And then there were 2, and then there were 3, and then….

Jesus once told the story of a man that sowed good seed in a field.  That night His enemy came and sowed weeds amog the wheat.  His servants wanted to pull the weed out, but He stopped them from doing so.  He said the following: 

Mat 13:29  “No,  he answered,  because as you gather the weeds you might pull up some of the wheat along with them.”

And then, when harvest time came, the master decided what to do.

I’ve been on the internet for a long time now and one thing that amazes me is the venom between denominations and christians.  I have seen arguing and fighting on just about anything.  I’ve seen christians becoming tired of defending their faith and their way of doing, agaist other christians.  I’ve seen christians losing their faith because of this. 

Pulling out the weeds.  What was it that Jesus said in Mat 13:29?  Do not pull out the weeds?  What took place in that field?  Ordinary, everyday growing.  Among the weeds.  The master was not too concerned about the weed.  It was His decision to do what, when.  But we… pull out wheat and do not care. 

This is a fact.  “We are losing more christians because of christians than because of atheists. 

 There is only one church.  The church of Jesus.  It is His.  But we split it into a thousand bits and call each part  “the church”.  My church against yours.  Comedian Emo Phillips had a good grip on us when he told this.

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, ‘Stop! Don’t do it!”
“Why shouldn’t I?” he said.
I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!’
He said, “Like what?”
I said, “Well, are you religious or atheist?”
He said, ‘Religious.”
I said, “Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?”
He said, “Christian.’
I said, “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?”
He said, “Protestant.”
I said, “Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”
He said, ‘Baptist!”
I said, “Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?’
He said, “Baptist Church of God!”
I said, “Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?”
He said, ‘Reformed Baptist Church of God!”
I said, ‘Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?”
He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!’
I said, “Die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off.

Very funny.  But true and sad.

Dan at Cerulean Sanctum echo’s this as well with his post “Same As It Ever Was, Same As It Ever Was…

 Joh 17:21  “I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.”

Jesus

Then again, maybe Jesus wasn’t serious when He prayed this.  How can I say that?  We were one, but then two, and then three and then…

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Is this to difficult for us?

When we left the organized part of churh about 6 years back, we did not know anybody on the same journey.  It was daunting.  All the scary stories of people following their own heads that ended in cults or sects.  Who would be our covering?  Submission and all that stuff.  Who would make sure that we stayed on “the narrow path?”

I surfed the net and literally went through thousands of pages.  Looked at how people do this church thing.  And then I found Wayne Jacobson at Lifestream.  His blog is to the left on my blogroll.  He communicates into words what we believe about church. 

I believe this church-thing is done through friendship.  And church has a lot more to do with “being” than “doing”.  More on this later…..

Wayne has just written an article called “Friends and Friends of Friends.”  Perhaps this will help those who are on this uncertain journey on “how to be church.”

Here are a few quotes.  OK, OK nearly half the article….:-)

  • “the life of the church is found in the affection and cooperation of people who are living in Christ. No structure guarantees that reality.”
  • “I know of no managed system large or small that can guarantee real community will emerge when it is implemented. Body life does not grow out of any management system, but out of the quality of a growing friendship with Jesus, linked together by people sharing that friendship with others.”
  • “Friendships as Jesus viewed them were not the what-can-I-get-out-of-you style of relationship, but the willingness to lay down our life for someone else.”
  • “learn to be friends with Jesus. He is the only source of life.”
  • “pursue friendships with those God puts in your path.”
  • “I’ve even been to home groups that have been meeting for prayer and Bible study for over 20 years who are not friends.”
  • “Relationships grow best in small conversations. Trying to form groups is a poor substitute for that, and often a structured way of trying to build friendships unwittingly subverts the process itself. Friendships flourish only in real conversations where people are growing to know and care about each other under Father’s love.”
  • “Gatherings of various groups will take shape, not because they are trying to have a New Testament meeting, but because they want to learn together, work together or in some other way express God’s work in the world.”
  • “Thus the church takes expression through millions of simple acts of friendship in response to Jesus’ leading and the wonderful fruit that flows from doing so.”
  • “Seeing the family as an ever-expanding fellowship of friends, and friends of friends helps see the church as she really is. It also allows us to appreciate the organic growth that happens through friendship, rather than the imposition of any structured model that forces people into friendships that haven’t grown naturally and most likely won’t grow in that environment either.”
  • “Institutions have to provide clear decision-making authority, creating an environment based on who holds the power to make decisions others have to follow. Friends sort out conflicts not by deciding who is in charge, but through honesty and openness looking for God’s highest good and no one assuming they will know that for others.”
  • “One of the Scriptures that always bothered me as a manager of an institution was Romans 14-15 where Paul talks about the stronger giving way to the weaker. There is absolutely no application of that in an institutional setting. Instead the stronger must take control over the weaker or chaos will result. In a family of relationships, however, those weaker in faith can be loved, extended the grace to be where they are in the journey and encouraged to move on to greater freedom, all in the context of friendship.”
  • “It allows leaders to truly be servants, helping others to grow rather than maintaining machinery. It also prevents those who are immature from aspiring to false leadership while hiding behind their personal charisma, eloquence or intellectual knowledge as a way to lord over others. True elders will simply be those a bit further down the road helping others find friendships as well.”
  • “When we think of the church as a specific institution who share a specific location, ritual or doctrine, we cut ourselves off from other relationships that God might want to arrange for interconnecting his family or touching the world.”
  • “If you want to be part of that, just remember, the joy of living as friends, and friends of friends, does not come out of a desperate attempt to find friends for yourself, but by simply being a friend to whomever Father allows to cross your path. No, you cannot befriend everyone, but you can take the time to invest in those Jesus asks you to, whether they be a believer yet or not. And when you take the risk to cultivate that friendship, you’ll never know where it might lead.”

I wish I had written this.  This has been in my heart for a very long time.  I’ve seen it happen.  We have wonderful friends walking this journey with us and it is amazing.  All by being connected to Jesus and just being a friend.

Quotes, quotes, quotes

As you get to know me, you will see that I am a sucker for quotes.  This one could be the essence of Christianity.

In conversion you are not attached primarily to an order, nor to an institution, nor a movement, nor a set of beliefs, nor a code of action — you are attached primarily to a Person, and secondarily to these other things… You are not called to get to heaven, to do good, or to be good — you are called to belong to Jesus Christ. The doing good, the being good, and the getting to heaven, are the by-products of that belonging. The center of conversion is the belonging of a person to a Person.   by E. Stanley Jones.

We do all our church-stuff backwards.  We believe when we have the correct way of doing church, we belong to Jesus.  That somehow He will be impressed by us.  We do good things in order to get close to Him.  Which is stupid.  Every God-breathed thing flows from Jesus.  We only need Him.

It’s been a year…..

A whole year.  Time sure can fly.  A year ago I read an article by Dan Kimball called “Will all the interest in social justice become trendy?” 

After reading it, my mind started to wander.  And it has not stopped since.  One day I hope to find it again.  But not now.  I think his article was the starting point of this blog.  I would lie awake at night, thinking of what to say.  Emotions were involved.  Sometimes angriness was my friend, from time to time sadness would join me, puzzlement on what to say, if anything, would attach itself, but hope was a constant companion.  And now a year later I have something to say.  Am I slow or what?

In essence the article talked about the trendiness of giving.  Was it a problem?  Will the church still be openhanded in 5 year’s time or was this a short term thing?  A fashion statement?  Only time will tell.

My first knee-jerk reaction was….Sjeesh,  these people need to get a life.  Worrying about giving.  Where are you in the food-chain if this is your problem?  We have children as young as 10 years, who is the head of the household, caring for younger brothers and sisters who are also dying of AIDS.  What would they say if they heard that there are people in the world with this giving-problem?  They would probably say something like “Stop. Stop you’re talking foreign.”

The second thing that bugged me was the distance between the givers and receivers.  There is an invisible line that divides people into 2 groups.  Those that have and those that have not.  Those that have will give and mostly give cheerfully.  They have more than enough.  The Lord blessed them adequately, and now they are willing to share what they have.  As long as they don’t get to close to the suffering, they will give gladly.  How can I say that?  Perhaps a real life example is in order.  We used to go to a congregation.  More or less a well off community of believers.  They have a vision to connect to God and to other people in loving relationships.  They have a heart for the poor.  After a lot of hard work, a shelter/community was build outside of town on a farm.  People that have nowhere to go have found a place welcoming them.  A place where people care for them and help them back on their feet.  It’s a wonderful place. 

So what’s my problem you may ask.  Just this.  People will gladly give money as long as they can leave these poor people over there.  I would not dream of inviting such a family over to my house.  Perhaps for a dinner, but then they have to leave.  Being poor is like a disease.  I may get contaminated.  We have a place for the poor.  It’s over there.  Thank God.  Mother Theresa said.  Today it is very fashionable to talk about the poor, but not to the poor.  There is this distance.  Can a poor family come and live in my house?  Will I make the effort to go to one of these people and become their friend?  An equal? The effort is to much.  In the story of the Samaritan the Levite and priest were a little bit busy with the work of the Lord.  They did not have the time to CONNECT.  They probably prayed for him.  Perhaps thought that they could collect some money for the hospital costs.  But getting close?  That is a no-no.  Is the poor a necessary evil to make the rich feel better about their giving?

Thirdly, and this is a biggie.  What can poor people give?  Can the rich be served by the poor?  What, if anything, does the poor have, that rich people need?  How are the rich served by the poor in a congregation?  By cutting their lawns?  Washing their cars?  That would be embarrassing.  No, the poor aren’t allowed anything.  Except maybe being poor.  Does a poor person know anything about the love of Jesus?  Are you sure?  What kind of people are usually in the front, speaking to the congregation?  In the church today, people have a certain rated value……and are treated accordingly.  Look and you will see.

Jesus is a friend to all.  Rich and poor.  But He is strange.  Read the following and tell me what you don’t understand…..

1Co 1:25  For what seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
1Co 1:26  Now remember what you were, my friends, when God called you. From the human point of view few of you were wise or powerful or of high social standing.
1Co 1:27  God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and he chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful.
1Co 1:28  He chose what the world looks down on and despises and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important.
1Co 1:29  This means that no one can boast in God’s presence.(Good news Bible)

And

1Co 12:22  On the contrary, we cannot do without the parts of the body that seem to be weaker;
1Co 12:23  and those parts that we think aren’t worth very much are the ones which we treat with greater care; while the parts of the body which don’t look very nice are treated with special modesty, (Good news Bible)

Again, what do you see in church today?  The relationships are unequal.  Giving is expected from certain people and not expected from other.  That means something is wrong.