...of a restored, radiant, revived, radical, relational, reaching out church
I've just started reading a challenging book, "The Gathering" by Ray Barnett. The opening chapters have provoked me to think this. "If I were to divest myself of all knowledge of traditional church life, go back to the New Testament and design a church-community, based on the words and example of both Jesus and the NT Church, just what would it look like?" In this SC Letter I'm asking you to do the same. And I must admit I haven't come up with a blueprint that's one-size-fits-all. Nor do I expect to! But I hope you'll join me in my search, and come to your own (radical) conclusions.
I like the phrase, church-community (CC) to describe our dream church. To me there's no such thing as a church that is devoid of community.
So, let's start with some unavoidable questions.
- What sort of CC would produce genuine disciples? Remember genuine disciples are what the church is meant to be producing, Matt. 28:19. How did Jesus, Paul and others do this?
- What would our CC be like - if it were a place where desperately hurting people, the misfits, drug addicts, rejects of society, folk with mental health issues, the disillusioned wealthy, would be listened to, welcomed, helped and healed?
- Remembering Jesus' and the early churches' examples, what would we do with money and other resources that came into our hands? Answers to this question will show us where our heart is! What about eating together? It seems as though Jesus was regularly going to a meal, eating meal, or coming from a meal! In Luke's gospel there are something like 11 references to Jesus eating with all sorts of people. And later, a meal during the important post-resurrection period, Acts 1:3 Also, Acts 2:46 and the "love feasts", 2 Pet. 2:13; Jude 12. Lots of meat-ings!
- We must remember that the CC is a "body" where every member is equal, gifted and free to function, 1 Cor. 14:26; a "family" where love, unity and intimacy is to be nurtured; a "kingdom of priests" where all have equal access to God and a UNIQUE MINISTRY.
Is there an ideal size for a church gathering and if so what would it be?
Our sick and dying world desperately needs a new breed of communities that dare to live out God's original plan for his church. Unless we dream, our churches will continue to be an "irrelevant island in a sea of despair." Will you dream with me?