Church isn’t a museum. It isn’t about being in a state of perfection hidden behind a pane of glass. It isn’t about masks or costumes where we can only have small talk and biscuits.
Church is a place where no one needs to hide. It’s a hub of activity where masks are down. It’s a place where we care for one another and point each other to the great physician!
There is a problem in church. People look at the church and see faults, they see blemishes, they see imperfection. The church isn’t as loving, it isn’t as serving, it doesn’t do as much sharing the Gospel as it’s meant to.
I know why. I know the biggest problem in my church.
The biggest problem in my church is me.
Let me tell you the truth: I am lazy and selfish. I am proud and arrogant. I don’t love as much, I don’t serve as much, my heart is often cold and dull towards people and towards Jesus. I need help.
I have realized it is really easy to complain about other people and what other people are or aren’t doing, but when I look in the mirror I have to say that I am the biggest problem in the church before I start looking at other people.
Calvin was right when he said: ” For we always seem to ourselves righteous & upright & wise & holy-this pride is innate in all of us.”
It is so easy for me to pick out faults in others and see myself as upright and wise compared to everyone else. But the answer cannot be to will myself to love and serve more because that would come out of a sense of guilt and a comparison. My answer must be one of seeking Christ and asking for forgiveness – to bear lovingly with one another as Christ bears with me. But this takes time.
We all need to bear with one another. Not point the finger at each other or even at other churches, because we are all in the same boat. We are all the cause of the problem in the church. And we are also the solution.
So I must ask you to bear with me – to be quick to forgive and slow to rebuke. When I don’t serve enough please don’t whip me with the law but draw me to Christ. When I don’t love you, please remind me of the love of Christ. When I sin, please forgive me and bring me to Christ. And I will do the same to you. For we are all a work in progress and the bride of Christ is in her time of preparation, waiting for the wedding day.
The problem starts with me and I know I am a work in progress – being transformed everyday into the likeness of Christ. Sometimes that’s painful, its slow, there are peaks and troughs and sometimes its joyous, more evident and uplifting. We are all the same. We must bear with one another because church is messy because we are messy people. And I am a messy person.
But I know Jesus loves me. And Jesus loves the church. He loves his bride. So lets love one another.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. – 1John 4v7
Here are some great blog posts on the internet at the moment:
Death to January – Blog post by Emma Scrivener: “A time of fresh starts, resolutions and beginnings. But how do you make them, when you’re in the same body, with the same mind, the same relationships, the same job (or lack of), and same struggles? This month it’s harder to trot out the same excuses.”
Is the bible a book about God? – Written by Dan Hames: The Bible is specifically a book about the Son of God. So long as we say that the Bible is a book about ‘God’ in the abstract, and not fighting hard for the centrality of Christ to the Bible, we’re depriving him of his rightful place, and ourselves of vital spiritual sustenance.
Welcome to the Crazy Church Family – by Bryony Young: “I have come to the conclusion that my Church is simply a glorious ruin. Glorious because we aim to glorify God and a ruin because we are still a work in progress.”
Boots – by Tanya Marlow: “Most days I am actually okay about being ill; I kind of accept it and get on with life. It doesn’t feature much in my thinking. Today is not one of those days.”
Three is the Loveliest number – Article by Mike Reeves: “For the health of the church and our faith, we must be proud of who our God is. And since the Trinity is no mere theological icing resting atop our God—since the living God is Trinity—we must be resolutely and thoroughly Trinitarian in all our ways and thoughts.”
In the last post we looked at why we don’t read the bible and hopefully you saw that some of the ways we view the bible are not helpful. But once we realise that we are not at the center of the bible and we read it because we want to know more of Christ, how then do we go about reading the bible?
May I share with you some ideas that have helped me? Remember this is in a realm of no guilt, we read for the pleasure of feasting on the word because it points to our beautiful saviour, not because we feel like we are reading it to please God.
Firstly I would start reading this wonderful article that turned my bible reading on its head.
There are two things that astounded me:
1. You can just read the bible, like a novel.
2. You can read in community
When I first heard that this guy read the bible like a novel I did ask myself – “Are you allowed to do that?” I mean this is scripture, holy words – can I just read it like Lord of the Rings? Shouldn’t I be studying every sentence and its context and implications on my life? I think this is where the guilt seeps in – I know of a scripture meditation technique where they would take a couple of verses and just meditate on it and wait for the Holy Spirit tell you what it means in your life. So I was in a group doing this and I waited… and I waited… and I waited… and well when it came to my turn to share my thoughts, I found that this just wasn’t working because I didn’t have anything. (Actually just made something up… which I wouldn’t recommend). But again I find this founded on the idea of scripture is all about *me*… and it’s not. So when I started just reading scripture, reading through the chapters from Genesis to Revelation like a novel, I found that I was enjoying the story, things were starting to piece together, I learnt more about who Jesus was and I felt no pressure to try and draw something out of it. And there is nothing that says we can’t read the bible like a novel, we arn’t being dis-respectful at all. That doesn’t mean we don’t do bible studies, because we do and its good to do – there are times when I get to a point in my bible reading where I don’t understand something and I will stop and dig deeper. But for our “quiet time”, for our enjoyment to know more of Christ we can just sit and read about him and how he interacts with his people.
The second thing is that you can read the bible in community. There is an idea that our bible reading is private and “my time” with God. But what if we could share what we are reading with some other people and encourage them and be encouraged by them. In the article it describes how Ron does this – he chooses reading partners, they go away and read through a book in the bible and come back and chat about what they have been reading. Reading in community means accountability, sharing what we are learning, encouragement and also sharing our struggles and questions! I am sold on this idea. So myself and the lovely Emily are reading the bible together. We have date for when we are going to Skype each other and chat through what we have been reading. I am looking forward to it. I am looking forward to sharing Jesus with her and for her to share Jesus with me… it’s going to be good.
So why don’t you give it a go?
Start in Genesis and read as many chapters as you want a day… its not a race, there is not set amount of chapters you should read. Just read what you can and what you want to read and underline what you have noticed, what you find interesting, what you find difficult, what you have found exciting!
Then find a friend or two and ask them to do the same and set a date for when you meet/Skype together and share what you have been learning, underlining, struggling with. Pray together and then set a date for the next time you will do this again. It doesn’t matter if one of you is in the middle of Genesis and the other is ahead in Numbers… it doesn’t matter. It all about knowing Jesus more.
I have to say that I have done this read through a couple of times and each time I see something new and see something more of the big picture. The reason why I want to share these things with you is because I really struggled with reading my bible and there are hundreds of techniques but the most simplest technique of “just read it” really helped me understand who the bible is about, why I would want to read it and why I have no need to feel rubbish when I don’t.
I hope this helps and encourages you too.
” And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)
I don’t know about you but when I read that my heart beats faster and I have a longing there, a deep thirst for such community and interaction. Even an introvert like me desires this kind of community because I know that I wasn’t made to be on my own – I was made for relationship and relationship with people who are different to me. There is so much packed in this verse, so much is happening in this church – devotion to teaching and fellowship, breaking bread, praying together, seeing signs and wonders, having things in common, making sure nobody was in need, coming together DAY by DAY going to the temple, breaking bread – having generous hearts and praising God. And people were added to them daily. It seems so far from what happens in the western culture, in some cultures we see more of a glimpse of this and after being in Peru for a year I was hungry for this.
When reading Everyday Church by Steve Timmis and Tim chester, I caught a glimpse of what these verses might look like in our culture today – people meeting together and doing life together. It seems so simple – we wash up, cook, eat, go to the pub, open scriptures etc together. But also have a driven focus to include those who don’t know Christ into that community, to invite people to be a part of everyday life of the church – where we care and love people and share the Gospel.
The reason why I am so excited about this is because at the church I go to in Plymouth, we are going to start doing this. The elders have been caught by the same vision that Steve Timmis had and whats written in Acts 2. We are going to have communities that are sharing life together and have a missional focus. I think it will be hard, I think it will be messy – because we are messy people! But I think it will be fun as well and my prayer is that we will see more and more people become Christians and added to the church. Its a chance to gather all sorts of people together, those who are sick, healthy, rich or poor, student or families to be included into a church community and to be looked after or look after others, to serve and to gather non christian friends to meet Christ.
That’s not to say this is the only way nor the best way of doing it, but it seems this is what God is calling our church to do at the moment and I am excited to see how it unfolds and how God uses this. But again I always have to watch my heart – it’s so easy to be hard-hearted towards change and things not meeting my expectations. I know that the Holy Spirit will have to keep warming my heart to Christ because as we rub shoulders with people who are different to us it can cause friction and as these groups start-up it may cause some wobbles. But Christ works in our weaknesses all the time! Im looking forward to seeing what Christ does through all of this!
Over the last couple of days we have had our South West Christmas Team Days where Steve Timmis joined us and shared some teaching with us from his book Every Day Church. It was such a good 3 days of teaching and fellowship. If you haven’t read any of Steve Timmis books (Total Church and Everyday Church) then its a must read for Christmas this year!
Why not listen to some of his talks that Bish has recorded and put on his blog. Enjoy:
Here are some of my highlights of the team days:
- We forgive cos we are the forgiven not cos its a command but cos its an out working of who we are.
- Church isn’t about events or Sunday morning its about living life together and doing mission together…
- Amazing food and conversations.
- We need to gospel each other, reminding each other of the gospel everyday and not being afraid to rebuke people of their sin with the good news of the gospel.
- Secret Santa!
- Really challenged by how I use my time and if I open the door to people or do I use my home as a safe refuge from the outside world?
Those are just some thoughts and highlights. I hope to be blogging a bit more about some of my thoughts and how these team days have got me thinking about Church.
Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, create programmes or put on events. He ate meals. – Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus.
One of my favourite things to do is to try to cook new recipes! There is always the excitement of how its going to turn out and whether it’s just going to be a mushy mess! So the other week we had a meal time at homegroup where we all cooked something and displayed it on the table to eat!
But what was I going to cook? Well I had recently purchased Jamie Oliver’s new recipe book, which I love and I am a huge fan of Jamie Oliver! He makes cooking look like messy art. Anyways, I tried cooking the side dish of Cheesy Leeks… yum. I took some pictures of the process that makes this wonderful dish, however I was in a total rush at the end and forgot to take a picture of the end product. Fail. However it did taste rather nice and it was great to share a meal with my homegroup!