Once you've experienced it, you're ruined for life. Nothing else will do, nothing else will match it and everything else seems a shadow in comparison. Sometimes we've found it by accident, sometimes we've planted it and sometimes it has developed as the only appropriate response to a mission setting.
I'm talking about 'simple church' by which I mean a group of people, committed to the life of Christ amongst them, who gather together and function as a family instead of an institution. People who can begin to share their lives, their possessions, their hopes, fears, strengths, weaknesses and desires. People who take up a unique place in your spiritual life.
A word in season from a brother today got me to thinking. Our first real taste of this kind of thing was when we were at Sally Army training college. We hosted a group of people from around the college who came to our flat on a Tuesday night. We had some teaching and study of God's word, and we had some rich, rich fellowship. Boy, I miss those guys. We shared some really formative experiences there. Significant things.
We happened upon it again with some folks in other places, but nowhere more so than in Torry where the missional situation demanded a different shape of church than a 'meeting.' There we met together and led one another into Christ, build faith, built relationships and engaged in some mission together. My son, even two years on, will often say to us 'when can we have church like we used to'. He too, it seems, has been hit by the bug...the desire for church as family as opposed to theatre. The special thing about this for me was that we were all active participants, we all led one another. The structures were flattened.
Don't get me wrong, there is space for a lot of things. The life of Jesus shows him active in many places, gatherings of variety and size: temple, synagogue, party, meal table etc But you could really tell that he and his disciples didn't just catch up over coffee at the end of the service on a Sabbath. It was 'doing life' together. He invested in them and they drew their life from him. This is a picture of the body with Christ as the head.
Going back to the time in Torry, I remember leading worship at another SA corps/church. Ceitidh, my daughter, was just a tot and I'll never forget her words as I stood up to lead this service (something she wouldn't remember me doing normally) - "is Daddy going to do the show today?" Out of the mouths of babes and infants...! So, I don't help this thing...you see, I put on a pretty good 'Jesus Show'. I lead fairly well and preach well. And thats fine. Its fine if thats just your opportunity to get a sense of the big vision. But if thats your default mode of experiencing the movement that Jesus began, boy are you missing out!
We're in the process of encouraging our folks at Trinity to 'grow small' through networks of LifeGroups and or Missional Communities. These are the key building blocks of our life together. My suspicion is that when people get the taste for it, they too are spoiled for life...and this can only be good for the Kingdom, discipleship and the movement which Jesus began.
Here is the question: what is God calling you to do? how can we help you do it?