The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning
Talking about the church:
The experience of community is neither a luxury for the spiritually affluent nor a panacea for the lonely, bored, and idle. It is, in fact, a necessity for every Christian. It is my personal conviction that this is what Jesus and Paul meant when they spoke of the church small Christian communities praying and worshiping together, healing, forgiving, reconciling, supporting, challenging, and encouraging one another. Scott peck says, There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace and ultimately no life without community.”
We need a group of people around us who support and understand us. Even Jesus needed this. He called them the Twelve,” the first Christian community. We need perspective on the present, so we pray together; we need accountability; so we share our lives with each other; we need a vision of the future, so we dream together.” (The Signature of Jesus, Manning, Multnomah, 1996 p 80)
This is the sort of church I need. I think the congregation I worship with is becoming like this. We are beginning to “pray, worship, heal, forgive, support, challenge and encourage one another”. We have a long way to go still. And maybe some of the group will never get there. But when something happens in our group, like what happened to me last Sunday, I think we are on the right track.
Last Sunday we had a very unsophisticated, unchoreographed but meaningful prayer time. Just in the middle of the worship service we were asked to place ourselves in groups of two or three and pray for the requests that had been voiced and for each other. So we did or at least the small group that I was part of did. (Some people are pretty uncomfortable doing this but I think that is because they are just not very comfortable praying period.) And afterwards the person I prayed with, someone I would not have expected to reveal private family problems” to me shared some problems one of her daughters is having. I think we are beginning to trust each other enough to let ourselves be more transparent to each other. Only when we do this can we really be honest enough to voice our needs and to support each other as we should.
There is so much talk about the different forms that church can take house churches, churches that meet in unusual locations, emergent, liturgical (or not) but I think that the real essence of church is this gathering of the community in Christ’s name; fellowship together in the presence of the living God; helping each other live lives that demonstrate how much God loves us; the world recognizing that we have something going on that makes a difference
Seems to me that John was saying this when he wrote: My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us–perfect love!” 1 John 4: 11, 12 (MSG)
No one has seen God but they should be able to look at his church and see some resemblance.
The form that it takes is going to change with each new generation and will need to. From looking back at how God has interacted with humans throughout history, as recorded in the Bible and in Christian writings since, there has been a lot of change. God remains the same no matter how our understanding of him changes. He continues to reveal the great love he has for us. I know he will remain relevant to the generations still to come even though they will be much different than we are. If God couldn’t handle change, he wouldn’t have made us with minds that seek to discover and create. He did make us in his image.