The Love-fueled gatherings title gives you the idea that I am going to give you a “How to” teaching for church meetings. Nothing could be further from the truth. If there is anything that I am learning in this re-becoming, childlike stage in my life is that the Lord’s love for me and His love for this world are the only things I am totally certain of.
I will state that weekly services and the behind-the-scene reasons for them have created an un-Christlike Christianity that is totally useless when it comes to affecting our culture or confronting the ills of this generation.
No one person holds all the pieces of Christ’s wisdom and revelation concerning His Body and how He is building His Church today. It is for this reason that I have included David Fredrickson’s teaching, my friend and brother, in our discussion here of love-fueled gatherings.
“Neither Jesus or the writers of the New Testament said much at all about church meetings or how to “do church.” What they focused on was life in the kingdom. That pretty much boiled down to relationship with God and one another and how that would draw others into kingdom life.
But Biblical relationship is costly as it’s based on the kind of love that moves one to lay down his life for another. Most of us are so busy saving our life that the thought of giving it away is consciously avoided. Thus, the foundation necessary for authentic church life is missing.
Yet given the necessary ingredients, I suppose that the expressions of church would be as diverse as are people, cultures, and conditions. Such communities would be as flexible as necessary to accommodate the changes constantly taking place in those three dynamics. When the church gathered, the happenings would be as spontaneous as is the Holy Spirit who would be directing the flow specific to the particular occasion. Special emphasis on certain aspects of spiritual growth or specific tasks would last until the season changed to another. Nothing would remain static. There would be no need for fresh movements. Sound unrealistic? Compared with today, so does most of the New Testament.
Any expression of genuine church life will spring directly from lives integrally joined with Christ through a process to which the cross is central and where the Holy Spirit is in charge. Why do we attempt to create new wineskins that lend themselves to organic function and growth and then expect God to breathe life into them? We are the wineskin in need of having the old wine of selfish ambition squeezed out of us by the loving hands of Father through the work of the cross. Out of that process we are able to walk in love with others as the Spirit leads, and Christ is revealed in his church.
But what if the essence of church life is to be found outside of that which can be organized or defined by meetings or the conventional way we look at teaching, preaching, body ministry, outreach, etc.? What if church is not necessarily always local?
What if it is as fluid and uncontained as a spring brook and just as changeable as the seasons, places, and availability changes? Can that which is controlled by man be led by the Spirit? How can inflexible construct be part of “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way?”
Jesus compared those who are born again to the wind. He told Nicodemus the Pharisee; “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. Therefore, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Wouldn’t that be a pastor’s nightmare!”
In Love-Fueled Gatherings perhaps the church is more fluid than it is stationary.
If so, it could not be defined by gatherings, planned meetings, or the presence of designated officials. If it is to fill everything in every way, it must be as flexible and unpredictable as the wind. It would need to be able to blow into any situation with only the smallest opening available. The way church functioned would change and adapt as best fits the needs created by the circumstances, culture, geography, season, etc.
Paul and Silas did have each other in prison, but they certainly lacked what today would be called church. After being beaten, they were thrown into the inner cell reserved for criminals awaiting execution. They were put in stocks so that their legs were spread apart as far as possible, and their wrists were chained to the wall. But the impact of their midnight praise and prayer fest was dynamite. An earthquake shook the walls of the prison, the chains of the prisoners fell off, and the jailer and his family came to Christ. In the city some of the dead were resurrected and walked about. You couldn’t have more effective church!
John was physically isolated on the island of Patmos. In his case there were not the 2 or 3 gathered in Jesus name, yet he did not lack for revelation of Christ or ability to minister to the body through his writing. He no doubt exampled Christ to his captors and whoever else he had access to. Filled with the Spirit, he was joined with Christ, and therefore with Christ’s body throughout the world, therefore experiencing the fullness of Christ. John did not need another sister or brother present in the flesh to “have church.” As he experienced victories, tribulations, and growth in his knowledge of Christ, the same was wrought in those he was connected to in the Spirit who yielded to his work within.
Am I suggesting that the Ephesians 4:1 gift ministries and corporate gatherings do not have their place in the church of Jesus Christ? Certainly not. In the proper context, all of these can be very helpful and are a vital part of church function.
What I am suggesting is that how, when, and to what degree those elements are present should be determined by what Jesus is doing in any specific situation.
Furthermore, they do not equate the essence of church life. It is submission to Christ and sensitivity to the Spirit by those joined together in him that determines vital church expression, whether just one person and one of those elements, or 10,000 people and all those elements are present.
However, as wonderful as it is that those who are joined with Christ are also joined with all who are in him, the church will not move in power without the hard work of developing genuine relationships. The scriptures make it clear that love is the greatest attribute and the very nature of God, and it took the sacrifice of his son to demonstrate what that means.
We may be filled with the Spirit, function in all the gifts and know the Bible by heart, yet that will accomplish a big zero without love. The church can only know the fullness of God and fill all with him if she is built up in sacrificial love.
What we’re writing about here is not a movement, unless it’s a moving away from all that deviates from the original purpose. Movements always wane and come to a disappointing end because it’s human nature to answer unsatisfied spiritual hunger with external formulas.
It’s true that “church” structures which fail to facilitate individual giftings and community will hinder the forward movement of those that rely on them to meet their needs. And when church is misdefined as an organization and/or a place to attend to get a spiritual fix for the week, the problem becomes even more serious. Yet redesigning church to remedy that lack still does not address the root problem.
I repeat, neither Jesus or the writers of the New Testament said much at all about church meetings or how to “do church.” What they focused on was life in the kingdom. That boiled down to relationship with God and one another and how that would draw others into kingdom life.
But Biblical relationship is costly since it’s based on the kind of love that moves one to lay down his life for another. Most of us are so busy saving our lives that the thought of giving them away is consciously avoided. So, the foundation necessary for authentic church life is missing.
And this reality pinpoints the fundamental ingredient without which church cannot succeed – sacrificial love, a laying down of our lives for one another. It is taken for granted, yet rarely present and mostly ignored. It is an unpopular subject because few are willing to pay the price for it. In fact, the unwillingness to deal with this irreplaceable foundation stone is the reason that a multitude of pseudo structures, forms, and styles of church are invented.
Yet when all else fails, there remains a few who actually intend to be authentic disciples of Christ. They are ready to lose everything to follow him however and wherever he may lead. They no longer hold onto the American Dream and understand that they will share in the sufferings of Christ. Because they don’t fit into the Western style of Christianity, they will be rejected by many who will call them impractical or even heretical. They believe that Jesus meant what he said and intend to obey him at any cost. They have no illusions about themselves and understand that they can’t cause their own death to self; they can only follow their Example. They know that he alone can strip them, preserve them, and shape them until the cross defines the pattern and expression of their lives.
Even the institutional form of church would produce much fruit if it were composed of such. But it could never hold the fruit without spoiling it and would therefore be forced to deconstruct and pursue what has been described earlier.
So the lack of sold-out disciples of Jesus Christ remains the elephant in the room. What will we do? Will we pretend we can develop a better way of “doing” church without being disciples? For the church is ultimately something we are, not the way we do something.
“What we are will determine what we do. If we are lovers of Christ, we will let go of all else to follow him. If we are lovers of self, we will save our lives and lose our lives, which is, of course, the life of the church. John on Patmos and Paul and Silas were a couple of examples of what church is when one loses his/her life to save it. Their fruit was plentiful and preserved, but Paul and John along with the rest of the 12 lost even their physical lives resulting in even more fruit. One way or both, we are called to be seeds that fall into the ground and die.” David E Fredrickson
After reading this many of you will say impossible or heresy depending on the clutches the religious system has on you. For many the weekly meetings are all you have ever known. It’s your livelihood as well as your source of affirmation. To turn your back on it is to turn your world upside down. What are you to do? Seek Him! He will never reveal something to you that He will not also provide a way of escape with it.
Finally, the most important takeaway from this teaching is; Love is fluid and like water will move into every situation that needs it. Don’t get hung up on chasing something that at its very roots may not be God. What its final form looks like is not as important as Who it looks like and how well it truly represents the nature of Him who is passionately fueling His love for others in us. May God help us to see every loving opportunity where 2 or 3 are gathered as an opportunity to be the church.
see my other article https://godsleader.com/church-services-meetings-gatherings/