There is so much transition happening around the globe at the moment in regard to the church. There is a lot of change, a lot of questions. I quite often get asked about the church: What should it look like? Were do we go? We don’t like some of the things that we find in the modern church at the moment? We feel out of step? I certainly don’t have all the answers, I can only share from my world and my experience. I know that Jesus loves the Church, it should be the hope of the world. The sad truth is that for some the Church has been a place of pain and rejection.
Lets start with creation.
Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20).
We must always start with creation. This is the first vehicle that God chose to display his power, his nature and his character. What did God himself say about creation? Well, it is the only time in the bible when ‘anything is called very good’ (Rohr). As Richard Rohr says, we have become so focused on redemption that ‘we have forgotten the big picture’. So any community or Gospel that lives with a foundation that creation is good and that we can find God in his creation is a good community.
We don’t have it, we don’t own it, we are not IT.
Jesus invited us to be:
‘A new community of human beings; he calls us a little flock. I don’t believe that he ever wanted us to be the whole – only the part’ (Rhor).
We are to be the yeast – not the whole loaf
The salt – not the whole meal
A light – not the only light
We are part of a whole, we are a small part of a bigger picture. Time and time again I hear people saying that ‘WE (our church) has the truth’, ‘WE have a good word’, or ‘this church has a move of the spirit happening at the moment you need to be there’.
Jesus knew that humanity has a propensity to power and control. We like to minimise, to make things manageable, to box it up and understand it and control it. Jesus said “If anyone says to you, ‘Lo, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There he is!” do not believe it.” (Matt 24:23). God will never remain within the boundaries of humanity. He is so far beyond anything that we can comprehend and control. ‘God can operate however and wherever he wants’ (Rhor). This annoys us. When we make God in our own image we don’t recognise him when he moves through someone or something that doesn’t fit our image.
A major character of a Christ follower should be humility. Humility is the opposite of the human need to own and control. Remember the first idol was made by a priest – read the story of Aaron (Ex 32). By making idols we can control God, then he becomes ‘our’ God and thinks and acts the way that we do.
Community – are you doing life with a community or do you just attend and leave?
The Gospel calls us to be one with our community and each other. Wherever there is exclusion or division we are not operating in the Spirit of God. Exclusion is an act of fear. Love is the opposite paradigm to fear. How will the world recognise the Church, the followers of Christ? Jesus said that all men will know that we are His disciples when we demonstrate love to one another. This is a radical concept because we naturally fear what we do not understand. We reject pain, suffering, awkwardness. We like comfortable, neat and explainable. Yet we are to live a life that brings life and love to others, that is shared with others.
“In other words, the Gospel is ultimately calling us to a stance of simplicity, vulnerability, dialogue, powerlessness and humility. These are the only virtues that make communion and community and intimacy possible” (Rohr).
The word of God is a mirror, it confronts us and directs us to a life of transformation and change. It challenges us to a new way of living. A way of inclusiveness, kindness, love, equality and acceptance. We cannot build this Gospel on a foundation of power, comfort, prestige, control and possessions. We have to practice the art of letting go. In the bible, when God throws the big party, the ‘good people’ can’t come. They are too busy protecting, building, doing. That is why the lame and poor, the marginalised can come. They have nothing to protect or build they are ready (Matt 22).
New Community Living
When you look at the New Testament it gives some examples of how the New Community is supposed to live. Inclusive, giving of all they had, caring for those who miss out on social support structures, looking out for one another, living beside one another, lifting each other up, grieving when one grieves, throwing a party when someone celebrates. Basically the Gospel is about demonstrating relational living through the fruits of the Spirit. This is the Church because WE are the Church. The Church is not a building. Are YOU, the Church, BEING love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, patience, kindness, faith? Being available, being accessible – in other words not too busy ‘doing the work of God’ that you are burnt out and exhausted and unavailable?
I can remember moving to our new community in Warrandyte.
At the time I was working full time on staff in a mega church. I didn’t realise how close to burn out I was. I remember walking into the local cafe and everyone saying hi and wanting to chat. I remember going to the local IGA and the lady at the check out welcoming me to Warrandyte and saying ‘you must be the new lady who’s just moved in’. Was I excited? Did I feel welcome? No. I was stressed out of my brain.
I went home and said to my husband. “I wish everyone would just leave me alone. I wish everyone would stop talking to me. I can’t even go to the shops without someone wanting to talk!” This is the picture of a woman on the edge. I was so busy working for the Lord in ‘the Lords house’ that I couldn’t BE christ in the very community in which he had placed me. I had lost sight of the Big Picture. In fact I very nearly lost my mind.
Now. I walk down the main street of Warrandyte and I say to friends, ‘this is my church’. I love it here, I love the people of Warrandyte, I love the community. I have to pop in to shop owners and say hi and give a hug and have a chat. I live in the Cafes, truly, I’m in one now whilst I write this. I cannot imagine doing life without any of them. We talk, we laugh, we cry, we support one another, we grieve, we eat, we get cross, we are doing life. I support them and they support me. We care about our community, we care about the river and the land and the environment. We are learning from each other. Richard Rohr says it best this way.
The Meaning of Community:
“Living in community means living in such a way that others can access me and influence my life and that I can get ‘out of myself’ and service the lives of others. Community is a world where brotherliness and sisterliness are possible. By community I don’t meant primarily a special kind of structure, but a network of relationships. On the whole we live in a society that’s built not on community and cooperation, but on competition.”
All of the quotes in this article where out of the book Simplicity by Richard Rohr.
You can click on the image should you wish to purchase the book.
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