When we train our house church shepherds at Renew, we usually give them an ashtray – as both a gift and a challenge.
When a new house church recently started, I tossed a plastic ashtray in the middle of the room and said, “What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?” After several honest (and diverse) responses, I asked: “Now, why would I bring an ashtray to this newly formed house church?”
They usually get it: it may have to be used if we’re inviting all sorts of people into the kingdom (and not just the ‘nice’ people). And then I read a quote from Neil Cole: “If you want to reach people for Christ, you going to have to be willing to sit in the smoking section.” With the motto of our church being “no perfect people allowed,” we better come to expect that at some point these ashtrays are going to be used at house churches. We have to stop being afraid of people who are different than us and love people that Jesus would love.
Imagine if you measured the amount of ashtrays used as the litmus test of our churches?