I was in borders a couple of weeks ago and I was looking in their religious section. So much has been written about Jesus. So much has been done in his name, on his behalf. So many people with very strong feelings about him. Jesus, really Y'shua...a form of our "Joshua." I'm told that Jesus is a kinda badly strained Greek version of his name. Joshua is better for English meaning "God (or 'YHWH') saves". Gayle Erwin points out that on Palm Sunday which recently passed, the people were shouting "Hosanna!" which means "Oh, save!" or "God, save us!" They were shouting "Save us!" to "God saves." Pretty cool.
This week I read the gospel of Luke...it's a good one. I couldn't help but notice how practical Jesus is and it's got me thinking. Over the years, we've added a lot of stuff to his message and acts. I wonder what he thinks about all the stuff? I wonder what Christ really thinks about our buildings, programs, courses, books, seminars, plans, fund-raising and services? Really. The real Jesus, not just our idea about him. Michael Card once sung, "We've made you in our image so our faith is idolatry." How much of that is true in my life?
On this past Good Friday...case in point, we call it Good Friday cause that's the day Christ laid down his life, then, it was just the day they killed people for robbery and treason and the like...anyway, I went to the best "Good Friday service" I have ever been to simply because it wasn't really a Good Friday service. It was a community Bible study at a West side ministry drop in called the Vine house that me and the guys happened to be leading. It wasn't the best because we were leading either. We were quite unprepared.
There was coffee, there was singing, there was a Bible reading, there was sharing and there was prayer all done in a small circle. While we were sitting there I thought, "Wow, this is it. This is what Jesus meant when he established his church." All of the other stuff is extra. Not really bad extra necessarily, but extra none the less.
For all our fanciness, this is how Christ's church in most of the world thrives. This is the Chinese church that no government could take down. I get the feeling sometimes that our western churches would all but fold if we lost the ability to use our tithes as a tax deduction! How can I deduce that these simple circles are really what Jesus meant? Because it's what the Christians did right after they had been with Jesus..."They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:42)
I met some great YWAMers last month that are helping people learn how to plant churches with this new but really old idea of "the simple church". It has me hungry and looking for more (by looking for less?). But our meeting at the Vine house was really, the basic idea...there was coffee and just being together, we sang (which is a kind of corporate prayer) and prayed, we heard from the apostles by reading scripture, we responded to the scripture and to each other. And that's it. This is what changes lives. What more do we need?
Ah yes, authority. Well that was there too. Everyone in the room was submitted and growing. And instead of creating false authority, this kind in our little circle happened through friendship. Sure there's things to work through, sure there will be confrontation and dealing with junk...if there are people, it gets messy. But we must get used to a little bit of mess and committed to routing it out of our own life with God's help. That what friends are for.
I'm not leaving my church because we have a building and a sound system. But I am committed to be the real deal at my church. To know people better. To share my life with them. To eat with them. To pray with them. To hear God's word with them. It's the only thing Christ meant...
John 15: 9-17 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other."