Saturday, 14 March 2009

Should I stay or should I go? ....alternative expressions of church.... and my prejudices :-(

March 8, 2009

While I was laying there in bed early this morning, not wanting to move, I was also kind of dreading even getting up to face the “Sunday church question” … “Should I stay or should I go? …. la de da de da…” (Isn’t there a song or jingle like that out there? I hear the tune singing in my head when I think the words…). I find myself caught between habit and “should” and “don’t let the crew down” and “but we need you…” etc…

AND the sense that if I keep going, I’m never going to really step out to BE the church, and I’m just going to keep on “doing” church even if I started a “Sunday Supper Soup” time or something…. because splitting my time between the two is, first, going to keep me in the “doing church mode,” and second, is going to eat up “being church” time and life…. I’m thinking it’s time to take the plunge and “dechurch” as I once had to “deschool” … (maybe later I can reassess … or more clearly hear Your voice… on if and how You might want me to be involved in “traditional church” once my 50 plus years of “church” assumptions have had a chance to clear out a bit…. Lord?)

Okay, while I was writing that, I was just thinking about Pastor Peter, who spends his days, every day pretty much, with You and Your church out on the street…. Anyway, one of the things he’s been doing for a long time, is “church in the park” on Sunday mornings, dragging his barbeque out of his van, and making hot “breakfasts” (and supplying other needs too if needed) for local street people… along with a few other believers who also join them there, talking, building relationships, listening to Your Spirit guide them, living out Your life all year round in all kinds of weather…. definitely an “alternative” expression of “church” but one that really, really seems to reflect Your church we see in the New Testament!

Anyway… he feels You are leading him to expand on church in the park by adding a somewhat more formal “teaching” time…. he might be able to use a local “church basement” for those who are interested to move into after breakfast outdoors, though he dreams in the long-term of a “non-church-building” place where outreach activities plus gatherings of Your church can happen every day… So as I understand it, he is looking at this need he sees (that You are showing him) to develop an additional, more “church gathering” time (though certainly not in the “traditional church” pattern… perhaps somewhat in the Tuesday and Thursday morning “coffee time” style that he’s also involved in but with opportunity for more formal teaching and discipling).

Boy oh boy, I’m thinking there sure seems to be a fine line between truly “sharing church” and “leader-led church.” I guess in this case, there is the thought that the breakfast itself is free to all who want/ need it (and not “inside a church building” with all the “trappings” that implies to people who are most often very wary of such expressions of Your church)… and then they have the choice to participate further, or not, in this “learning/ discipling church time.” So there isn’t a perception that “church” is being forced down their throats, or whatever….

And there is something to that, New Testament church/ scripture-wise… (So I’m just thinking this through… pardon me, folks, if this doesn’t immediately “line up” with your take on it!)… Anyway… in the New Testament church I see “feeding outreach” (yes, actual food) to the poor of the church… but then again, Paul also mentions that the Jerusalem Council reminded him and the Gentile Church to remember/ give to the poor, and it doesn’t specify which poor! And of course You, Jesus, said repeatedly that You have come to the poor, the lost, the “unrighteous/ sinners!” (And that really did shock the “righteous” folk, eh!). (Hmm… I see I myself am needing a thought-adjustment here… oh dear…).

And then, the “gatherings of the church” were generally for the church, the body of believers, for edification, encouragement, teaching, etc… Okay I was going to say “for worshiping and glorifying God” … but frankly, unless one specifically considers “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” as “the worship,” one has to notice that Old Testament scripturally, “worship” is a “temple” activity… and since we, the New Testament body of believers, are each of us the temple of Your Holy Spirit; then everywhere we go, everything we do, both in “church gatherings” and every day, all day, becomes a matter of glorifying and worshiping You… which, oh dear, means my own worshiping is even far more lacking that I had supposed it to be (when I have considered my “worship” enthusiasm and participation “at church” - or rather, my lack thereof….)

And then there is “evangelism/ great commission” stuff. Well… beyond the breakfast feeding of the “poor” and the relationship building and sharing about You that happens there, Pastor Peter also does that every day as he walks our streets and brings the gospel to everyone he meets (the not-so-poor too… not to mention that he has a habit of going around and talking to the “pastors” of the “local churches” … and has also submitted himself to the advice and covering of a group of them whom he refers to, with a chuckle, as his “board!”)… Anyway, as he walks around sharing the gospel, one-on-one, talking, building relationships… yes he definitely has the “gift of pastoring/ shepherding!” as well as carrying out the “great commission” in very practical and daily ways… he also takes care of physical and emotional needs of a part of society that many consider “throw-aways” (if they consider them at all)… AND those he reaches, he also disciples… on-going, daily, relationships (he’s been at this for years…).

No, he doesn’t “stand on the street corner and preach to the lost” … but I wonder if his way isn’t more effective in the long run because of the discipling… Still, You do use the “preaching to the lost” folks too… after all, preaching (which is of course evangelistic sharing of the gospel to the lost, generally outside “gatherings of the church” … as opposed to teaching, which is building up the body, and is what usually goes on in “churches” even though we have a habit of calling it preaching…); anyway, preaching and evangelism are both gifts, ways that You reach out to mankind in Your love, through Your Spirit… and in the end, yes, they work together, as the people reached by preaching are brought into Your church. Okay, actually street-corner preaching and relationship-building-preaching are both forms of evangelism… (I did say I’m trying to figure this out, right?)… and both of them need to be followed up by discipling, which is where the gatherings of the church in their various expressions (with teaching, one-anothering, etc) really comes into play.

So yes, I was talking about the expression of the church that Pastor Peter is part of! So Peter’s people, those who have believed, ARE YOUR CHURCH too!… Oh dear… I’m afraid I’ve been rather thinking of them (well, those who’ve come to belief in - into relationship with - You) as new converts that “need to be brought into the church family” and so they are… and so it has been happening, Peter and them together, in relationship, on the street… but now he’s just wanting to take it a step further, to… ummm… oh yes,I think he’s wanting to integrate them to some degree into the greater community of believers, to maybe expose them to new relationships and sharing and teaching and one-anothering…. by providing a place (and no, he really doesn’t want it to be a “church building” in the long run, but he doesn’t have another option right now… yet, at least!).

So, hmm… I’m thinking out loud here, and I’m afraid my “prejudices” are showing through (oh my goodness! I’m prejudiced?!? Me??? No way, eh! … oh yeah…. I think You’re working on digging that plank out of my eye!…)….

Anyway what I wrote was (and I feel a bit foolish actually posting it, but maybe others might be traveling through this too…) … providing a place where there can be a meeting of believers from, dare I say it, “both sides of the track” (oh dear, I/we have a problem, don’t we?) and where these “baby believers” (okay, but I’ve chatted with some of them at the morning coffee times, and I’m not so sure they’re as “baby” as we’d think!) can develop body/family (church!) relationships with more “mature” believers (or maybe, more to the point, we all have a lot to share with each other, and a lot to learn directly from YOU through Your Spirit as we gather in Your name…). (Speaking of these “mature” … or perhaps just “different”… believers, hopefully they’ll not only drop in as guest speakers or once-a-weekers or fulfilling-my-need-to-do-good-deeders, but learn from Pastor Peter … and YOU! of course! … to invest their lives way more fully in YOUR CHURCH! …. oh Lord, You’re really talking to - laying it on - me, aren’t You? hmmm…. Please help me!)

Again, I find myself wanting to offer my little home (which is only a block or two from “downtown” where Pastor Peter’s church lives on the streets…) as perhaps a gathering place for YOUR church…. people of WHATEVER “group” or “side of the tracks” or “lifestyle” or whatever it is that … yikes… divides us!

(Yes, and right away the “buts” instantly rise up in me…. the same old tiresome tunes… some of them I’ve had others “point out” to me… and some, I’m afraid, might actually be right out of “me” …. I won’t say which is which, because I’m not actually sure if maybe all of them come out of me, at least sometimes…. oh dear…)

BUT what will the landlord say?

BUT what will my hubby and son (and other kids when they hear about it) say? (Hmmm… when they were home for Christmas, I was going on about how I’d love to “be a missionary and reach out to poor people in some third world country” and one of my kids said, “Why don’t you start out by reaching out to all the poor people right here?” … hmmmm again…)

BUT won’t it disturb hubby’s sleep since he works nights and needs the house quiet during the day?

BUT what if “those people” come back and steal something they see when they’re here at the “church gathering” (whatever form it might take… Sunday Supper Soup… or breakfast… or whatever…)

BUT won’t they make the house smell? What if one of them is wearing dirty - or even, heavens forbid, “pissy” clothes, and they sit on the couch and make it stink? What if they wander into the private areas of the house? What if they come back when they are drunk or strung out or whatever and you can’t handle them? What if they’re like that one girl I “reached out to” awhile back, and she became a “parasite” (yikes! did I really say that? )… What if? what if? what if?…

Yes, Your Word does say we need to be “wise as serpents” while also being “gentle as doves” (Doesn’t it? Maybe I should check that out…)… But maybe if you have a variety of the church together, being family, maybe you’ll have relationships developing and growing… and You, Almighty God who is all powerful and all providing and all wise will be in our midst and taking care of us…. (Not to mention that “suffering” is Your way - ha! most of the suffering in the New Testament church was caused by the “righteous, perfect” people, yikes!)… So then, “what’s the problem?”

(Assuming of course, that we are walking with You, practicing Your presence, seeing Your Work and taking part in it… led by Your Spirit… rather than just starting our own little “programs” …. )

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