I believe in gatherings where everyone is known so that no one gets lost.
I believe in gatherings where we can learn from each other’s personal lives and stories (not just head knowledge) so that growth and discipleship takes place in the context of genuine, healthy relationship.
I believe in gatherings that are participatory because this involves and engages the entire body of Christ.
I believe in gatherings that call the body of Christ to take responsibility for its own spiritual life and stop relying on mediators, events, or someone else to “bring us the goods” because we need to grow up.
I believe in gatherings that are simple so that we are free to spend time with nonChristians and have the time to invite them into our lives.
I believe in gatherings that are easily multiplied, so that we can see people released to reach people anywhere, disciple people everywhere, and start “churches” at any time in any place.
I believe in gatherings that are inexpensive so that money is freed up for apostolic workers and the needs of the poor.
Is there one particular “model” that all of this fits into? Not necessarily. I think God will constantly challenge, stretch, and re-shape our man-made attempts to “do” church gatherings. And I think that is good. The point is to keep focusing on maximizing our life with Him, our partnership with His purposes, and our spiritual growth.
Simple church, real church, is:
Let's keep it simple, but seek His power and presence in all things! May His Kingdom come!
This is no easy task as religion offers a subtle and powerful substitute for deep relationship with God. It can be so easy to wrap our life with the externals of duty, performance, or ‘right living,’ and ignore the fundamental reality that we were made to deeply know and encounter God.
Perhaps I can best stir our hearts on this by quoting from A.W. Tozer and his landmark book, The Pursuit of God:
“The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.”
“The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition.”
“David's life was a torrent of spiritual desire, and his psalms ring with the cry of the seeker and the glad shout of the finder. Paul confessed the mainspring of his life to be his burning desire after Christ.”
“I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire.”
“If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as always God discovers Himself to ‘babes’ and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and prudent… We must put away all efforts to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond.”
“When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself.”
May God awaken, today, our first love for Him and Him alone.
That said, I love hearing how others are living their faith into the world they live in. Here is a short list which I hope you will add to.
The ‘church’ is meant to be a going, 24/7, unleashed expression of Jesus. Therefore this small list is only scratching the surface of what the people of God are meant to look like as we live our faith into the world.
Let me be blunt.
I believe the church comes closest to its intended shape when Jesus-followers are loving God, loving others, and learning how to disciple people who will disciple others.
Meaningful, organic, simple gatherings are meant to come OUT of the process of disciples making disciples and to support that process.
But there is one key that must not be missed or we will just be out trying to put together yet one more model and method of Christian living: We are called first and foremost to be a disciple ourselves… and there is a cost. Jesus said it quite bluntly:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)
At the very core of the church and at the very heart of disciplemaking, is the disciple who has eyes on Jesus and hands not grasping for the things of this world. And it is the freedom, love, and joy that comes from being such a disciple that is at the heart of relating to others in a way that they, too, become disciples of Jesus Christ.
Yes, discipleship does cost us everything. This cost is not about putting on a religious cloak of self-flattery, false-self-sacrifice, or pharisaical self-righteousness. Rather, there is the confession that my soul wants to cling to things that keep it from the full embrace of the most amazing lover and the only true infuser-of-life. When I daily seek to give up pig’s food for the Father’s grasp, I am a disciple who has found real life unlike any other. And such disciples are at the heart of disciplemaking.