Sunday, 27 November 2016

Is it Biblical to DO or GO to Church?

I heard a preacher say just recently as he was speaking in a bigger church building and talking about the old smaller building they used to meet in…."how did we ever DO church there?”

I know it was just a throw-away line, but I got stuck on it. Language is a powerful thing and I couldn't help but ask, “Is it even Biblical to DO Church?” In fact is it even Biblical to “GO to church?” 

I know in some ways you might feel it is petty arguing over semantics, but it brings me back to the way we define church?  We must be challenged to keep coming back to the Bible and aligning ourselves consistently to HIs truth.

Our definition of the church helps us to understand if we are called to DO church or even GO to church. 

When I looked up the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the Church, I was shocked.  It said “a building used for public Christian Worship.” So here lies our problem. We have let the world conform us instead of the consistent renewing of our mind from God.  This would be the first thing that rolls off all our tongues when asked “What church do we GO to?” or “Where do you DO church?” The most common answer is to state a building or a denomination.

Again, you may say I am arguing over simple semantics. We all know what we really mean, but do we? There is something we have seriously lost when the world believes that the “church” is a building and when Christians believe that to “DO” church is to go to one Sunday meeting a week. We need to recognise when our language is not helping our own faith walk as well as the “light” we are called to be to the world. 

The word “church” in the Greek is ekklesia, which simply means “called out people.”  The church is His people, the body of Christ (Eph 4:4, 1 Cor 12:12, Col 1:18). We are called to be His Temple here on earth (1 Peter 2:4-8), living stones to be built up as a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5), with Jesus as a cornerstone (Eph 2:19-22).  We are His bride (Acts 20:28, Eph 5:25), the one He gave Himself for, that He might present Her to Himself a glorious Church, holy and without blemish. Christ doesn't have a harem of all different churches that we can choose to GO to. He has ONE church; His church, his bride, a called out people, called to be HIs light in the world (1 Peter 2:9, John 1:4). 

So, I ask again is it Biblical to DO church, 
or is the Church called to DO? 
It is Biblical to GO to church, 
or is the Church called to GO?

I believe our language, as subtle as it is, has confused things over the years.  It has caused us to change, or I would say at times, lose focus of what we as the CHURCH are called to do, challenged to be, what our daily life must look like and what it means to BE the church to a world that is lost. I am not saying that we are not called to gather together and build each other up as the Body of Christ because, being together as ONE body is vital to be a strength in this world. (Hebrews 10:25). We are limiting God’s plan when the definition of “Church" for many Christians is ONLY “a building used for public Christian Worship” (Oxford Dictionary). We are limiting God’s truth when we simply talk of GOing to Church or DOing Church rather than BEing the Church in the world.

When we really seek the Biblical truth and it gets into our heart, it has the potential to change everything. As God renews and transforms our minds to His truth, what would it change for you to change your language to … being a “called out people" who GO and DO as the Church in this world. Is that more a biblical view of the “Church”?  How would that change what you DO and where you GO today?  

For me it changes everything. Church is not where I GO or what I DO. I am the Church, wherever I am, whether two or more are gathered. I long to be a light in the world that shines towards Christ, in my marriage, my parenting, my friendship, when I walk along the road, when I go to the shops, in the way I spend my time, my gifts and my resources, when I post on social media, when I sleep and when I wake and even when no-one sees me. I am a “called out person” desiring to be His light to a hurting world.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Actions Speak Louder than Words.

There’s a lot to take in when you visit India for the first time. The colours, the sounds, the crowds, the traffic, the food, the smells, the culture.  A clear standout when in India is the hospitality and friendliness of the people. Everyone smiles, wants to help, wants to do everything for you and is eager to care for you. People want to serve you, even to the point of standing over you to put food on your plate. They don't allow you to do anything; carry a bag, move something, make yourself anything. At first it was overwhelming, as I realise how independent I am, and then I sat back and thought … “this is a beautiful quality to have as a whole nation”. 

It is not just the people who know you, it is perfect strangers.  We walked into a village and the elder of the town, a wealthy, busy Hindu man was not happy to simply say “hello.” We went into his house, his wife and mother fixed us tea and coffee and snacks and we had a lovely chat. The times we spent in peoples’ houses and having tea and sweet snacks was amazing.  No one is ever too busy to stop and chat and have a drink together. I know you might think this was because we were westerners, but as I watched people everywhere, it was something most people were doing. It really is a part of their culture. In a busy, bustling town this slower pace of priority of relationships, drinking and eating and chatting together was very key. 

After 4 days, I was getting used to it and allowing time in all we had to do each day, knowing that this was going to be a part of our everyday. I was starting to learn to account for it, expected it even. We had had 2 full days of Ministry by then and it was all going really well, as we met so many beautiful and passionate Christians. Which is probably why, on day 5, I was taken aback with an experience I had. 

I felt privileged to be asked to speak in a Bible College as they are the future Pastors and Leaders and this is great opportunity to talk about children, families and doing life across the generations. To be able to spend the whole day with college students, training and doing some workshops with them, is a wonderful opportunity. The day began with Chapel. They asked me speak for 25 minutes and share something inspirational with all the college students and lecturers. I gave it my best and yet very quickly I knew that it was going to be hard work.  There was very little response and everything about the environment felt a little rigid and formal, two things I am not.  Straight afterward, we had been asked to join the lecturers in the lounge for morning tea. 

As the whole team (there were 5 of us) walked in, we were ignored. The lecturers and teachers were in one corner and there was an uncomfortable silence in the room as we quietly made ourselves a cup of tea, hoping that was an okay thing to do.  It was a shock to the system, as I was just getting used to be always overwhelmed by such open friendliness and conversation. Here was a group of Christian leaders who were teaching the next generation about how to share the Good News to their world, and they literally pretended we weren't in the room. I could understand it a little bit more if it was just me, a woman (although there were women lecturers in the faculty), but I had my husband beside me and they ignored him as well. It was all very uncomfortable. I decided to be bold and try to approach a few people and make conversation, but it was very cold. We couldn't wait to get out of there.

It didn't upset me. It was just a shock in the light of the past 4 days.  But it did remind me a little of how Jesus must have felt when he was near the Pharisees in His day. It was a very sad reflection on “Christian Leaders.” For the remaining time in India I never experienced this at any other event  or ministry opportunity we were a part of. I know this is not just something that would happen in India, as it is something I have often experienced across the Christian World in a number of countries. 

For me, again it was a personal reminder and challenge of who we are called to be, how we are called to reflect His love to everyone and the importance of being welcoming and loving, even if we don't always agree with the other person. I don't want to sound judgmental, as I know I must always work at being more open, loving, accepting and friendly. It reminded me that our actions do really speak louder than words. 

R Rohr says, “Education is different from transformation. You can have three PHD’s and still be in the Kindergarten of enlightenment”

We must never feel so educated, intelligent, superior, right or even too busy that we cannot be willing to smile, offer a kind word and at least be polite. Surely this is the beginning of being the light of the world?

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Stop yelling at me

It is always a great day when your son comes and asks for “help”. It is a sad day when you realise that just when you think you are helping, you are actually failing.

I could see my son shut down as I thought that I was answering his question and helping him. Here I am, thinking I am giving such good advice and something he really needs to hear, because, if he is asking for help, he must be willing to hear what wise counsel I have for him. But no, instead he is zoned out and then became quite withdrawn.  I could see I wasn't helping. 

No matter how I tried to backtrack, say it differently, it didn't matter, he was gone (in his mind anyway). 

Suffice to say, the night didn't end well and we all went to bed feeling a little down.

The next morning I went into him to ask him how he was feeling, as I knew how I was feeling and it wasn’t too positive. I love my son and hate to think we are not on good terms.

asked him "what was not helpful about last night" and he said, "well, I wanted your help and all you could do was yell at me”. This confounded me, as there was no yelling, not even a heated conversation or harsh words, from what I could I remember, unless I missed something or blocked it out. It is not that, that hasn't happened many times, regretfully, but I was certain that this wasn't the case last night. 

As I have reflected later, there was definitely no yelling.  Yet it made me think that communication is an interesting thing. Here I think I am talking and yet my son feels like I am yelling. It didn't matter if it was because he didn't want to hear what I had to say. It didn't matter if what I had to say was completely helpful. It didn't even matter if it was the truth. What matters is that all he heard was “yelling”. 

When I thought I was trying to empower and challenge, Sam heard judgement and that he wasn't doing well enough. 

When I thought he was asking for my help regarding “big picture thinking”, he was asking for some “little practical keys” to help him get started. When he asked for help I thought he wanted to talk about it, when all he wanted was for us to practically do it together. 

So what could seem loving, even wise counsel to one person can simply sound like yelling to another. That is the scary part about communication. 

Richard Rohr in his book “Falling Upward”  talks about the fact that….. 

“from your own level of development, you can only stretch yourself to comprehend people just a bit beyond yourself. Some theorists say you cannot stretch more than one step above your own level of consciousness, and that is on a good day."  (2011)

The irony of our conversation was that the help Sam wanted was about an assignment he had to write, on “How to bring about change and what a leader must do well to help that process?” 

Whoops……fail !!

If only I could have stepped back out of the conversation at the time and been able to do it so differently we may have had a different outcome. It takes good leadership to do that on the run, assessing as you go as to what someone needs to help them make changes, and that's of course when two people are actually on the same page. It is even harder when they are poles apart. Both Sam and I had the same desired outcome, we just missed each other completely. 

We re-grouped in the morning and worked out a plan forward. And eventually I was able to help him. 

But we both learned a little bit more about the kind of communication and listening that is required to actually help others and bring about change. Let’s hope he does better in his assignment than I did that night!