For the last couple of weeks I was in Asia, we had groups totaling about 30 volunteers working with us. Among those were the future parents-in-law of one of my teammates. I quickly grew to love and appreciate them! She lived in another area of this side of the world for a couple years when she was my age. I had a few long talks with her about the return process. It was such a blessing to have an older, wiser woman who remembers and could speak into that area of my life. She asked good questions, shared helpful insights, and gave me good reminders of truth. Talking with her and her husband one day I confessed…
“I think the hardest part of going back, for ME, is going to be church. I missed ‘going to church’ so much when I first got here but now… I don’t want to go. I know that sounds terrible, but if I’m honest… it’s the truth.” We then had a long conversation in which I tried to explain..
I love being a part of The Body… but the Church has looked so different for me here and I love the difference. It’s not a building. It’s not a place we go. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. And we gather together every week in living rooms and we read together and sometimes we sing to our Father together. No one is particularly in charge. We never have a specific plan before we get there. All of us share things we see in the Scripture and things the Spirit has been teaching us… There have been occasions when we decided to listen to a sermon offline or on a dvd someone has, but even then we sit around and discuss it and apply it as a group afterwards… and it’s… beautiful.
2, 3, and 4 months in… I thought that when I went back to the states I would be starving for Going to Church. But 7, 8, 9, 13 months in… I honestly really really do not want to sit in a pew and read a bulletin. I just want to BE church.
I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with sitting in pews or following bulletins… but there’s nothing inherently right about it either. Does this make sense? And honestly, taking a step back and setting aside cultural understandings or traditions that have been passed down, I’m wondering now if our walls and pews and bulletins have distracted us from BEING the church.
What is church anyway? The Body of Christ. What does that mean? That means Christ is the head and we are each members (parts) of His body. That means we are all connected and living in relationship under the direction of our head – Jesus.
When I think about when and where and how I have seen living in relationships/community in the most powerful ways – with Christ as the head – it’s interesting that none of the pictures I think of took place in the walls of a church. I’m not saying they never do, or that they can’t… but that they tend to, in my experience, happen more naturally outside.
In college, I experienced the beauty of community and functioning as a body my Senior year when a group of us decided to start a “family group.” We gathered in my apartment every Friday night. We cooked. We ate. We talked about our Father, had communion together, and learned from one another as we looked at the Word. We loved on each other and shared life. Beautiful life transforming deep community/friendships formed.
In Texas, I worked at Starbucks and over time my friends started living at Starbucks. Every Sunday morning we would all gather there before going to fellowship “at church.” We’d sit and read our Bibles at separate tables, sipping our coffee and eating a muffin. But inevitably, someone would come across something they just had to talk about and they’d pull someone over to their table. Before we knew it, we’d all be gathered around talking about what we were reading or what He was teaching us, or just sharing LIFE. We were BEING Church at Starbucks before going to church. And people watched us. And they were drawn into our community. That happens naturally when you’re BEING the church. And it’s beautiful.
In Asia, I didn’t even have the option of GOING to church. In the past 13 months, I’ve been in an actual “church building” one time, an office complex one time, a hotel ball room 2 times, the back room of a restaurant one time… but mostly my fellowship took place in one of our living rooms as my fellow foreign Family members would gather for fellowship with each other and our Father… or in my own living room with “my girls” as we gathered to read the Word together and let the Holy Spirit pour His Truth into our lives. And it was incredible.
And while I will gladly go to church with my family tomorrow, and I will go see my family of friends at church in Texas… and I will love the fellowship that I will find in those places… and I will enjoy the music… and I think that both places have a lot to offer in Being the Church… I also know it will, in some ways, be challenging for me. And I’m wondering, in the long run, how and where I’ll settle into things. At this point, I think I’d be extremely content to Be Church in living rooms (and outside of them) for the rest of my life. But many churches do that well with INTENTIONAL community groups… All I know right now, is that I will be MORE INTENTIONAL than I’ve ever been in this Being the Church and finding a way to BE Church with people. And it might look different than it has before. I promise I’m not quitting… and as reminded by my dear friend over dinner the other day, I also have the job of influencing and that may be needed in places that are more traditional… but I don’t know.
So consider this your introduction to a journey that I’m on and know that I have a lot more to say and share with you as the days go on.