It was in the mid-90s. By now we had been traveling in and out of India for almost six years. And we had been living there with our family of five, for almost another two more years. Our youngest was born in India during this time. These were the beginning days of the house church movement in India (1991-98). After practicing, modeling and preaching, “Houses that Change the World” by Wolfgang Simson was written exactly 20 years ago in India, and two years later it was published as a draft copy in India. Not many in the West were familiar with this movement then, and therefore not many in the West acknowledged the house church movement that began in India in the early 90’s. The movement quickly started to explode and we felt that our presence is no longer needed there. So, we moved back to Europe in the Summer of 1998.
When we came back to the Western World, like most good Christian parents, we were looking for a community where our children (then 6, 4 and 1 years old) could get some sort of spiritual food to grow. House Church was a new kid in the European block then. Because of the lack of understanding and existence of house church, we took our children to different Sunday church services to see which one has the best children’s program. After attending the third church, which was known in the region for its best family oriented program, we were driving back home. Our very young children had been in the children’s service while we had been in the adult service. So, curiously I asked the kids, “How was it?”
There was no answer from the back seats of the car for a few seconds. Suddenly, our oldest one (6 years old then) answered plainly, “Church is soooooo boring!” The “so” sounded much longer than the rest of the words put together in that sentence. My brain quickly started to calculate the spiritual impact. Church is boring: which means – God is in the church, that equals: God is boring! That thought slowly turned my spine from cold to icy cold from the top to the bottom, while driving. God cannot be boring! God is nonstop amazing, awesome, and an overwhelming adventure! (After all we are missionaries, you see.) If a 6 year old child can’t experience that kind of God in a church, then the best thing to do is: Stop going to boring Sunday churches altogether. That’s what we did. Our children did not grow up in a Sunday church club culture for the last 18 years. Yet, in spite of all the ups and downs of life, they all love Jesus and try to live him in their daily lives.
God does not attend a church for 1 hour and 30 minutes on a Sunday like we do. God dwells among his people. And where are his people? In their homes. This is where they live. So God dwells in the homes of his people every day, every hour, every minute and every second. So we began a lifestyle at home with God, (Did you hear me say lifestyle? not a program, a ritual, a habit culture or a tradition – lifestyle.) God should become our lifestyle. We as parents tried to model this to our kids in our bumpy roads of everyday life. Quickly, for our young children, God became tangible.
For example: We were once hurrying to catch the last car shuttle train to get to a place which was otherwise not easily accessible by road. Outside was cold and dark. We drove nervously around the curvy Swiss Alpine roads to reach the train station on time. (If the Swiss departure time is 6:28, the train leaves at 6:28 punctually!) 2 minutes to departure and we still have at least another 10 minutes of drive in the winding alpine road. My faith was slowly fading away. I stopped worrying about catching the train and started to worry about where to find a room for five at this hour in this remote place. Our youngest who was then 3 years old realized the parents anxiety and he prayed a simple prayer: “Jesus, keep the train waiting for us.” That was the last thing he said for that day and then he fell asleep for the rest of the ride. In my nervousness, I did not take his prayer seriously! I just wanted to catch the train and get to that otherwise inaccessible place. After my faith had vanished, we finally arrived at the car shuttle train station a full 15 minutes after the departure time, knowing very well that the train had left punctually at a Swiss timing. Believe it or not, the car shuttle train was still waiting there at the station and we just drove into the train with the car and it left! Jesus kept the Swiss train waiting for us! God is real to our 3 year old! How? His parents modeled it for him before. Even at times when the parents had no faith, the children’s faith saved the family.
Live God, especially when you are upset, when you have an argument with your spouse, when you can’t love, when you can’t give, model him in everything you do. God created us in his image and in his likeness. Therefore it should be easy to reflect his image and likeness in our everyday lives. I believe it is much more difficult to reflect something which we are not created after. For example, unholiness, hate, rage, lies, gossip, jealousy, greed and more. We are not created after such wickedness. Why do we practice and model these in front of our children, family, friends and enemies? God dwelt among the people of Israel. He still wants to dwell today among his people. Christ dwells in our hearts, (not in a four-walled church building) through faith (Eph 3:17), Live always the Christ (the anointed King) who dwells in you.
Yes, if we parents don’t practice and model Christ, the environment that our children grow in, will model it differently, and that may not end in favor of you parents. First practice and model, then teach. Model purity, then teach them purity. Model generosity, then teach them generosity. Model selflessness, then teach them selflessness. Save your children, teach them the ways by modeling, so they may walk in it. Model the Way, the Truth and the Life and they will choose right, and stay away from foolishness.
I heard a humorous saying some time ago: “Before you go out to change the world, go change your own underwear.”It is true, remove that dirt, that smelly thing, unload those unnecessary heavy burdens of religion, rituals, traditions, habits, culture and more. Then take a deep breath of fresh air and enter Kingdom. The King said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Let go of man-made yokes that are burdensome, yield yourselves to yoke with Jesus. It will relieve you and you will find the promised rest in his Kingdom under his Kingship.
Oh yes, 2017 can come! Wishing you all a hopeful new year 2017!