Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.
-Pope Francis, September 27, 2015
In Fresh Expressions parlance, we often talk about inherited forms of church and fresh expressions of church. Our Christian inheritance comes from the Great Tradition—the riches, wisdom and insight passed along from one generation to the next. Along the way, we see the need for new forms of church to ‘proclaim the Gospel afresh’ in each new generation. But these new forms of church are possible only because of the great inheritance. In every form of church, we can only give out of what we’ve been given. In the same way, we give and receive the gift of life itself.
With any inheritance comes the good and the not-so-good. We might rifle through a box of inherited items and receive certain items with great excitement while others are put into another box of items for the neighborhood yard sale. Sometimes the value of inherited items not fully understood by one family are recovered by another family. Or even another generation. Twenty years ago, no one could have predicted that vinyl records would be having a bit of a renaissance more than a decade into a new century.
Sometimes we need a similar line of argument ‘to proclaim the Gospel afresh.’ Fresh expressions of church are sometimes a recovery of an inheritance that was tossed aside by one family, recovered by another and reintroduced to the original family years later as a novelty.
Family as the Domestic Church
One of the things we’re learning from our Catholic brothers and sisters is a quite literally a recovery of the family as the domestic church. This is the ‘inherited’ church in its most basic sense as families pass the faith to the next generation. The same is true as families pass the inheritance of the faith along to their friends and neighbors. Too often, the inheritance of the faith has been quite literally the ‘job’ of church workers who are paid to preserve and pass along the faith.
Imagine if church first happens at home. That home is place from which God’s visibility is multiplied in the lives of men and women who see themselves as missionary disciples in their neighborhoods, workplaces and communities. The recovery of the inheritance that is the domestic church might become another place where the Gospel is proclaimed afresh in this generation. These same Catholic brothers and sisters are teaching us that there can be no separation of family life from the life of evangelism and discipleship. The local church, like the synagogue before it was an extension ministry of the home.
During the 2016 Fresh Expressions National Gathering, we will have the opportunity to explore the idea of being the church at home and everywhere in between. We’ll begin learning about The Amore Project, a way of training and equipping families to see their home as the ‘first’ church. We hope to see you there.
Photo Credit Sharon Mollerus
Gannon is the Director of Ministry Formation for Fresh Expressions US and leads the Fresh Expressions efforts of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. He earned the Bachelor of Arts Degree from Baylor University and the Master of Divinity degree from Duke University. Prior to entering seminary, Gannon worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate and as a public affairs officer in the anti-human trafficking office at the U.S. State Department. He enjoys forging partnerships between followers of Jesus from different traditions and has served in various roles at several churches, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anglican. Gannon is married to Carey, who also is a graduate of Duke Divinity School. Together they work to bring fresh expressions of church to the collegiate community at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.