My last post, What's a "Done" to do? seems to have stirred up quite a bit of conversation.
Some had never heard of the term "Done" as a reference to how believers might be categorized, and found themselves identifying with the description. Others felt that I was elevating the "Done state" above a commitment to a particular fellowship or church. They felt I was saying that if you have not left, or are not leaving, the institutional church setting, that somehow you are missing out on God's best.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I know for me, God has led me in a particular way, and I am coming to appreciate how he is changing me and enlarging me along that journey. But I am certainly not implying, or insisting, that everyone should be on that path. God has his plan for each one of us and being right in the middle of that plan is the single most important thing!
So, for you that are not done with the church environment God has you in, all I have to say is, "The Lord bless you mightily!"
I mean that in all sincerity, because I believe that God has his people sprinkled all across the landscape of culture and society to impact the world in an almost endless array of means and methods.
With that said, I want to suggest a couple of things for those of you who are not 'done':
Appreciate that "now" does not necessarily mean "forever."
One of the things I have learned over the last several years is that I need to be constantly sensitive to God's leading. I am here, now, because I know this is where God has me. But does that mean that I have put down roots so deep that I can't be moved? Is this the church I am going to be in for the rest of my life? Is this God's model...once a member, always a member?
Think of what would have happened if Abraham had put down roots in the Ur of the Chaldees? His story of faith would have been very different than the one we celebrate and seek to emulate!
So I think that even if we like where we are, we need to remain sensitive to God's call in our life to move on. I should be able to pull up my tent pegs and move on down the road at a moment's notice, without being disgruntled or disappointed about where I have been.
I think this is a difficult concept to discuss sometimes, because of the possessive nature of most church cultures. We talk about 'our' church. Pastors talk about 'my' people and are worried about other churches poaching members. Even in the home or organic church movement there is a tendency to 'brand the herd'. By that I mean, we feel a little betrayed if someone in 'our' group goes somewhere else for bible study or ministry, or feels they are being called to fellowship somewhere else.
The reason I even raise this thought is because of a conversation I had with a friend about the idea of being done with institutional church. His comment was ( and I am paraphrasing a bit here), "I'm fine with where I'm at because I just don't have that high of an expectation for my church. It doesn't really have an effect on how I serve. I just like the worship time, etc."
Now this is a guy that is a super 'and' person (see below). He is a catalyst for a wide variety of small group meetings and really is an amazingly authentic, relational person, who wants to make an impact for Jesus. And he likes his church. And he isn't done. And I think his giftedness would be a huge help other places...if that was what God wanted.
Take a road trip or two or three.
During another discussion, on the negative aspects of possessiveness in the church, I wondered out loud whether we should encourage one another to take periodic spiritual road trips. The goal would be to experience other fellowships and ways others are worshipping and serving the Lord. Now where I came from, the very thought of that would have been anathema! We certainly weren't inclined to condone, let alone encourage, such an idea. You simply didn't go a'wandering!
But in my recent spiritual journey I have had the opportunity, in a limited way, to do that very thing. And it has been enlightening, convicting, refreshing, rejuvenating and ultimately transformational. I have seen God working in so many different ways. I have been exposed to other perspectives and other opportunities. I have learned many new things. And I have met some amazingly passionate people that are pursuing what God has shown them and it inflames my passion to serve.
So what would be the danger of taking a month of Sundays and spending some time in a friend's church that wasn't like yours? What if you did that every year or so? What would be the down side? And what if everyone knew what you were doing and why you were doing it?
I think that doing something like this brings fresh streams of water into our spiritual lives. It expands our vision of what is possible. It gives the opportunity to bring new ideas back to our fellowship. And it enables us to share with others how God is blessing in our midst as well. It effectively leverages the giftedness of the whole body of Christ, not just the small piece we see on Sundays. In the end, it increases the power and effectiveness of all those who are kingdom-minded.
Does that thought make you feel a little uncomfortable? Maybe feel a little guilty? Like you might be betraying your commitment? Maybe now is the time to ask the question, "Why?"
Embrace the possibilities of "and."
I love the idea that people love where they are. And I appreciate when they have moderated their expectations to meet the limitations of the place where God has them. But the ones I am most burdened for are those who feel that they need to 'settle' for something less than what God has exercised their heart with. They might even be feeling a need to suppress their passion to serve Jesus, just because their church environment does not provide a specific opportunity to do so.
To you I say, "Embrace the possibilities of 'and'!"
Those who are like my friend, who likes his church but finds the fulfillment of some of his burden to serve outside those walls, 'and' can be a very powerful concept. Basically it is the idea of adding to my church experience whatever God has given me a passion for. I know that this idea can cause some ripples in fellowships were ministry is tightly controlled and activities outside what is sanctioned is discouraged. But if you like where you are and God has give you a passion for something beyond the scope of what your fellowship is involved in, what option do you have?
For me, 'and' is about serving -- without conflict, competition or confusion. It is about being true to what God has called me to, in the midst of the place God has called me to be. As a result, it needs to be something that I do in the light, not behind anyone's back. I'm not making a statement against the fellowship I am involved with, I'm hopefully being an example of doing what God has called me to do.
If I have a burden to reach students on campus, or prisoners in jail, or single mothers, or battered women, or etc., I can add that to my church experience by simply getting involved. I can find a ministry that shares my passion, or I can initiate something myself. The bottom line is that I don't have to sacrifice any aspect of God's calling in my life, just because the church I attend doesn't encourage or support that particular ministry.
What is the upside of embracing the 'and' initiative?
It provides opportunities for ministry that may not be offered in a specific church environment. It allows us to serve into what God is calling us to, without leaving where we are. It can help expand the vision for ministry opportunities in a specific fellowship of believers. And it allows us to maintain unity while at the same time celebrate individual gift and burden.
So, for all you that are not done...