We are nearing the end of a discussion on our identity in Christ at a conference on the Dynamics of Organic Church, when someone chimes in, "So, where is the best place to learn this?"
Since I was leading the discussion, I responded, "right where you are."
"No, no, where is the best, the very best place to learn this?" pressed the questioner.
Again my response was the same, "right where you are."
"But I thought this was an organic church conference." protested the questioner. "Isn't the best place a home church, were everyone is contributing and we don't have a hierarchical leadership and..."
Frankly, this interchange bothered me on so many levels, but the most disturbing was the expression of situational superiority inherent in that last statement. By that I mean the implication that there is somewhere better than where God has me to learn what He would teach me.
My reaction is due in part to the crazy journey of faith that I have been on over the last dozen years or so. As I have mention before, my spiritual DNA was shaped in a fellowship that aspired to bringing 1st Century community, as literally as possible, into the modern social context. We took very seriously the what and how of our gathering and felt that we had attained a level of conformity to God's intention that other gatherings had not. Frankly, this led to a type of spiritual arrogance that, at least in attitude, sought to isolate the opportunity to learn the truth as it is in Jesus to a particular form of gathering and ministry.
We would have maintained that while it was not the 'only way' to learn Christ, it certainly was the best way.
It is this 'our-way-is-the-best-way' attitude that I strongly react to these days. And while I understand that there is a certain pride of belonging and joy in what God is doing in our midst, it is cripplingly myopic to not be able to see and appreciate the beauty of what God is doing in the rest of His garden.
In my experience, this 'our (read my) way' orientation never leads to acceptance and unity among brethren. It always leads to fault-finding, criticism, alienation and schism. Elevating my way necessitates denigrating any other way. For my way to increase, every other way needs to decrease!
As a consequence, if we had our druthers, there would be only one mansion in the Father's house, one plant in His garden, one star in His heavens, and one way to look at God and His intentions -- ours! This fleshly, forced homogeneity is in stark contrast to the breathtaking diversity we see in nature that reveals that God is not interest in that type of uniformity. He has created us so different from one another. And as those unique creations, we are drawn to and respond to things in such a myriad of ways. To my mind, there is no way that God intends for one size to fit all when it comes to creating environments for learning Christ. The essence of the divine intention, and the miracle of it, is that He fuses the many, so different, into one through a variety of learning opportunities. "...so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another." (Romans 12:5)
It is frankly this diversity of God's planting that has been the greatest blessing to me over the last several years. I am so grateful to Him for opening my eyes to see the way He is leading His people into truth in so many unique and beautiful ways. From the two's and three's meeting around coffee at the local Starbucks, to those participating in an institutional, liturgically-based denominational service, or those getting together simply in homes to break bread and worship or even those learning the precious lessons of isolation when God leads them into the 'wilderness' for a period of proving -- God can and is doing amazing things in each and every context.
The fact is, that while I may not be comfortable with, or in total agreement with, what God has led others into, I can genuinely say I rejoice that they are seeking to follow Him with all their hearts. It is their heart pursuit that I resonate to, rather than the context in which they are engaged. To me it is all about Christ in each of us being enough and trusting that He is faithful to lead us each into all truth...form and function are subjugated to that, not vice versa.
So where is the best place for you to learn Christ?
I can tell your right now, there's no need to cast about looking for the perfect combination of personalities, programs, gifts and facilities -- it simply doesn't exist. And there is no need to wander from gathering to gathering looking for your 'ideal' of what fellowship is supposed to be -- it is not until that wish dream is crushed that you can enter into true spiritual community.
All you have to do is ask yourself the question, "where am I right now and why?"
If you believe that God has led you to this place, regardless of what 'this place' is, then let go and allow God to teach you right where you are. As you learn and grow, He will lead you on and into what He intends for you in the next moment of your journey with Him.
Sometimes, as in my case, that means you will spend a period of time in a very dry and painful place. Sometimes it means you will enjoy seasons of great joy and fruitfulness. And sometimes it just is what it is...
But if it is not where God wants you, then you need to allow God to bring those into your life who will help you learn Christ more perfectly. And I can assure you He will indeed bring those people into your life, albeit sometimes in the most unapparent and surprising way. He will do it because it is His earnest longing and intention that "we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Eph. 4:13)
So remember, regardless of what that place looks or feels like, it is your place with Jesus and therefore the best place to learn of Him.