2 June 2010
In his book, Reimagining Church, Frank Viola asks:
"Is there a viable way of doing church outside the institutional church experience, and if so, what does it look like?" (p 13)
See, that scares me. The whole "another way of DOING church" thing.
I don't want to just "do" church.
I want to BE part of the church of Jesus Christ.
My friend W is involved in a local "house church" (or gathering, or whatever?) and I've thought about asking if I can go along... but I'm scared because what if it is just "church at home" (like some home schoolers really just do "school at home"?)
And I sometimes wonder about actually starting something myself... but how can one "start" something that already exists? (Your church, I mean).
So... I guess I'll just have to wait for You to do it. Or maybe that's not right either. That still sounds like "doing it."
Guess I'll just BE with YOU and whoever else You send along who is already part of Your family (and anyone You send along who together we can point to You... or at least You want to draw to Yourself by caling me and other to work alongside/ along with You. Eh?
Father? Jesus? Holy spirit?
Lord Almighty! God be praised!
Going on in the Reimagining Church book, I do agree with this:
"... when I use the term "institutional church" I am not speaking about God's people. I'm speaking about a system. The "institutional church" is a system - a way of doing "church." It's not the people who populate it. This distinction is important..." (p 17) And he contrasts this to "organic churches" in which, as he quotes T. Austin-Sparks: "In the Divine order, life produces its own organism.... everything comes from the inside. Function, order and fruit issue from this law of life within." (p. 18)
And then he quotes a letter from someone who is part of an "organic church:"
"... This church focused on Jesus Christ. and everyone sang about Him, shared about Him, and worshipped Him. These Christians had been captivated by the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ and, quite honestly, they didn't desire to spend time doing anything else when they met, but sing to/ with/ about Him, share Him, and love one another through Him. ... people with such an intimate life with the Lord. These people were sustained by His life... Christians... who seemed to know the heart of God ... they all shared Christ in their meetings one by one so that He was brought right before our eyes. I learned through them that He is our food and our drink. I came to see who He really is in our gatherings and in our life together, and I fell in love with Him as a result." (p 20)
I seem to have come to the point, personally, where I am beginning to doubt that such a group exists - at least not around here. And I'm afraid that if I did find such a group, I would be struck dumb. Even now, I seem to be able to express myself on paper with pen. But every time I open my mouth I "cause trouble" or am ignored, or am looked at incredulously like I am really strange and wierd (and crazy, off track).
I guess maybe I have retreated behind the "safety" of pen and paper. Maybe that's why I loved the street church so much at first. People were, in some ways, more willing to listen to alternatie views - and some were even really hungry to pursue Jesus. (But it seems like those particular ones have moved away, maybe even been pushed away. And now I mostly just sit there.)
And even when I visit my friends G and J, who are so open to Jesus, I skirt around the things I long to say. well, I didn't feel like I had to that time it was just G, and another young couple also really open to Jesus, and me. But when certain other people, people close to me in other ways, are there - oh boy. And there are a few other people I can be really open and intimate with them and Jesus, together - but they live so far away, I only see them maybe once or twice a year for a very short visit.
Oh Father, I do long for intimacy with You and Your people.
Father, I feel like I fell in love with You because of a book. Well, one man-written book that opened my eyes to what You were really telling me in Your Book. But my eyes were closed - or covered, perhaps, by interpretations of men - when I'd read Your book. Though I did have some wonderful momentary glimpses of the reality of You and Your church in there, it is true!).
And I had known, watching my Grandpa pray, and watching tears go down my mom's face when she was in Your Presence, and watching the consistent lives of a few people who just for sure loved You and lived You... that You could be fallen-in-love-with!
But for whatever reason - probably just my own selfishness and desire to be intellectual and such - it didn't seem possible for me.
And now I am kind of wondering if it is even possible for me to really be part of this kind of "expression" of Your church (if it even exists here)? Would I be the misfit, the trouble-maker, the one not trusting You, the "institutional" one after all my complaining about the "system?" Maybe I would. :-( But I don't want to be. Maybe You've held me back because I'm not ready, because I would screw things up. (or maybe wouldn't even recognize such a group if I saw it).
You know my heart.
I want to be an intimate part of Your church, in love with You. And loving them, too, as You do (even a little). That would be something, wouldn't it?
And accepting their love just for what it is: Your love through them.
No questions asked, no doubts, no complaints, no matter how their love "appears" to me.
(Like a mom doesn't complain, but is full of joy, when her little one, face all covered with dirt, and runny nose, and drool, plants a big sloppy kiss right on her lips; or comes joyfully clutching a big beautiful bouquet of droopy, half dead, buggy dandelions, and presents them to her with a huge happy loving smile and hug!)
"Christ had freedom to be known in His people - including me." (p 21)
Yes! that is exactly what I mean! :-) That's what I long for.
Another letter says:
"As we loved Christ together our hearts were knit with each other... I saw that the church really is Christ's body, and He is the Head. Only as we allow Him to have His rightful place will we experience His life as we were meant to. Church life in this way is the Christian's natural habitat where we grow and flourish, being nourished by all the riches of Christ." (p 22)
Oh Lord. I love the theory! But if it's really true, really available, I want reality, practice, being (and yes, in that, doing too, I guess).
And I've seen tidbits (and sometimes some good sized chunks) of what it can be, even within some "institutional church" settings.
But Father, I want more than theory and some nibbles or even lunches. I want the real thing. I want You and Your church. I want to love and be loved. But most of all I want to experience, know, worship, adore, love, serve You the way You intend for us, the way You created us for. Because if that isn't possible, isn't available, how can life be worth living? How can Your church go on?
I want Your Life!
I want to GIVE YOU THE GLORY!
I want YOU! (And Your family - for that is part of the package! Thank You!).
Help! Please! Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit. Please???
(Thank You. Okay. I've asked. The ball is in Your corner... please?)
(I'm heaving big sobs deep within me....)
From another letter:
"... I began to crave gathering with their believers. I would go to their meetings and see a much bigger Lord than just someone who died for my sins." (p 24)
Oh dear God, is that last statment heresy? I guess I always thought that You dying for my sins, Jesus, was "the ultimate" - You know, "the ultimate sacrifice" and all. But of course... the sacrifice was only the beginning, wasn't it?
Or to be more accurate, Your sacrifice on the cross was the ending of the old "cut off from Father" way - and Your resurrection, dear Jesus, was the new beginning, the re-opening of a grand, eternal, never-ending, no-fences life with Father God! With all of You - Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit - my Lord and My God, King of the universe, All in all, forever! Praise Your Holy Name!
(Thank You, by the way. I'm happy - and relieved - to start praising and worshiping You again. Thank You for opening that gate - or more to the point, breaking down that wall I erected. :-( sorry... )
The author describes the identity of the church of Jesus Christ as "the very heart throb of God Almighty - the fiancee of the King of kings." (p 27)
And one day the wedding will take place! And the full forever life of the forever marriage between Jesus and His church, His bride, will begin!
Frank Viola writes: "I have a dream that the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ will be the focus, the mainstay, and the pursuit of every Christian and every church... that their obsession and pursuit would be a Person - the Lord Jesus Christ." (p 27)
Is it really possible? Well, Father, with You all things are possible.
And Jesus - and His church, Your children - is Your Number One Thing, isn't it? YOUR GLORY!
(And then I made lunch... and looked at facebook... and a friend I haven't seen for a long while, but who lives here in town, wanted to "chat" ... and he invited us to visit the gathering of the church that is meeting at their house. I had no idea. But oh, I know how much he and his wife love Jesus! And I have hope! :-)
(And oh! I just got a phone call! One of my daughters is in labor - grandchild #6 is on his way! Oh Jesus, I present him to You! Make him Your's too! Please! thank You! Amen! :-)