Posts Tagged ‘christian community’

I find it very interesting to consider “worst-case scenarios”. A few years ago I even bought a board game by that name. (By the way, don’t bother getting it. It became the fulfillment of it’s own name) But thinking about the worst-case scenario recently I thought, what would the typical church going American do if attending worship at a church building with lots of other people was no longer an option? What would you do if for some reason it was no longer legal or possible to do so? What if it was still legal to be a Christian, you just could never gather in a group of more than a few people at a time? What if terrorist threat levels meant there were no longer any large group gatherings, not just churches, but sporting events, schools and theme parks and concerts. Sound crazy? Often worst-case scenarios seem to be crazy until they actually happen. Think, The Black Death, The Titanic, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina.

But lets just stick to the church gathering part of this scenario. What would you do? How would you continue to follow Jesus and grow in your faith if you could no longer gather in a “church building” with others? What would you do differently from the way you live your Christian life right now if you had no worship team to lead you, no pastor/teacher to instruct you, no large gathering to make you feel upbeat about your faith? I know that in some cases, maybe even a majority of cases, people would end up with a faith that withers and shrivels beyond recognition. The reason I am sure of that is that for large numbers of people that is the only activity that connects them to their faith.

For those of you who would keep there faith growing and vibrant in such a situation, I suspect that it would look something more like this. First of all you would have a radical commitment to spending a considerable amount of time each day in prayer, worship, and study of God’s Word. That prayer time would be less about giving God updates on you life since He already knows all that, and more about pouring out your love to Him and listening for His voice. The study of His Word would be systematic and not the Bible roulette verse of the day that is forgotten tomorrow. It would probably include writing your thoughts  a journal.

Then there would be the time spent with a couple of other Christians during the week, Maybe you would meet in your home or office or even Starbucks. But it would be consistent and a top priority. That time together would include sharing insights from your time with God, what you learned, what psalm or hymn or spiritual song really grabbed you in your worship time. It might include being honest about areas of struggle in your life and being prayed for, really prayed for, by the others in the group. In between those meeting times you would be on the phone to each other or email one another, urging one another on in love and good deeds.

There would be lots of time in your schedule to meet with that new follower of Christ whom you are mentoring since leading them to the Lord a few months ago. You would be talking with them about what the Lord is teaching them and about the obstacles they are facing recently. You would be encouraging them by letting them know that this is fairly normal after a few months. The early honeymoon of following Jesus, blessing that it is from God, is now winding down and the road is getting a little steeper. But you encourage them with the assurance that you will be with them every step of the way and remind them that the person they led to Jesus last week needs encouraged in the same way when the time comes.

You will head home to get dinner ready for the next door neighbors who you are loving for the sake of the Kingdom. It started when you cut their grass while they were on vacation and then invited them over for dinner once they got back. You thought of loving them that way, because last year when you went on vacation you wished someone had loved you like that. You came home to grass way too high and a refrigerator way too empty. One day while your neighbor was away you remembered Jesus telling us to “love our neighbor as ourselves”.  When they ask why you did that, you are prepared to give a defence for the hope that is within you. You are determined to not say something lame like, “Oh it was nothing” and instead say something like, “Jesus said we are to love our neighbors”.

You would end your day praying for the people in your life who don’t know Jesus. You would pray for open doors to love them with Jesus love and for the chance to answer questions about Jesus that they bring up. You would spend a bit more time reading God’s Word, just as a snack before bedtime since you already ate fully from His Word through out the day.

Does that sound like how you would want to live out your faith if you could no longer go to a building on Sunday with lots of other Christians? Well let me ask the obvious. Why do you need to have a worst-case scenario in order to live out your faith like that, when that is exactly how Jesus wants you to live out your faith, 24/7, no matter what? How provocative would your life for Jesus be if that was the norm and the large gathering was just icing on the cake?

“For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”  Ephesians 6:12

What is it that binds people together into the type of community that the Bible refers to as “koinonia – a sharing of life”? What is it that causes people to be willing to lay down their lives for one another, to serve one another, to sacrifice, forgive, encourage, support, and build one another up? The classic trilogy, Lord of the Rings (LOTR) from J.R.R. Tolkien gives us amazing insight into some biblical truth. It does so by showing us how that kind of community is possible between men who previously distrusted one another, Elves and Dwarves who hated one another, and Halflings who would prefer nothing better than to avoid them all while staying home eating salted pork and smoking a pipe filled with Longbottom Leaf.

Key to understanding how this incredibly diverse group was knit together into a Band of Brothers, sacrificing their all for one another is that they knew they were in a war together. And it was not a small, minor skirmish. It was a war for the fate of the world. It was a war in which the most hideous evil to ever exist was seeking to enslave, torture, and crush all people of goodwill. They knew that they were together in a struggle to the death between good and evil. If you ever speak to, or read about soldiers who together faced an enemy that sought to destroy them then you have learned about the bond that can only come in the face of such danger. In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, you King Henry speaks to his vastly outnumbered men on the eve of battle. He inspires them with the recognition that back in England there is a multitude of men who will one day wish they had been part of that “lonely few”, that “band of brothers”. There is something about facing danger together that forges a bond that nothing else has the fire to accomplish.

Followers of Christ are engaged in such an epic struggle. Paul says that we are in a wrestling match that is a life and death struggle. We are wrestling against a spiritual evil that is wicked and wants to destroy us. In order to face that enemy we must buckle on our helmets and breastplate, take up our sword and our shield and go to battle. It is serious business. What is truly fascinating is that Paul’s call to arms in Ephesians 6 comes directly on the heals of his call to all of us to be in right relationships with one another in which we submit to one another out of love for Christ. We are NOT to go into this battle alone. We are to go into this battle locked arm and arm with other followers of Christ, other fellow soldiers.

The Fellowship of Ring, those nine disparate characters, quickly came to realize that despite all their significant differences, they were not one anothers enemies. They were in fact one anothers brothers with a common enemy. Followers of Christ must realize those same two things. No matter how significant our differences we are not one anothers enemies. We are in fact one anothers brothers and sisters in Christ and we have a common enemy. That enemy is the “devil who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour’ 1 Peter 5:8.

Perhaps for those followers of Christ who have been raised in a western culture, the problem is that our enemy is not a flesh and blood enemy. It is a spiritual enemy. We tend to ignore the spiritual reality around us and focus on the material world. As a result we forget that we are actually in a battle. The more we come to realize that we are in a battle together and that we must trust one another to guard each others back, the more we will see the kind of community that the world longs for. We will begin to see people ask to become a part of our shared life. True Christian community, forged in spiritual battle will provoke the world to want to join us.