In this journey of faith and fellowship, I keep coming across books and blogs by authors who decry this or that perspective in the Body of Christ, while then arguing that we must see things through the glasses of their own unique perspective – often under very enticing rhetoric.
In essence, their books and blogs express unrealistic aspirations – as they promote some theoretical concept of church and community that looks, thinks and acts just like them.
If truth be told, we’re all guilty – to some extent – of trying to do the same thing.
German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Where the world seeks gain, Christians will renounce it; where it exploits, they will let go; where it oppresses, they will stoop down and lift up the oppressed. Where the world denies justice, Christians will practice compassion; where it hides behind lies, they will speak out for those who cannot speak, and testify for the truth.
Do we really want virtue, justice and truth – especially when they challenge the status quo of our settled lives, churches and ministries?
Do we really value virtue, justice and truth – even if they challenge any self-affirming relationships with Jesus and each other?
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)
May God send prophets among us yet again.
The last several years have been a wonderful journey of seeing folks come to the Lord and fellowships emerge in highly improbable places. In my own life, the roots for this go back to my dad and mom, Bob and Mary Jane Wright.
In the 1970s and 80′s, the Lord used them as pioneers in what we’d now call “organic” church – before that term became popular (even though today it unfortunately can mean nearly anything).
Forty years ago, they helped birth a regional network of open, participatory fellowships in Maryland, where people could find and express the vibrant life of Christ in dynamic gatherings as everyone ministered one to another – rather than having directed, hierarchical meetings.
Yup. It’s true. I killed ekklesia (the Greek word often translated in the New Testament to mean a local “church”). Now, several years later, it’s time to finally come clean and confess.
Although we all love the “glory stories”, we also need to tell of our failures – because it’s our failures which often teach the most.
So here’s my sorry story of having killed a fellowship.
Maybe, by owning up to my failures, it will help others trying to form an organic fellowship, home group, simple church – or whatever you want to call an open, participatory gathering of believers ministering one to another in smaller, relational fellowships.
Last night was the second week in a semester-long class Marianne and I are teaching, through Nathan’s Voice and our fellowships, on pastoral counseling. We had a full house (literally!).
We previously taught this two years ago, and many are now ministering grace and healing in our county to those trapped in the bondage of addictions, past abuse, and controlling emotional wounds.
About half of the class comes from our fellowships, and the rest from other churches in the area.
But this morning, I’m tired…
Several ministries are offering a free class in Pastoral Counseling on Wednesday evenings in Prince William County, Virginia, beginning April 17, 2013, from 7:00 to 9:30 pm.
The class is open to all members of the Body of Christ from local churches (not just “pastors”!), and likely will run about twelve weeks.
To give some idea of the type of counseling we will be teaching others to do, I’ve reprinted below a blog about one session I had with a deeply troubled man last year.
This originally was part of a longer post, which I’ve now split in two. If you haven’t yet, I recommend you first read Part 1.
Small is Beautiful
These days, “small” seems to be the new buzz word – and I generally agree with that focus. When our gatherings become too large, it is impossible for folks to participate in sharing and ministering to each other and freely expressing the life of Christ with one another.
In the New Testament, the imperative to participate – to express the life of Christ in us, among us and through us – extends to our meetings, as well as our throughout-the-week relationships.
I’m not anti-big. There are times when larger gatherings make sense – but not as the main expression of the local Body of Christ, with small groups as mere adjuncts to the big Sunday show or some leader’s grand vision.
Also, if “small” becomes mini one-man shows in someone’s home, community center, jail unit, coffee shop, homeless shelter, work cafeteria or wherever, that misses the whole point.
To keep these problems from happening, we need to restore a proper concept of leadership within the Body of Christ.
I tire of everyone with their “new thing”, hip new labels and conference extravaganzas – as they peddle their amazing new book, ministry, “revelation” or program.
Two recent blogs I liked are:
Giving in Simple Church, by Tim Day.
Like Tim, Marianne and I reject the idea that Christians are obligated to tithe or that the tithe carries over into the New Covenant. But like Tim, we still give at least 10% of our income because we feel that’s what God wants of us personally, as we help and serve others.
Tim’s blog provides some very balanced, practical insight on giving.
The Changing Face of Full-Time Ministry, by Alan Knox.
We need to move past the old mentality of “full-time ministry” and realize that we all are ministering Christ full time.
Both of these brothers, and their blogs, should be on your “must read” list.
Have you ever noticed how those who heavily promote organic food and natural health with the most enthusiasm and sincerity, sometimes look the most sickly and anemic and seem to have the most health problems?
They are reacting to real problems, but have turned their idealistic and seemingly good-sounding concepts into an all consuming idol – to the exclusion of real health which comes from a balanced life.
I’ve also see this among some who are the most ardent proponents of organic church. They’ve fallen prey to unbalanced reactions and aspirations which prevent authentic life and sustainable, healthy fellowships.
A newly-wed couple in our fellowship invited Marianne and me to a Super Bowl party at their apartment last night.
Marianne couldn’t make it because she needed to finish her lesson plans for the week (she’s an elementary school teacher), so I went.
When I showed up, I was blessed to see some old friends – including guys I knew from the surrounding woods. That evening, we enjoyed lots of good food and good times as we hung out and watched the game together.
Single parents are ubiquitous in the church; however, often they are a very misunderstood group that usually doesn’t quite comfortably fit anywhere.
As a former single mom with 25 years of single parenting experience, these are some of the impressions I have collected. Maybe it is different if you are a single dad, but I don’t have any expertise in that area.
Marianne and I have the greatest privilege in the world. God allows us to introduce Him to those who have reached the end of themselves, and then allows us to walk with them towards healing and wholeness.
We have the privilege of then seeing those who some consider the discards of society grow in the Lord to become mighty men and women in His Kingdom.
But the highest privilege of all is this: To call them friends.
This is the story of so many when we first met. Listen, and may the Lord move your heart to compassion.
When we teach folks to be the church, God’s Kingdom can’t help but ripple out into all sorts of improbable places through improbable people – impacting whole communities, towns and cities. Here’s just one related, amazing story, among many …
Miguel Labrador posted a very important blog this morning on Why Leadership and Effectiveness Are Not Benchmarks of Discipleship. I highly recommend his blogs in general, and urge you to subscribe to his blog feed. Miguel is doing it, and not just talking about it, and always brings great insight.
In Romans 12, Paul lists what Biblical scholars often call the seven “motivational gifts”.
I like that description. After years of pastoral counseling with hundreds of people, I’ve come to deeply respect how God creates each of us with different core motivations. Furthermore, among Christians, those seven core motivational gifts often correspond to God’s unique calling for each believer.
When we tend to elevate our own gift, motivation and calling above all others, however, and think the Church and God’s people need to do the same, our “gift” becomes oppressive.
Lately, I’ve been contemplating what worship is, and looks like, when God’s people authentically gather together as His “ekklesia”.
In the Bible, “ekklesia” is the Greek word often translated “church”. But it means far more than what most “churches” have become.
For Christians, the New Testament concept of ekklesia involves God’s people actively forming community, including meeting together. As a community, and in our gatherings, we then participate – each and every one – in expressing the life of Christ in us, among us, and through us. These days, that ideal is often called “organic” church.
Rob Moley, in his blog Restore the Word, wrote yesterday on “The Great Commission: Discipling Individuals or Nations?”.
In it, he says this about the Great Commission:
Rather than being a command to influence nations with the principles and truths of God’s kingdom, the logic of the command in Matt. 28:19-20 is to make disciples from every nation. Then, as ambassadors of God’s kingdom, these disciples are able to influence all aspects of society, and God willing, even disciple whole nations.
His point is that the Great Commission is about transforming individuals into disciples who obey all that Christ commands, who in turn transform the world around them.
The greatest challenge facing the Church today are those who promote truth out of balance:
- Those who think the Person of Christ can be fractured from His concurrent propositional truths, moral precepts and commands;
- Those who want the vibrancy of the internal Living Word, without submitting all things to the authority and discipline of His written external Word;
- Continue reading
We don’t go looking for or emphasize miracles, but in our fellowships we’ve been seeing the miraculous happen time and again.
We had one man collapse and then die right in front of the paramedics and the fellowship he had been helping to start in the jail – and then come back to life shortly thereafter on the gurney in the jail infirmary after brothers gathered together to pray for him.
This picture has great significance for me. It is from one of our fellowships – this one meets in my home on Sundays.
Yesterday, as we gathered together, we prayed and give prophetic words of encouragement over Oscar, a close friend who is moving forward with his road-side pit barbeque business by signing a contract to have a mobile food service trailer built for him (Oscar’s Barbeque). He has worked faithfully towards this moment – as unto the Lord – for two years.
I’ve watched and walked with Oscar as he’s progressed over time, step by step, in growing, proving and succeeding in his business model as part of God’s call on his life.