11 October 2011

THOUGHT - Missing the best

< Building the church | Making things new >

During the 1970s for some time (maybe a year or two) we met with a group of around twenty friends in our homes. The meeting moved from house to house, every week we would collect in a home somewhere - often at our house, Tony and Faith's, or Paul and Jenny's (also close friends). I remember three or four other homes too. We were drawn from a variety of backgrounds, Anglican, Evangelical, Roman Catholic and more.

People at a partyWhenever we met we would pray and sing, praising and worshipping the Father and the Son, feeling the presence of Jesus amongst us, reading the Bible with renewed minds and hearts, and expecting his Spirit to sweep through us releasing us in the use of tongues, interpretation, prophecy, visions and so forth. They were rich times of abundant blessing; we were encouraged and instructed by the Master. We knew that as long as we listened and did as we were told we would stay on track.

Going pear shaped - But eventually tensions and pressures developed and we were drawn in several new directions. We were unable to hold it all together and our focus shifted away from the one thing we had done together to a range of new things that we did separately. Some were drawn into a new home church and others to various larger new ventures further afield.

We had been drawn from many different backgrounds and traditions, gelled as one body for a while, and then were pulled away into myriad other new projects and groups.

Judy and I wanted, I think, to carry on as before - one big happy family of Jesus followers. But soon we were left pretty much isolated and alone. I tried hard to stay in touch with some of the things others were doing but it wasn't the same. I felt I could only take a peripheral and occasional part while Judy really wanted no part of it at all.

I don't think we were alone, I suspect we all wanted to move forward together, and perhaps we all felt we were doing the right thing and just wished the rest would come with us.

With the benefit of hindsight I can see that our focus shifted. We became muddled in our thinking, often following teachings about Jesus instead of following the Teacher himself. It was a trap and we fell right into it! Good teachers have an enormous responsibility to teach wisely (James 3:1).

And it wasn't just us. Others across the nation were being pulled this way and that resulting in many new 'streams' of church life. In some ways these groups have done well and have been mightily used. Our Father is patient and full of grace. But we are further than ever from the goal of one body, one church. There are more divisions now than ever before!

It could happen again - This same trap remains ready and open today wherever people are listening to Yahshua. Stephen Covey once said, 'The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.' And for us the main thing is listening to the Spirit of Christ and obeying him in everything. The moment we put more store in what is being taught than we do in the Teacher (Jesus), we are undone. And this can happen with the best will in the world, it can happen even while we sincerely believe we are following Jesus most closely.

Don't follow the teaching about Jesus, follow the Teacher who is Jesus! Earnestly and zealously following the teaching has a feeling of holiness about it. But the Son himself is the only one worth following; only he is life and light. He is our bread, our wine, and the very air we breathe. So cling to him and let go of everything else.

What I am not saying - Please don't hear what I am not saying. Some examples may help.

Peter Farmer teaches valuable things about making disciples and planting churches. John White teaches valuable things about listening to one another and to Jesus. Frank Viola teaches valuable things about the nature and history of the church. And of course we could easily extend this list.

All of these teachings are good, all are useful, all are helpful. But they are not the 'main thing'. If any one of them became more central and more important than Yahshua himself it would cease to be useful and instead turn into a burden and a stumbling block.

I'm not saying that such a thing has happened with the teachings of Peter, John or Frank - but I do know that it can happen. It happened all too easily in the late '70s and it could happen again today. We need to guard against that! I think it is a danger that arises every single time there's a fresh move of the Spirit drawing us into another new thing. And make no mistake, that is how Jesus builds his church, restoring one thing after another.

Can you share stories of Jesus building his church? Do you have cautionary tales to tell? If so please leave a comment and/or send me your contact details. Mine are on the 'Chris' page, scroll down part way to find them.

< Building the church | Making things new >

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