Hi everyone. Rob here again.
In the last blog I introduced the idea of 12 step recovery groups being a potential model for a new way of doing church. They travel light, stay committed to their message and every member matters, no matter what stage of recovery they’re at. Two other factors speak to me: radical honesty and radical dependence.
Imagine a 12 step meeting. People are sitting there who have had their lives ravaged by the disease of alcoholism. Many are divorced, some are broke, some nearly died and all are still tempted by the bottle. As the invitation goes out to share their stories, one by one everyone simply says, “I’m fine.” It never happens but that scene is repeated in churches week after week. We are constantly assaulted by the world, the flesh and the devil. We have been rescued in dramatic fashion as the God of the Universe took on our humanity, died our death and gave us new life through the power of the Spirit. The temptation to return to an independent life screams at us daily, and yet we constantly tell others that we’re fine. NO WE ARE NOT!!!! We are in radical need of God’s grace every minute of every day because we are lambs in a world of wolves. We are not fine. We are trying to live out a love story in the midst of a war and we need help!
I have come to the conviction that smaller fellowships are needed because they don’t work without radical honesty. In a large church it’s easier to hide. In a small group, less so. In a small group committed to pursuing the life and mission of God; almost impossible. The thing about honesty is that it brings us out of hiding. Remember that after Adam and Eve first sinned they tried to hide from God because they were naked. Not only were they trying to keep their sin from God, but they were now trying to cover up what God had called ‘very good.’ Honesty isn’t just about exposing our sins and our flaws. It’s about revealing our God-given and God-ordained glory. Exposing the flawed exterior gets us to the brand new, beautiful heart that lies underneath.
It’s that heart that the world desperately needs to shine. We need church gatherings that can help us leave behind the stuff that gets in the way, as well as focus us on the mission at hand. But honesty isn’t comfortable and we’ve grown very accustomed to comfortable. A concept that has done the rounds in churches is ‘belonging before believing.’ It grew out of the best of intentions. Everyone should feel welcome when they come to a church. Hospitality matters. However, when it comes to church, belonging and believing can’t be separated. Church is the body of Christ. To be a part of the body means to have a connection to the head and it means to honour the head. Belonging comes from believing. Just as identifying as an addict is essential to belonging to a 12 step group, identifying with Christ is essential to belonging to the church. Anyone should be able to attend and feel welcome, but there needs to be an acknowledgement that belonging to a church outside of commitment to following Jesus is contradictory. And, for most of us, that commitment deepens through suffering, not comfort.
The body of Christ is utterly and radically dependent on the head, that is Christ, for life. Let’s be radically honest about our need for radical dependence. Let’s be in touch with the eternal longing of our hearts and the self-centredness and independent attitudes that get in the way of that longing being fulfilled. 12 step meetings don’t need comfortable chairs and good coffee in order to meet and grow together. I am a fan of both comfortable chairs and good coffee and loving hospitality, but I’m desperate for Jesus and I don’t want or need more distractions. How about you?
Grace and peace.