The church is the body of Christ, not as a metaphor, but in reality. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I used to have high hopes for the church. Idealistic even. But a curious thing happened to me on the way to idealizing the church. I spent some time in it. And I became jaded. I suspect in this I am not alone.
The picture that is forming of my two-and-a-half decades of time spent with the people of God spread throughout Northern California, Southern California, the Deep South and the Great Northwest looks more like twisted burning wreckage than anything else. The wreckage has been largely relational in nature. The logical center of my soul has been pleading with me for years now to give up the ghost.
Who has the emotional reserves to stay invested in a community with so much capacity for harm? Who in their right mind would give themselves…
Over the past or week or so, we’ve been at it… posting. Posting again, separated by an ocean, united by Christ. We both approached the same subject from different angles, both concerned, both grieving, both seeking the answer. Paul in England, Don in Virginia; we’ve never met, we’ve never spoken, but united by a common thread, a common hope, a common love, and joined in His purpose. What follows is our exchange, our ideas, our hopes for ourselves, and for others. In this conversation between followers of Jesus Christ, you will see our frustration and our concern, as well as our hope. You might be irritated by it. You might even be convicted by it… and you might be inspired. In the end, we both hope that you will come to a closer relationship with our Lord.
PAUL: Sitting here on my “spiritual see-saw” – looking at one end –…
Maybe the whole church didn’t meet daily – I mean just in the first few chapters you’re looking at hundreds or thousands of believers. But maybe, house to house, a few people or families met to eat together, ‘did life’ together much as some families or streets/neighborhoods do today, maybe more in other cultures than here in the ‘states. I don’t know if everyday or all possessions are necessarily prescribed, but the aspect of relationship demonstrated in the text is radically different from the intimacy and level of involvement in others lives than we experience attending a Sunday service and ‘modern’ communion rites, compared to when we meet in houses and if we took communion as a shared meal as it is described in the New Testament, with similar Old Testament traditions providing precedent.
I think if we met more like that, with focus on relationship than meeting attendance, we may see more effective encouragement, discipleship and much clearer distinction between those who say and those who live and do.
The big difference is that where in the past cultures were largely geographic in nature, now they are very much disconnected from geography. Church memberships are spread out over much larger regions, and you’re unlikely to share a street with another member, if you even live that close. The ‘local’ church and its body are hardly local in their potential to ‘live in eachother’s pockets’ as the early church probably was, especially as they would have banded together in the midst of persecution, left physical families for their new spiritual family and so on. We’re a long way here in the west, from the cultural of the NT church, from the way they seem to have thought and viewed things, nevermind their practices. And I think that is the key – if our hearts saw life through a scriptural lens, truly loved one another and desired others over ourselves and our privacy, comfort and possessions, the practice would follow, because it would be instinctive, natural, and desired.