Today I am in Bellingham and it appears that we have finally found a bout of winter. A little white snow on the ground and we are off to a week of chilly weather. Yesterday was great at Alife, as Pastor Jonathan shared his story growing up in the environment of the church.
As pastors and leaders, we have a responsibility to lead the family of God to mature in becoming people of mercy and grace. As the community of Christ, we must embrace growing in the character, nature, way, power, and authority of Christ. The Holy Spirit within the heart of the believer is the true teacher of each and every person. The external voice of leadership is simply an aid to help each person be obedient to the faith from their heart. Someone who has been a believer for some time should have more expectations upon them because they are growing in a relationship with God. They should increasingly embrace a Christlikeness and a letting go of the self-seeking, self-gratifying ways of the world. There is a way of Christ that they should embrace with evidence of growing maturity. My instructions and admonitions to someone who has been a believer for a while is going to be different than for a new believer. I would hope that our communities would take on an atmosphere that invites people who don’t know what to believe yet, while at the same time embracing a path to maturity.
We get all concerned with what should or should not happen in the weekly church meeting. The church is not a place we go to. The church is a living organism, a body filled with Gods presence. We’ve created structures we call church. Those structures are not really the church, they are places the church gathers. I think there should be places the church can gather along with curious people also. The Holy Spirit will move upon the hearts of people and when this happens, they need a place to go that identifies as being a place to find God. They are looking for something that may be God. When God moves upon someone’s heart, they often look for a church. This was true for me when I found God forty-six years ago. I found God in my heart, but part of my journey involved a community of believers that met as a church.
That place of gathering should include a quality element of true church, the living body of the presence of God. If the church is people who are in relationship with God, we should have expectations of what happens in the church; a living organism, 24-hours per day, seven days per week. We don’t put the same requirements or expectations on the building or location that we use to invite people to gather in as we do for the organism called church. If we do, we will create monasteries or religious caves of some kind. I am not opposed to having a place on Sunday where we gather together to be a community. I think we should gather in homes, in the bakery, at the park, by the river, in the coffee shop, or at the restaurant where we have a meal. We should meet at the beaches, in our homes, or any place that people like to come together. We are looking to connect in relationships with people. We want to give them an example of our lives in relationship with God and invite them on that same journey. What happens in whatever facility we meet in is not necessarily the same thing that should be happening in the church, the living organism made of people relationally connected to God and one another by the Spirit. When the New Testament Scriptures were written concerning what happens in the church, there was no building called the church. In the church, is in the direction of the church. In the church is in relationship with human beings as the habitation of His presence. We must remember that the most important thing is His presence. Without being a place of His habitation we are not the church. We are merely a place of human gathering.
We should all be helping people on the journey of coming to faith in Jesus Christ. The church is a living organism, not a place we go to. I am not opposed to having a place we go. In my own history as a pastor, I was reluctant to put a cross on my building. I thought it was a little religious. I bought a building that was like a warehouse building and only some recognized it as a church. I felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to put a cross on the outside of the building and the very first week we started getting seeking what to believe people coming to the church. They were curious about God and somehow, they identified a building with a cross on it as a place to find God. So, it worked to get guests and visitors to come to our place of corporate gathering. Every week there were many. When they came, they found that God was living in human lives. The atmosphere of the family was an atmosphere of God’s presence and love.
Typically, people look for a place to find God when Holy Spirit moves on their hears. I cannot expect them to act like Christ when they come. Our Sunday morning meeting was like a room in the house that could invite guests. We as believers who are part of the organism of the church, must understand the values of covenant so when people come to us, they see the testimonies of our lives and they know that there is a more perfect way to life. God’s perfect way of filling the earth is as a family. We should be a welcoming family. We should understand what it is that makes a family. Most of all, we must be a family that is a habitation of God’s presence. This is the spiritual house of God.
Ted J. Hanson
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Thank You So Much – Ted J. Hanson