So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.
-Luke 8:39, 2 Timothy 1:8 (HCSB)
I believe that story is a very important aspect of life, growth, and understanding. In authentic relationships, we hear and tell stories, ours and theirs. And God has a story that is His story.
God’s story has been going on since before we started and his story brings meaning to ours. As Christians, we have an inherent desire to know God’s story and see how it plays out with our own stories. In Christian fellowship, community, or discipleship; we learn about each others stories and edify each other around and through the stories.
When we authentically encounter one another, we receive hope. We tell our stories to one another. We seek to understand one another.
At the same time, we seek to learn God’s story and apply it to our lives. We do this all the time, as second nature, naturally. And when we come together, we deliberate about how God’s story applies to our lives.
There is something negative and unwholesome about presuming that we understand someone and know their story, when they come into our presence. We always need to take the posture of curiosity and listening for more. “There has to be more to the story’, is our mindset of love and humility towards the other person.
There is also something negative and unwholesome about presuming that we ourselves fully know ourselves and do not need others to help us understand our own story or how it interfaces with God’s story. We have failed at life if people say they never really knew us. It nowhere says, in the NT, that certain people are exempt from self disclosure and accountability.
Accountability is when someone gives their account of their lives and someone else counts it with them and might say, “now how does this add up?” In other words, we ask, “how does a + b = c; in light of God in Christ?”
When you don’t believe in the priesthood of all believers and you elevate certain people to top positions in the church (“lead or senior pastor”, “the priest”) then that person doing the priestly duties gets put in the awkward (unwholesome) position where they are not receiving life from the body. Dear pastor, minister, or preacher: stop elevating yourself or letting others elevate you and start letting people speak (talk back) to you.
What if sermons were transformed into discussions and instead of a speech, you led a discussion? What if the body was activated and we were all on an even playing field with Jesus Christ as the coach or head of the organization? What if shepherds just shepherded?
Why do we call “church”, going to a building and singing songs, listening to a speech, and taking “communion”, in a way very different from how Jesus is documented as doing it? And don’t forget to bring your tithe check.
And we separate the children, because you know, church is mostly for adults, we say, even though Jesus said that we all are supposed to be like children to enter his kingdom. I actually believe we have it backwards, and that church, the gathering of Christians for edification, is for the children. Everything should be about the children and “adults” should be taking a back seat to the children.
Hear the Master rebuke his disciples who wanted the kids separated and away from their time or learning from Him.
I see “the sharing circle” as being a core component of the Christian life. I need to share my story and I need to hear you share your story. This is most powerful when we are in pairs and trios. Yes, when it is 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 people; it really is a circle.
What if Jesus always intended for us to be in twos and threes, and in all the numbers up to about twelve, as our main Christian relational gatherings? What if gathering in fifties, hundreds, or thousands is for special celebrations, conventions, conferences, seminars, and regional meetings that are irregular in schedule; while the smaller numbered groups are how we gather daily or weekly?
In much of my life, I attended the hundreds and thousands meetings and was committed to that attendance. But I also did the twos and threes and ten to twenties gatherings. When times came where my twos and threes people moved away or my ten to twenty people group closed, there was a big void in my life.
I had my one to one with the Lord, and I could attend the “hundreds” or “thousands” services. I always heard rumors that there were groups that met for services with between fifty and a hundred souls as well, which I always suspected had the potential to be more authentic than the hundreds or thousands groups, as far as feeling connected. But, what I did was use the telephone and called my Christian brother, who had to move away, and had magnificent one to one fellowship that was a hundred times more edifying than a “church service” where I did not connect to people authentically.
Have you ever wondered about the, “turn to the person behind you and greet them in the Lord”, thing that we do? It is very pleasant, but, but, but… where’s the beef? In other words, we the people, don’t want to play “air basketball” or “air guitar”. We want the real deal.
You know when you eat together after the service? What if the eating together became the main service? Look at Jesus at the dining tables or around the cooking fire, in the gospels.
What if God’s design is for people, his people, to face one another, talking and listening. What if we searched the scriptures in the new covenant’s testimony and found that the purpose of gathering with other Christians is mutual edification? We argue that singing times, led by a choir, a band, or a man; a sermon; and taking holy communion, are very edifying.
But, is that what is in the new covenant, practice? Mutual edification is (drum roll please) mutual. There is a back and forth, sharing and caring, feedback, discussion, one-anothering. God makes circles and man makes boxes, with few exceptions.
There is a line between me and you. We communicate and share stories along that line. God is with us as well, so you could call that a triangle, but it is really a circle. Three people may look like a triangle, but they are really a circle and with God in their midst, they are a circle. We keep adding people and we still have a circle, even though the connections look like something from a geometry diagram.
When you get in a room and make it like a theater or a lecture hall, it is no longer a circle, but something else, with boxes and lines. Each individual is in theory connecting to God individually and we all are wanting to connect to God together or simultaneously, but is this the new covenant gathering or have we slipped back to the times of Moses or Solomon?
We take this tabernacle of Moses, Temple of Solomon, and even David’s tabernacle and then combine it with the “Grecian Formula” of the monologue lecture; and come out with today’s church service. It is good stuff right? Yes, it is good, but not the new covenant.
Ted talks are good. They have a time limit and they give a teaching or share a powerful concept in a short period of time. The briefer the message, the harder it is to craft, because you have to distill it down. What if our messages were more like Ted talks and then we had more time for one-another, mutual edification?
Two more thoughts:
One: The strangest small group that is unwholesome is when we line up chairs and make a stage and have a service, with all the trappings mentioned above, rather than as meal with all the trimmings as described in the NT. We set up a worship band in a living room, or we have a teacher give a long monologue or didactic teaching session.
Two: If you go to church, as in a “service” somewhere, it is fine to give an offering there, to help out with the expenses. But, don’t give all your offerings there. When you get involved in a small group (2,3,4 and up to 10 or 20 people), notice people in need and give directly to them. You may want to do it anonymously. Also, keep “cash on hand” or “money in mind” or “goods” and “services”, that you will give to those you come across who are in need.
You might mow someones lawn or take someone dinner or simply spend your time with someone. “voila!”, you are now in “the ministry”, Jesus’ ministry that he does through all Christians. And what does this have to do with the topic of “The Story” and “Your Story”? Everything. It is John 3:16 in your whole life and Christ living his story through your story.
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