I love that God is constantly leading me to individuals, groups, books and resources that challenge how I have always looked at things. All have caused me to pause and reflect on my preconceived notions and presuppositions. And some of these have been an encouraging affirmation of what God is doing in my heart with regard to authentic community.
I recently finished a book by Wayne Jacobsen called, Finding Church: What If There Really Is Something More? It is one of those affirming books for me. Wayne also wrote another book that had a profound affect on me when God was renewing my call to service -- So You Don't Want to go to Church Any More. In it I realized I was not alone in the journey I was taking from light to dark (or at least shadow) and back again.
In Wayne's new book, I have found a kindred spirit with regard to exploring the meaning of church and the necessity for authentic communities of believers. Over the next five days I want to share his thoughts on what it means to find relational expressions of church in our lives. They are principles that are applicable to those in traditional congregational settings as well as those engaged in simple/house/organic church groups.
My intention is to encourage a conversation that builds us all up and brings us into a greater appreciation of 'church' as authentic community.
Wayne's first principle is church begins -- inside of you.
"We've gotten used to the idea that the church is a location, often with a ready-made program so you can show up and join. If the church is the community of the loved, then it has to begin inside our own hearts where we learn what it means to engage Jesus out of love and pass that love along to others. That’s why he asked us to help disciple people, not herd them into groups. You may already know of a more relational group in your area or you might stumble across one, but don’t look too hard. God knows how best to care for you. We find his church by first finding him.
Many are surprised to discover that once they leave their previous congregation, they are cut off from those friendships. Depending on how religious the group was or how insecure the leadership , they may have been trained to treat you as suspicious or independent, or even to punish you for leaving by withdrawing their friendship in hopes that you will repent and return. Other groups, while not so vindictive, are usually too busy to make room for someone not at their meetings. Once you’re out of sight, you are also out of mind.
That’s why many people battle loneliness in the early stages of this journey, especially if they have to start over building friendships that champion the new creation. That takes time. Fortunately, the answer for loneliness is not being around more people but letting God fill that space in your heart. When we try to fill it with people, our relationships will be based on our needs and they’ll get twisted before they begin. God often finds it helpful to draw people to himself for a season as they detox from religious performance and seeking the approval of others. As he builds a life with you, you’ll be free to love others in a way that will allow healthy friendships to grow.
It often helps to seek out an older brother or sister who is capable of encouraging you into that relationship without adding the religious twist. God can do this in our hearts, but it is so much more fun to be in a conversation with someone else. As you grow in your connection with him, keep in mind that there will be others behind you that you can bless with your help and friendship. Jesus intended his life to be passed along person-to-person, not through classes and curricula."
Jacobsen, Wayne (2014-10-13). Finding Church: What If There Really Is Something More (Kindle Locations 2623-2639). TrailView Media. Kindle Edition.