I had spent some time jotting down things that I wanted to do for the church over the next few months, and then I got down on my knees, and suddenly my ideas didn’t seem to have the right flavour to them! It’s so easy to go with our own plans, and not to allow God to build the house.
Left to myself, I would happily spend hours tapping away at a keyboard, generating documents, helpsheets, strategies. But how much of that is any good? Time with others is more persuasive, I feel. The power of two should not be underestimated. I often feel that I achieve more connection, unity and strength in the Spirit after having met one on one with someone else in the church, than if I meet in a small group. Suddenly there is a new honesty; suddenly there is that ‘threefold cord’. How many ‘threefold cords’ are there in your church, and I’m referring to friendships? I know that we need more in ours.
Friends lay down their lives for each other. I was struck by Bill Johnson talking about having people who are willing to take a bullet for him
Friendship should be a costly thing, and should make us want to sacrifice. There is little value in superficial gatherings where we vaguely wish each other well.
I have noticed that the more I offer private prayer for individuals in our church, the more my heart is full towards them. The less disposed I am to think critically, or to speak carelessly, of or to them. Each individual has been saved by Jesus, and is loved by Him. We should prefer each other in love. I’m guilty far too often of preferring myself. It’s only when I’m on my knees in prayer that God starts reaching into my heart and revealing to me the selfishness that I had always seen as somehow acceptable or justifiable.
Before I close and go to breakfast, I want to say that I feel church is more about relationships than about an institution. We have to spend time maintaining, revering, preserving, an institution. But God is making us living stones, and he is chipping away at us. We are the building God is interested in. What will remain is the changes that have been made in peoples’ lives. They seem so ephemeral, so hard to categorise or capture. But God who keeps each of our tears in his bottle is also fashioning crowns for us.
To pick up on the other obvious thread here, we are not just about our small little group of people in church. What is it with Christians, that they have this very cautious and nervous sense of self-preservation? You don’t find it in the pages of the NT. We exist for the benefit of non-members. We are called to reach out. Just as precious to Jesus are our neighbours, our friends, our colleagues, and the rest of the community that need to know him. As I heard Greg Haslam say at Bognor Bible Week this year, we need to be friends of sinners, like Jesus.
We need to go places other people wouldn’t go, and say things that others wouldn’t say. We need to favour and bless the unemployed, the marginalised, the homeless, the vulnerable, the sick.
That might be quite a good thing to do while I’m working for the church!