindrances to real fellowship at OCU weekends
and other similar meetings is a lack of openness that partly stems
from people not knowing each other very well as people. This is not
altogether surprising considering that first, the British (even Christians!)
are notoriously slow at drawing close to others and that, secondly,
we are very often meeting folk we have never met before, or, at least,
not since the last OCU gathering.
It was largely with this problem in mind that the idea was born of
arranging a monthly, home-based, get-together for Christians in a
given area. It was not our idea originally, but it has been our privilege
to be involved in running a dozen or more such gatherings. We, personally,
have found the venture great fun and have made many new friends, as
well as finding that God really does take care of practical details.
I have been asked to put a few thoughts on paper so that anyone else
who feels that his settled home-life could be used in God's service
may cull a few ideas and perhaps start something similar. What I
write is a mixture of experience and directive, but it is not intended
to be a blueprint - God has made it work well for us, but there are
many different ways of using the home. Details will obviously have
to be adapted to fit the local situation in which readers find themselves. In
our case the organisation was shared between two families.
The use of the Christian home for hospitality in general terms is
suggested in the Bible in Romans 12:13, " ...Get into
the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging,
for the night" (Living Bible). Even without such a clear direction
the sharing of a happy home with other Christians, especially lonely
ones, is a rewarding experience for all concerned. Like many of the
gifts of God, it is of best value when it is used. The task of linking
up Christians in friendship, as well as at organised fellowship, is
perhaps an area to which we should devote more attention.
How do we go about it?
Start by drawing a 40 mile (60km) radius circle on a map of your area
with your house as the centre. This is as far as most people, especially
families, would want to travel in a day. Unless you are very isolated
there will probably be quite a number of OCU members in that circle. Many
of these, and other Christians, would really value a day with like-minded
people in a family home, and this particularly applies to single officers
living in messes. Remember that one of the aims is to link up these
people who might otherwise not meet except occasionally at OCU functions. You
can find out who is in your "guideline" circle by consulting the OCU
address lists, other members, and by just asking around. Prayer needs
to feature prominently (see CROSSFIRE (3) on Pray and Plan) when you
think about whom to ask. There is no reason why this should not be
an all-ranks affair; we ourselves have not made it specifically OCU-based
and soldiers have come and enjoyed themselves on several occasions. Remember
to invite the local padre and inform him of what you are doing. We
once had a really good discussion after tea on "How can we contribute
more to the life of the Garrison Church?" which was led by the padre
of our church. He really appreciated the involvement.
When you decide whom to ask, invite them in the most appropriate manner
(probably a duplicated letter, but a personal letter is more special)
to come for whatever part of the day they can manage. Numbers will
be a personal decision depending on the size of house etc. but be
bold! Not everyone will be able to come on a chosen day (we always
found Saturdays best) and if the time frame is from, say, 3 pm to
11 pm (or later!) people will come at different times within that
period. We've usually invited 30-40 people and have never been overstretched
on the day. Remember to attach a return slip to your invitation to
give you some idea of who is coming and for what meals - Christians
seem to be a bit vague on these points sometimes, but God has a wonderful
way of making the food fit the number of people!
What will we do?
Two things people are generally good at without prompting are talking
(once they relax) and eating - you are providing a meeting place for
both activities! When people first arrive, it may help to have some
music playing softly in the background (there are plenty of attractive
Christian groups whose records and cassettes would provide both a
talking point and a warm Christian atmosphere). It may also make
the point that you have gathered to enjoy one another if you have
some simple light-hearted party games early in the proceedings. These
have to be chosen and led with great care so that anyone who is shy
can happily join in and not feel that it was a mistake to come! Thus
games that involve team work (3 dimensional noughts and crosses with
team members taking it in turns to play) help people to make friends
without the spotlight being focussed on an individual. If you have
children who can join in, they will bring the standard of play down
to an 'unthreatening' level even if they win every time!
It is tempting to want to fill the available time with talks and tapes
and films. To do so is a mistake, valuable though they may be. The
emphasis is on people not on information and teaching. To fill your
guests with love, fun and the close intimate warmth of Christian fellowship
will minister to them far more than to give them the last word on
pre/a/post-millenial eschatology! Have one shortish session (5pm
- 6pm) when there is an opportunity to pray together and perhaps have
a tape or group discussion. Invite a guitar player and use some of
the splendid songs of praise in the OCU song books at some stage. Let
the Holy Spirit lead on how the time is spent. The whole day is an
act of fellowship, washing-up included! It might seem that the 'spiritual'
content of the day is small but perhaps we are often too hasty to
separate 'spiritual' and 'secular' activities. Don't be rigid in
planning the day - provide the basics and note when people want to
arrive and leave, so that they can be fed.
How much work is it?
It must be said at the outset that for ourselves these 'get-togethers
have proved great fun and truly relaxing. We have a girl of 5 and
twins of 3 and they have particularly enjoyed the friendly atmosphere
which Christians bring into the home. The catering may seem alarming
at first sight and a barrier to a smooth-running and relaxed day,
but take heart! Give God this part of the day to deal with in the
same way as all the rest of the arrangements. We have found that
having all the basics done before people arrive, tea set, food prepared
and covered etc. - makes all the difference. This leaves the minimum
to do and even that has a habit of being taken care of by willing
hands. Appliances (owned or borrowed) such as freezers, hotplates
and urns are very useful.
People enjoy contributing in some practical way, perhaps by bringing
a cake or pudding. Accept help gladly and don't feel embarrassed
about coordinating efforts to cover both meals.
Who looks after the children?
The simple answer is everyone. It is meant to be a family day, and
children can be included in most of it. Small ones will not sit quietly
through a discussion, and so it is best to organise some alternative
activity. A couple of older children or parents can take them all
for a walk or to a local play park. The sharing of this responsibility
is as important as any other part of the day. In winter a play room
will be needed - if you are lucky you may be able to organise this
in conjunction with someone living close by. Don't leave the children
out of any musical sessions; they love a good sing. If you have small
children yourself, they will enjoy a different voice for bedtime stories!
How often should we hold these 'get-togethers'?
The circumstances will decide. In Germany, life tends to be fairly
parochial and there are few opportunities to meet many people from
outside your own garrison. We have found that once a month is ideal
in this situation, but it may be that this would be too often in other
places. Be guided by God on this while praying and planning. It
is a good idea to discuss the date of the next gathering before people
What are the results?
The idea has been explained. Jesus said "For where two or three are gathered
in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). Wait and see what
comes of it. It was primarily designed for Christians to meet, enjoy a day out
and develop friendships. Closer friendships, and the resulting closer fellowship,
will bear fruit in all sorts of ways. Not least will be the element of the building-up
of the body of Christ that comes with the sharing of joys and problems. This
is specifically mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 "so encourage each other and
build each other up". If you think people in your area would enjoy this type
of occasiion, why not commit the whole thing to God and try it one Saturday?
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