Showing posts with label Stephanie Bennett. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stephanie Bennett. Show all posts

23 November 2011

Simple gathering of believers

Stephanie Bennett
I have a treat for you today - a guest post from Stephanie Bennett.

She describes how she experienced family with fellow students during her college days and how Jesus was right among them. It was an experience to be cherished and something special and unusual, then and today.

I think she really has captured the essence of what it means to follow Jesus.

Celebrating Christ’s life in the Simple Gathering of Believers - Stephanie Bennett

Growing up in the midst of a nurturing, caring family where everyone is committed to each other simply because they have the same blood running through their veins is a wonderful way to learn the essentials of surviving and flourishing later in life. While many other factors contribute to ultimate happiness, it is relatively safe to assume that children growing up in the environment I just described have a greater chance at success and happiness than those who grow up in abusive or dysfunctional homes. It is the same for our spiritual lives, is it not?

I love the Body of Christ, perhaps because my first years as a new believer were spent in an organic group of Christians of all different stripes and sensibilities; each of us pursuing God to different degrees of intensity; some having grown up in Christian homes, others, straight out of the occult or atheism. For all our diversity we had several very significant things in common. Our most important commonality was that each of us had already reckoned with our own ability to produce a perfect self and upon realizing that this was impossible, we subsequently surrendered our efforts and our hearts to Jesus Christ, acknowledging Him as Lord and Savior.

Another commonality was that a day did not go by without actively seeking God, asking the Holy Spirit to give us light and guidance. We read scriptures together and discussed the Bible, going to the Lord in prayer if there was any discrepancy about a verse or fogginess in our understanding. And believe me -- there was fog. We were young adults, extremely passionate and full of zeal as we attempted to live lives in accord with God’s plan. We knew nothing, but that did not seem to matter; our youth and weakness did not work against us. Instead, it was in the acute awareness that we had nothing – no plan, no pastor, and no strategy for growth – that we learned that Christ was enough. He was enough to bring about transformation in our lives, enough to bring us joy, enough, period. We quickly learned the necessity of clinging to one another in love, giving up offenses quickly, and drawing from the richness of Christ in each other.

We also learned that being in Christ was not a monkish life. While times of personal solitude and quiet prayer were regular features in our lives, we were not called to lives of isolated existence; rather, we were called together to share life and express His life together, in one accord. What did that mean? For four years we lived it, figuring it out as we walked together, sharing His love and the lives to which He called us.

Another bit of interest during this four-year span of lavish life in the Spirit is that the group of about 30 believers was not a previously established club or organization. We came together as college students during our first semester and watched in amazement how the Lord grew us up together in Him. I often wonder if the reason so many hurting, disgruntled, and disheartened Christians got that way is because their experience in the church was so different from mine. If so, did the disappointment they experienced just become too much to handle? Did those who once knew Christ and once walked in the joy of the Lord leave Him because they grew up in a dysfunctional “church family”—one that tried to build and grow itself instead of simply learning to relate to God and each other in love?

There are probably many answers to these questions, but it seems to me that not one of them is sufficient to keep us from pursuing fellowship with God and each other. The church is a family – the more focused on Christ, the Head, the more the church will be a caring, nurturing family that can help us experience God’s love and Presence in practical, purposeful ways. But like any other family, no matter how committed to each other or how strong, the family of God is not perfect. The church is made up of imperfect people seeking God together – spurring each other on – walking daily in a life that is not insular, autonomous, or walled off from the world. It is a life that advances from faith to faith and from glory to glory. It is a life that is full of meaning and purpose, a life worth seeking. It is true life. Life ever-lasting and full of grace.

About the Author - Stephanie Bennett, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, West Palm Beach, Florida, where she enjoys teaching and researching topics concerning mediated communication, interpersonal and relationship development, and the church and culture. (See also Stephanie's web space) An internationally published writer, she has long written for the popular press and has recently authored her first book, Communicating Love: Staying Close in a 24-7 Media-Saturated Society (also for Kindle),  Stephanie invites dialogue at steffasong@aol.com. She and her husband, Earl, make their home in sunny, south Florida, USA.

Note added by Chris J: There's a great deal of veracity and life in what Steph has written here. I can identify a series of important and lasting truths illustrated from personal experience. How many can you identify as you read? Please leave some comments on anything that particularly strikes you.

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