I was discussing with someone why the current model of the church isn’t following the early church model and have been formulating a coherent thought about it ever since.
Why aren’t Christians over in war torn countries trying to help? Short answer, we are! There are missionaries from many different organizations who have gone to help the orphans and others. When there is a disaster, Christian organizations are some of the first to respond. In countries like Haiti, organizations have set up permanent residence and are helping on a daily basis, often with no intent to convert but only to offer medical assistance. We don’t hear about these organizations often because they aren’t sensational.
Second answer is this, not all people in the early church or the current model are called to over seas mission. Those who are are talked about in their churches circles and written about in books. Those who stay behind and fund these endeavors are often not talked about at all unless their contribution is huge and considered newsworthy by the sensational new media. Even in the early church there were more who were converted and did mission work in their own towns than left and traveled to convert others. Look at Dorcas, Priscilla and Aquila, Peter’s mother in law and many others. Paul was constantly writing to churches he started and why would he bother if every convert was out on the road prosthelytizing? Some people have to stay home and minister to their own community.
Communal living was a big part of the early church and frankly, the church has to grow with the culture in which it thrives. This communal living may work in countries other than the USA but here, where I live and now, when I live, culture is not at all like what it was when Jesus and his followers started the first group of Christians. (Also remember that people were worshiping God, the same God, long before we were called Christians. Now I am no theologian but just these few insights have changed the way I look at the Bible and its description of how the church should look. However, this should not detract from the message of the Bible and Christianity. We are to spread the message of God’s Love. How that looks and is accomplished is a matter of semantics.
Here in Small Town there are alot of Mormons. There seem to be missionaries everywhere! They are riding their bikes and walking and talking and well, we have a large Mormon population anyway but then there are the missionaries and we are saturated. Every 6 months or so, a new crop of missionaries will come in. Inevitably they will come to the house and strike up a conversation. They usually start with asking if they can do anything for us. For some reason, they always show up just around dinner time. I don’t know if my mom’s kitchen (which is huge) is a legend in the mormon world or if the scent of her homemade cakes wafts down the street to the ward only two blocks away but those Mormon’s know just when to come and knock. My mom can’t resist inviting a young person to eat. So in they come and then they come back and are invited in again and well… we aren’t Mormon so the success rate of their conversion attempts is clear. The usually leave a little bit fatter and we have yet another copy of the Book of Mormon.
Truth: I consider myself a churchy person. Why? Because all my friends are at my church. I love my church. I’m involved in my church and I regularly attend my church. However, I don’t feel the need to create baptized members of my church for the books.
I once heard someone say they were tired of church because when they went, it seemed that no one was “plugged in.” I’m amazed to say that I have never seen that. Even those who I don’t get along with well are “plugged in” at my church. I am so lucky to be a part of a VERY small church where every member is a part of something. Everyone has friends who they spend time with outside of church who attend the church. Even in a church where there are only about 80 regular members, there are small groups, bible studies, youth activities, and alot of lingering in the foyer after the service making plans about vacation bible school and date nights and play dates. It’s amazing to be in an active church. I love it. It is not always perfect. There are times when there is upheaval and angst and discord but we never leave. Like a good marriage, we stay and work things out and agree to disagree and still interact and live together.
Recently I have visited several other churches. I have been asking questions at these places. Questions to those around me who attend them on a regular basis. I find that they are all feeling like those around them are “not plugged in.” However, the people I have talked to are not involved. Involvement doesn’t necessarily means you are leading the youth group, singing up front or giving the sermon. It might just mean that you have made a conscious effort to become friends with others in the same congregation. It might mean that you are attending something other than the weekly service. It might mean that you are a helper in a department or take up the offering or open the doors in the morning or paint a backdrop or collect items for the kids program or make food for someone who is in need. It can mean any number of things but being plugged in doesn’t mean that you go to church, sit in a pew, listen, sing and then leave. That is not being plugged in. Just because you thought the speaker had something good to say does not mean you are plugged in. Just because you love the band does not mean you are plugged in. I am alarmed at how many people believe this. It amazes me how many people believe they are plugged in when they don’t even say one word (or live one word) of that christian life outside of their church.
So my conclusion is this: make a friend. Just one, who attends the same church as you do on a weekly basis, and see what happens.
I’m a Christian. I believe in God the way the protestant Christian church describes him to me. I believe He loves me, wants the best life on this earth for me and despite knowing better than me, would never take away my power of choice no matter how much I might hurt myself or others with those choices.
That being said, I have read Love Wins and although I don’t believe in every part of the books presumptions, I believe what I think is the strongest message in the book, that God cannot be limited. He cannot be contained by any description or theology. He is bigger than anything we can imagine and He can present Himself to those who may never know His name (do we even really know His name?) or His form or His church. I believe that there will be atheists in Heaven. I do absolutely mean those who identify themselves as atheists in North America where there is infinite information available via the internet and were we have unlimited access to churches and complete freedom to believe how we want. There are people, in this country, world… whatever, who have been presented with the idea of the Christian Jesus Christ in such a distorted way at an impressionable time in their life that they are not able to accept that idea of Him that way. I believe that only God Himself knows who will be happy in Heaven, which is an idea so far from what we know, that we cannot even fathom it. He alone can determine who will be in eternal bliss or in eternal hell in the Heavenly setting and we have no idea who He is working on and who He has already touched. Is it hard to understand that? Is it hard as a Christian to accept that we don’t have a guest list in hand? Yes. We think we have at least some of the answers and that we know who will be there with us but we really don’t. We don’t even know for sure who WON’T be there and that is an even harder concept to accept. It is easy to think we know who might be there but is it easy to accept that we don’t know for sure who won’t? Can we accept that? Can we, as Christians, be ok with what God decides at the end? I hope so because He is God! and we are not.
Although I don’t actually remember these events occurring this is how they have been relayed to me in bits and pieces.
One summer when I was about 2, my parents asked my 9 year old brother to watch me. My brother was more interested in watching cartoons then me. I decided to look for my mom, who was working as the summer camp nurse. I exited the front and headed down the front steps. I started walking down our street – naked. Well, I had a diaper on. But being naked makes for a better story.
My journey continued down the the side of the state road until I was in front of our local elementary school. As I walked down the road looking for my mom, cars kept passing me. Finally, one gentlemen decided to stop and pick me up and figure out who I belonged to. He found the house and left me with my brother again.
The details are a little rough about whether the gentleman was a policeman or not. Somehow, social services was called. They came out to the house and discovered that there was no child abuse, after talking with my mother. There are many unanswered questions. Who was the stranger who picked me up? Was he a policeman? How did he find my house? How did I get so far down the road and not get hit by a car? Why did this person leave me with my brother AGAIN and him not even notice who he was, his face, his profession… nothing?
To this day I am convinced that gentlemen was my guardian angel and I am still alive because God was looking out for me. I live today to retell this tale and to constantly give my brother grief for neglecting me.
Every time I see a lamp post I start thinking about the Chronicles of Narnia written by C.S. Lewis. Specifically The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and how the children found a lamp post as they entered Narnia.