I know, I know… I promised only fluff, like topless pictures and quizzes. Do you know which Flintstone you are? You don’t?
Me either. Although I have always preferred Betty to Wilma. Hm… That image is a bit, a lot, scarred by the fact that Rosie O’Munchies played that role in the movie…
Ah! Rabbit trailing…. I am not writing drivel about the Flinstones. Really, I’m not.
There is a concept I have always tried to adhere to. The sense that the fellowship between believers is organic. Well, not just believers, anyone really. It either thrives or it shrivels. If the group flows, it flows. If it doesn’t? Let folks go their own way. I have no problem whatsoever with friendships being seasonal. Laws of attraction. I either attract or repel you. Don’t hang out of some sense of obligation.
Ebb and flow, dude. Pass the the dutchie on the left hand side. No, I didn’t inhale… Seriously. Follow me… I’m lost too.
But do you really want to be surrounded by folks who would run for the hills if they felt they had a choice? I don’t. I don’t even obligate my husband or children to be with me. Free will, baby. As long as they choose me, I will be grateful for their relationship. Additionally, I know that I make the choice every day to be with them.
Why do we think fellowship should be anything more? More of an obligation than…
A month or two ago, as we were exploring fellowship options, the Mr. and I attended a “Basics 101” course in a local Big Church. We were trying to see if there was the possibility of attending and putting down a root or two.
Pastor Nice Guy was up front giving the introduction and then produces his very salient point about being a Member… Why it’s important to “be involved in corporate worship” or some other Christianese catch phrase.
“How do we live differently when we are a part of a body?”
I must have looked confused because he asked me if I had a comment. The only question I had was, “Different from what? You either live like a believer or you don’t. Whether you are in a group or not shouldn’t change the commitment you have to honor the Lord and please Him.”
Pastor Nice Guy stuttered a little and agreed, then disagreed and then went on to another, much less controversial point.
While I sat there and began to ponder what I had just said.
If you’ve been reading here for very long you know that I have been both trampled and mutilated by people to whom I submitted myself in all the good little Christian ways. I am more than a little cynical about the whole Jesus machine. Cynical. It scares the hell out of me. And then alternately makes me want to puke on you.
But, the difference between how I like to live my life and the way I have believed Church should be orchestrated are two very different things. It’s odd. I am happy to make a big meal, invite 14 people, serve them all and then sit back and watch how networking, fellowship and other elements of relationship just “happen”. Even when I have led studies, I am much more likely to present information and then look to the group to provide the insight and the input. If you are looking for a great, big, flashy teacher then you are looking in the wrong direction. Besides, half the time the people I am studying with don’t understand where I am coming from anyway. I tend to not think along very conventional avenues.
Still… I do want to… Scratch that. I understand the need for consistent interaction with other believers. I just despise the Man In Charge format that so many find necessary. Even the arguments I have personally used for ring hollow. Accountability. If you don’t want it and aren’t seeking it, there is no structure on earth or in heaven that will make you have more humility.
So, who is responsible for your faith? You are! The individual. I will be held accountable for my own actions, my own expression, the investment of what I’ve been given. ON a singular level. G-d alone is able to judge the expended effort of the community. And besides all that, the fruit will show itself. Bad tree/bad fruit and all that. If I screw up and you confront me or even if you don’t confront me. My life is my own responsibility. Just as your life is yours. I can offer insight, thoughts, input, criticism. I can even be an ass and hold a gun to your head.
The choice to live and how to live is still up to you.
I don’t have to like your decisions, like you or even like the direction you are headed. What I should be willing to do is love and serve you as you allow and as I am able.
Now that? That’s the Body I want to be a part of. A living, breathing, moving and growing group of people who serve the same Christ… Without worrying about the programs, the social status or who is in charge. Men and women who are willing to come into fellowship with each other and RISK real relationship, not societal niceties.
I have been doing some study on what is out there. I found the emerging church, the emergent church and most recently something called “organic church”. You know the emerging and the emergent are not necessarily the same thing? And organic is sort of it’s own thing too? And that some or all of them can find their expression in a home church environment or even a coffee-shop church?
I like “organic”. My friend, Jason, has been reading this book, “Pagan Christianity” and well, it’s freaky how much of what he is saying is like he’s quoting my thoughts, or rather our thoughts for the last 4-7 years. Things like non-hierarchical leadership. Nobody is in charge. Everyone is accountable. Every gift is important. Every person has a voice. A gathering where the opportunity to hear and to speak is not limited to the few but extended to the body corporate. Am I the only one who hopes someday to find a group of believers who come together to encourage one another in a common faith and a common purpose? Where we serve each other, even sacrificially if needed, and care for those among us who are in need. Are there people who pursue the needy and the weak they comes into contact with. A group offering hope, not hoops to jump through and endless meetings, obligations. I have longed for a place where the person who talks the least and is the youngest has just as much value as the person who talks the most.
Does that even exist?
Frank Viola, the co-author of Pagan Christianity and the author of Reimagining Church, is an interesting man. He has a lot of good stuff to say. A lot of really good stuff, if you want my opinion. He’s spent the last 20 years living this “organic church” thing. And you know what? He didn’t abandon his faith, he didn’t jump off the deep end into New Age philosophical moral relativism. At least I haven’t seen that to be true.
He was even nice enough to answer a couple of emails. Personally. Which makes him a really nice guy in my book.
I have a lot of questions. A lot of thoughts rattling around in my head and very few conclusions. Can you smell the smoke from there?
If I could fellowship any way I like? If it were up to me alone? This is what I would do.
I’d invite 3-7 families. Children included. Families intact. I would feed them all. Backyard barbeque, indoor potluck. I would make sure everyone is comfortable, that the house was welcoming. Then I’d mingle. And I would watch everyone else slowly unwind and mingle. Then I’d serve coffee and tea and cookies or pie. Love pie. Really like pie…. Yum….
Then as the afternoon or evening progresses, I’d play games with kids, ask leading questions of adults and watch the fellowship happen. No time limit and no pressure. No expectation. No need to perform. I could listen and learn. What if a need is brought up? We could pray over it, pray for someone. Lend a shoulder, offer a hand. If there is a spiritual question, any person who has a thought could share, any discernment present could be expressed, every voice could have the chance to be heard. Or you could be silent and be still. And as the children play in the backyard and the adults enjoy their conversation the layers could slowly drift away until you have real people having real conversations. There could be an opportunity for that holy hush, for quiet introspection. Or not.
Maybe it’s just a great afternoon/evening and all you want to do is laugh over a glass of wine. We could do that too. Until we are just giddy with joy. Love that.
And when you walk away, or as I tidy up the house when all the people have gone…. We could feel full. Satisfied. Encouraged. Because we were family. Because we are becoming better friends. Because we have seen Jesus in the faces of those around us and we recognize the intrinsic value of life that has been given to all of us.
That sounds good to me. That’s about all I’m interested in. And I have a couple people in mind that I would like to invite over right now.
I don’t think it should ever be any more complicated than that. But what do I know. I’m going to go read “Pagan Christianity” and watch sacred cows get slaughtered.