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Posts Tagged ‘congregation’

The Church is Not a Jesus Fan Club

March 6, 2015 1 comment

The BeatlesFan clubs are interesting entities. They issue from one primal drive: devotion. A shared devotion to certain people or things brings fans together to express a corporate love and loyalty to their idols. It’s one thing to be devoted to someone or something. But it’s way cooler to share that devotion with others.

Take a Beatles fan club, for example. Beatles devotees get together on a regular basis to share stories about how they almost met Paul’s gardener or almost got Ringo’s autograph. They pull out and pass around “relics”, like George’s guitar pick or John’s toothbrush. They engage in passionate debates about which Beatles’ album was the deepest or which of the Fab Four had the coolest overbite. In fact, a Beatle’s fan club meeting has pretty well everything a fan needs, except for one thing.

The Beatles.

It is in this sense, that the Church is not a Jesus fan club. Of course, devotion to Jesus draws His people together to express their love and loyalty to Him, and in many ways, we are Jesus’ fans, but when we gather, the fan club analogy ends. This is because, according to the Bible, God’s people not only meet in the name of Jesus, but in His presence! In Matthew 18:20, Jesus Himself says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Now, if Jesus just stayed dead after He died on the cross, He wouldn’t be able to pull this off, and we would console ourselves with a sentimental, figurative interpretation of this passage. But He didn’t stay dead. According to scripture, He rose from the dead on the third day and, after reuniting with his amazed disciples, taught them for a few weeks before ascending back to heaven, and resuming His omnipresent nature. So with this in mind, when He says that He is there among us as we meet, He means just that. He is present.

And it doesn’t stop there. The Church would certainly do well to not meet as if Jesus was absent from our midst, but we would also do well not to meet as if the Lord was merely passively present. When Jesus says that He will be with His Church, He doesn’t mean that he will be standing in a corner like some Tiki idol, mutely observing the proceedings and receiving the occasional nod in His direction. In Ephesians 1:22, Paul says, “And he [the Father] put all things under his [Jesus’] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church”.

So Jesus isn’t absent from our Church gatherings, and He doesn’t settle for a passive presence in our midst. His presence among us is a presiding one. He’s in charge!

If we begin to wrap our minds around this fact, our Church services might end up being radically different than we may be used to.

Imagine if the Beatles actually turned up at a Beatles fan club meeting (a scary thought today). No one would care about John’s toothbrush when John is standing there. No one would insist on reading the fan club’s minutes or follow the official agenda when the Fab Four walk in and say, “Hullo, mates”. No one would have a lot to say about Ringo, but they might have a lot to say to him. And the monologues would become dialogues.

The Church doesn’t need to imagine what would happen if Jesus showed up at a Sunday service. It happens all the time. I hope He has a sense of humour about being treated as if He is absent or passively present in His Church. But we would do well to embrace the reality of His presiding presence among us, and adjust our meetings accordingly.

And as Jesus’ fans, we might even find ourselves running to Church.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

What did you get?

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

I have to admit that when I was in school, I was a mark-comparer. I generally got good marks, but that wasn’t enough. No sir. No matter how good my marks were, they were only actually good if they were better than the marks that my chief rivals (read: friends) got. Of course, they were as much into this as I was, so after we would get a test back, we would have the “what did you get?” conversation.

“What did you get?”

“Well, what did you get?”

“I asked you first”

“I got an A”

“Oh (smiling), I got an A+”

“Did you study?”

“Naw” (not true)

“Me neither” (also not true)

 In the book of Revelation, chapters two and three, Jesus has John send a letter to each of seven Churches in Asia. Each letter was basically the Lord’s evaluation of how each Church was doing, and some did well while others didn’t do so hot. These seven letters circulated together to all the Churches along with the rest of the book of Revelation, placing each fellowship in the unique position of being able to look at the test scores of the other Churches, and compare marks.

As a long time mark-comparer, I can sympathize with the leaders of the Church at Laodicea. As far as they were concerned, they had done really well for themselves. Their fellowship was rich and popular – a really “happening” Church, as we would call it today – and as they received the book of Revelation and began to read it, they must have been looking forward to getting their A+ from the Lord. I can imagine their sympathy for that little Church at Smyrna, whose test scores were posted second after Ephesus. Ephesus got a real dressing down and a stern warning to repent. But poor Smyrna! It didn’t seem like the Lord had the heart to criticize them for the weakness they probably brought on themselves. Jesus even condescended to say, “I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich.” Rich. That was nice of the Lord to give them pity marks, even if the word “rich” did seem a little too much, even for Jesus. And I can almost feel the pride swell in the leaders of the Church at Laodicea as they read through the report cards of the other Churches, just knowing that they were the last ones on the list because they would get the highest marks from the Lord.

All of which made the blow, when it came, feel all the more devastating.

“I know your deeds (Nice! He must have seen our website!), that you are neither cold nor hot. (Is He talking about the air conditioning in the sanctuary?) I wish you were either one or the other! (What’s He talking about? Do we need a new thermostat?) So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (I’m not sure that’s positive…)  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ (Ah, back on track. Self sufficiency. That’s a good thing. Here comes our A+) But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”(Did we get the wrong letter?)

The Lord continues to humble them by stating, in effect, that the Laodicean Church had locked Him out of their building, and that it would be a good idea for them to let Him in, so that they could begin to recover from their desperate state of poverty and affliction.

Poverty and affliction? Wasn’t that Smyrna? Actually, that was the rich Church. Laodicea – the ones who were rich and needed nothing – that was the poor Church. From this apparent paradox, it seems clear that Jesus uses a different set of tools than we do to measure our success as the Church. Our measure looks at the outward appearance. His involves the heart. Our measure records the height of fame. His plumbs the depths of character. Our measure gauges ease. His notes perseverance. Our measure is short-sighted. His is far-reaching. In other words, Jesus tends to look at the important things, and we don’t. And it’s not like the Lord has hidden from us what He values. The Bible is an illuminating resource in that regard. I think the problem isn’t that we don’t know what’s truly important or what’s best for us, but that we don’t like it. It’s kind of like carrots versus candy.

One of the most frightening things about that poor Church – Laodicea – is that they sincerely thought they were doing great. By the world’s standards, they were extremely successful and popular – a credit to their religion. And yet, the opposite was true. They were failing. It took the Lord’s stern, yet loving, rebuke to wake them up and prevent them from building a Church that, although it looked really good, really amounted to nothing. And all this was because they simply mistook what they thought was important for what Jesus thought was important.

As the Church, and as individual followers of Jesus, it is crucial that we don’t make that mistake. It’s the difference between a rich Church and a poor Church, a rich life and a poor life. And since we only have the one life, I’ll take the carrots.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)

Small

June 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Sometimes we feel so small…father__baby_hands.jpg

That’s because we are. Even though we know it’s true that the Lord knows the number of hairs on our head (the angel in charge of counting mine, fortunately for him, is getting less work these days), and that He knew us as He formed us in our mother’s womb, that doesn’t make us any bigger. It just means God likes us. We’re small. We think small, we see small, we act small. The truth is, in light of eternity, we don’t know very much, we haven’t seen very much, and we haven’t experienced very much. If we put that together with what must be our annoying habit of thinking we’re big, it’s no wonder the Lord reminds us in Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

It’s good to come to terms with being small. For starters, it’s what we are, and it’s always good to have a clear sense of reality. Knowing that we’re small also keeps us humble, which is a good way to relate to our God, and to others.

Certainly the Lord is comfortable with big. The universe would be a good example. But it seems there’s something He likes about small. He likes us, right? He especially likes children, who are small and know it. He also created a lot of small things, like paramecia. We didn’t even know about them until God gave Leeuwenhoek the idea for the microscope.

Jesus started His Church small. Him and 12 others. In fact it didn’t seem too important to the Lord to have big crowds following Him. He actually did at one point, and so He preached a hard sermon and most of them left, because crowds don’t necessarily make the Kingdom big (see John 6:22-71). Then they were small again. Jesus made it clear that His Kingdom would get big, but it would need to start small, because small is not just something you tolerate while you are waiting to be big. Lots of big things happen when you’re small, and it’s important not to miss them. Here are some of the punch lines of Jesus’ teaching about small:

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” – Luke 16:10

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” – Matt. 25:23

So small is important.

FireLight is a small Church. In some ways, it would be nice to be bigger. Crowds carry their own kind of energy. But then again, so do families. We’re a pretty small crowd, but we’re a pretty big family. It’s in my heart and my prayers that we would see an increase – that’s natural, because we want to see more people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and we want to see more people walking out their faith in meaningful fellowship. And I believe that’s what the Lord wants for us too, so big is coming. But what I hope is that we would not overlook small. God doesn’t. He has many important things for us to learn in these days, things that we can only learn when we come to terms with small.

So let’s embrace small. It’s what we are, and it’s where the Lord has us until He makes us bigger. Let’s cultivate what needs to be cultivated in these days of small things – humbleness, faithfulness and family. We’ll need these for big later on.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)