who is your church… part 3

Well, in the last piece I wrote for the broken Christians. I realized about halfway into it that I was writing some for myself, reminding myself of what it is I’m looking for and how to keep giving my expectations of Christian community to God. Nearly every week now, it seems like we meet someone who is disheartened with the way things are or just distant from other Christians. I really like being around people like that because I realize that we are part of that great field of dry bones.

It was burnt stones that were raised up to make the new temple.

It was dry bones that became the great army.

The army will be made from the wounded, the lost, the tired, the poor, the drugged-out, the sick, the demonized, the scattered, the pissed-off, the divorced, the fatherless, the lonely. He takes special pleasure in building his living-place among those who feel they have no home.

That will be His story in us. That’s why I have so much hope, especially for people who feel like they can’t possibly fit in–because the Story that He is going to tell is all about what He does, not what we’re capable of doing.

He is building a new temple. And not with the good-looking stones.

He has a very unusual way of putting these stones together–the way is not based on our ability to put them together or our cleverness. It is based on the Spirit resting them carefully one on top of the other. The whole process is mysterious and foreign to us because we have all sorts of ideas about how we should be linked.

My closest friends now are mostly people that I never would have chosen to hang around with… this isn’t to say that they aren’t awesome people but when I was younger I always picked people that had a lot in common with me–whether it was people my age, or people in my “scene” or people who agreed with me. Of course God likes to give us people we groove with but I have been surprised at the ones He brings closest to me. They take time to get to know but the friendship is MUCH deeper than anything I had in the past. And it is also very dynamic and requires more patience and also more work in the beginning.

Through these unusual friendships, though, I have noticed that there is a kind of unbreakable bond that exists between us. I know that we can go through anything together and we will not be ripped apart. There will be seasons of conflict and seasons of worry and seasons of feeling misunderstood. I mean, marriage is like that, too. But if we stick it out, there is a sort of covenant that happens in God-formed friendships that is nothing like the sorts of friendships we make with our own charisma.

The first two years we were married, I was worried I’d never have friends again. I had left a home where I had lots and lots of people in my life–I had lived there ten years. But then it just felt like it was me and Derek and no one else. I didn’t have another woman to “girl talk” with… or pray with… or whatever. It felt lonely outside my marriage. I didn’t want to go and make random friendships either, whether it was in some cafe or even a church building. I really wanted to watch whom God brought in.

One thing I noticed is that my friendships that were beginning to form deeply were very spread around–Europe, America, UK. He kept reminding me who my people were.

A lot of people we know seem to be feeling the same thing and asking questions along the lines of… is this normal?… why isn’t there some kind of program? I want something near me… should I be going to church, or doing something regular? Or should I start something? All of these questions are fine, and reveal that the thing He is building is not all the way there. However, in the meantime, I think we should keep staying open to what the church really is. Perhaps he is rearranging your ideas about church.

The main thing He keeps bringing me back to is: we all make up a living temple. We have become the place where God and man meet together. The temple in Israel was the meeting place between God and man, and this was fulfilled in Jesus who was both the Son of God and the Son of Man–the meeting place between heaven and earth. When Jesus left the earth, He gave his spirit so that people themselves would collectively make this meeting place.

There is a false way of thinking about His presence that reveals the way we usually approach church. God is somewhere, out there, and we have to get to Him. We think of Christ as one thing and the church as another, but the whole divine reality of the church is that it is the very place where Christ dwells–the church is the fabric of His being. We are His body, we are His flesh on the earth. We are His vehicle to walk and move about. Christ is not out there–He IS the church.

Whenever we are together–people who have the living Christ in them–there He is. There are no other prerequisites for meeting with God. He is not out there where we have to go find Him and bring Him back to us. He is not waiting for us at a certain time, in a certain city, at a certain place.

He told us it was this simple:

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18: 19,20

If you believe that, you will know that whenever even just two people are gathered together who have Christ in them, you are the body and He is there with you.

This can be you and your husband, or your wife.

This can be you and your best friend.

This can be you and someone you pray with.

You make up the presence, and particular dwelling, of the living Christ! You ARE Him there.

As I wrote in the beginning, He has been showing us who our particular church is. Even the idea of “local” church and local expression is about to get radically revised in the church. He intends to put a representation of Himself in as many places of the world as possible. When just two or three are gathered, you make a representation of Christ in that place where you are gathered. You have become the divine light.

A local expression may or may not have any sort of regularity. The main thing is that the Spirit would like to form something and He has his own way of forming it. A large part of what we usually identity as church is really little more than a political or bureaucratically organized system that is run by humans for religious reasons. Whenever people within those systems are gathered, there He is–but not because of those systems. We’ve got to get this through our heads or we will continue to see the institution–whether it’s a house church or a mega-church, as a “church”… and they are not–the church is PEOPLE.

At this point in history a lot of networks and church institutions are still formed on ideas or programs–but that will soon change, because people need Him and He wants to join himself together in His own ways. Everywhere I look I now see Him making things that are completely spontaneous and surprising… And sometimes we struggle to make them fit into some definition, to fit into this category or that category–but wouldn’t it be nice if we stopped trying to slap a name on everything and watched the Holy Spirit move? I don’t mean to also judge the Roman way of doing things–the organizational way–because He will use that to the end–but we are too easily caught up in having something understood and organized in order to follow and belong.

If we are guided by Him we will be very surprised at what form it takes, or how many, etc. If you are just by yourself and feel like you are stuck without any kind of real fellowship, I promise you that the Holy Spirit would like to form something. You may have to sit and seek him for a year or two, but He will bring those parts around you to make His expression on that place. I have read so many stories of little old ladies who just sat on their porches and prayed that the Lord would bring one, and then another. And He did, eventually, because it is His intention to make a representation of Himself in every place, including yours, your city, your house, and so on.

And here’s a little side note for the married: perhaps you find that you are in some sort of Christian community but your mate is not. This brings us a deep topic that could take a whole book–how should I bring my husband/wife into this, into a connection with God and other people? I still think that this deals with the question of where to go: if He brings just one other person into your house, there you have His dwelling. Perhaps instead of trying to get your friend or your mate into a space where they can meet God, most likely it is YOUR space. A lot of the fresh people coming into the kingdom (or healing from the church) just don’t deal well with something that feels like church. And that’s a good thing. It makes room for Him to be something new, make His temple right there where that person is.

Now, sometimes Derek and I visit some church gatherings around town… and we do this because sometimes it is just so nice to be around a lot of believers, no matter what’s going on in that place–there is a light and a presence that is the Lord. They are all a part of the whole church. But I am learning to know who my true communion is, who my church is…

… coming next–some stuff on communion

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