Wayne, everything in me wants to respond, but it’s not easy. I’m stuck between what would suit me just fine and what kind of responsibility I have to others.
Looking inward, it’s not so hard. I could enjoy coffee with Jesus’ Spirit and few like-hearted souls and be just fine. We’d have the Word. Pray together. Let the Spirit lead. And I do mean “lead.” “Lead” can cover a lot of territory. I would expect that we’d have each others backs. Cut each other some slack. God isn’t standing by to hand out demerits, so we don’t have to, either.
But there is this missionary urge that won’t go away. Where doesn’t matter anymore. We have rural communities across the US with virtually no viable witness. While many of the sad churches I have seen are in decline for good reason and would be better off shut down, there isn’t much on the rise, either. I don’t care for the “movement” stuff; don’t buy into planting churches like building new car dealerships and fast food franchises or opening rodeo arenas in cowboy churches to attract the amateurs. The whole attractional thing is bad. If Jesus isn’t enough, well, don’t use poor substitutes.
But I’m not opposed to encouraging a loosely not-so-organized group that met together for preaching/teaching, singing, and prayer. Highly participatory. [Or maybe I’m thinking about rehab for former church members. I’m not kidding, people believe anything these days. It’s scary.] . . . . . . . We are told to make disciples. I know that is more than simply dumping information into their heads, but you have to start someplace. Help folks learn to read the Bible and interpret it for themselves. I’m content with burying Sunday School; if I had to endure that to be a good church member I’d rather be known as a heretic. Help people get a hold on the basics all new believers need to know and set them free to practice. Sermons don’t have to be lecture series. Sing together, that’s good. A time for everybody to share what the Lord has been showing them in life and the Word. Learn to pray for one another at the gut level. Share a long relaxed meal together. But that’s it. No classes,no big staff, no big building, no committees, no by-laws, no $5,000 convection oven. Meet in a rented hall if you have to. But keep it simple. Agree from meeting to meeting when the next meeting would be - or not. People who agree about getting together can get together; people who don’t can go do something different. If things go well, resist all temptations to call it a movement. Don’t hold seminars and teach other people to do like we do. But even when three people get together life can get complicated. . . . . .Are you laughing??? I know that community is not the same as how you meet, but if people are going to get together in a group you need a little planning. Even a party requires a little planning.
I’ve tried to imagine what 1 Corinthians 14 looked like. I don’t think it was the super-managed organizations we have now. Personally, I’m ready for something different. My dear husband is content for now with the we-can-serve-even-if-it’s-teaching-third-grade-Sunday-School mode, and he can do it and be wonderful. As I look through church websites and try to imagine being a “member,” spelled m-a-n-a-g-e-d person who fits their mold, I just can’t stand it. I can’t spend the rest of my life being that. Don’t need other people deciding how to meet my needs and plan my activities for my age group. Can’t sit through twaddle and attendance campaigns, etc., etc. And I don’t like all those video series produced for women. What a racket! See, I’m not nice. I want to be part of a genuine community of Christians who love each other and who would love me, too, but I don’t think it’s possible. I know that after six weeks in a new church the new is worn off and it’s old hat from there on out. How are you this morning? Fine. And you? Just fine.
I’m thinking maybe a community has to be small enough that everybody gets a shot at being a wheel or a cog. If you have to manage the party, you don’t have community. I think a pastor in a real community would be a person who helps everybody be the best wheel/cog they can be in the whole community. Something like that. That’s what I like to do. I think that’s what God called me to do. I just figured that out.