Thursday, 30 October 2014

Jesus lived differently

It's kind of interesting and sad at the same time that after coming to understand Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, many end up distancing themselves from all they used to hang out with the "unchurched" or perhaps we have other terms we may want to use.

Jesus lived differently. One of harshest criticisms Jesus faced was that He spent time with sinners, even ate with them. He intentionally associated with the no longer welcomed and no longer appreciated by the religious folks, he associated with women, foreigners, prostitutes, the sick and the poor, elevated them from the dust and sat with them.
To be fair, it is a natural thing for people to want to be around others who are similar, in their thinking, behaviour, values, and their culture likely more than anything. For that reason perhaps there are such things as ethnic churches, keeping a distance from the different and by some strange coincidence remain attached to the old.  How many of us could be accused of spending too much time with the “others" or whatever other term we may want to use?
Yes, it is a natural thing for Christians to want to be around other Christians, after all something special happens in the fellowship of believers. We worship freely, we feel understood and share something deeply important to us. Hanging out with like-minded people who at the outside “have their stuff together” can be a wonderful thing. But what about the those who struggle, who perhaps live a more approachable and transparent life around us? Are we staying away from them just as the religious people in Jesus time, the Pharisees? 
I for ones have found the one thing, the one person that meets the need in my life, but somehow I keep a distance from those who need the very thing, the very person I’ve found. I don’t think this is intentional, but it does happen, and in the end, our intentions don’t matter, our belief don't matter unless it becomes a believe, an action transforming us from the inside out..
Having our needs met we move on, oblivious perhaps even indifferent to a world that is falling apart all around us.

Community expands our understanding and experience of God

One of the helpful books I have come along in these days is one from Tim Conder; The Church in transition. Books sometimes give words to my thoughts, help me to formulate them clearer and come to a deeper appreciation of different opinions. I think too many church leader don't read enough which is affecting community formation . . . too often we dwell in our own little worlds and think that is all there is. But community expands our understanding and experience of God beyond the limitation of our own individual experiences and personalities or that of our church and denomination. Too often do we interpret of "being of like mind" that we have to think and like all the same, fearing the very gift that God offers to us; diversity. And fear creates at best indifference toward those who are different but certainly fragmentation of the Church into small pockets where self-interest and individualism can flourish. Rather than being united by a common love to God and to one another, we are being divided by man made forms of worship, man made culture, a racial divide, and much more. These realities of egos, and the desire for independence encourages almost a competing spirit between churches. And I can't help it, but I feel that our lives and our churches are profoundly irrelevant to the people around us. Especially we we only dabble in the differences of doctrines and forms between each other, never learning the needs of our common neigbours. In our disunity and competitive spirit, the Christian message, the gospel has disintegrated into the static of many rival local stories and values vying for attention and loyalty.
Independence  and freedom  are to be values, but our Western's culture idolization of individualism at the expense of interdependence is un-biblical. The importance of church leadership lies in their ability to moderate the impact of the internalization of faith as a personal practice and hence individualism. After all the church will not be known by its form of worship or the multitude of detailed doctrine but by the love we have for one another in our diversity.  

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The church needs to become less a place but people who are clearly visible to the world. We need to be people who are faithful not only to our promises, but also to our purpose, one of which is to love our neighbour and our enemies alike. If we would indeed do that unconditionally, we would testify to the amazing community-restoring love of God. But how does that loving looks like, how does my neighbour experiences this love?
As we have moved into a new neigbourhood, I realize that to be a true question for me. The neigbours are nice, some even are attending churches, are professing Christians who "know" of each other for years, and now we are the new people on the block. How do we fit in, but in a way that shows love rather than the normal niceness that covers up our actual indifference? 
As we moved in, many people from the former church helped us . . .and to my surprise that alone was a testimony of a love that our new neighbour never had experienced. We had friends, and not just two or three who gave up hours and even days just to help us. Love was visible and active, but how is my love visible and active in my new neighbourhood?