As parents we were recently delighted by a mobile phone message from our son and daughter-in-law, in their mid-thirties, who wrote “Hey Dad, we had church last night (a weekday night), we had thirteen people around without inviting anyone. When we checked our watches it was four hours later and no-one was bored! Jesus literally led the meeting from start to finish! I am so excited because it’s the first time I have experienced what I have read in books by Frank Viola and co” (see e.g. Viola’s Pagan Christianity and Re-Imagining Church).
     God had brought them back to South Africa from a three-year ‘cell church’ plant in Southern California under a great cell church mentor. Initially they were disappointed to leave the USA because they had just been invited to be ‘pastor of worship’ in a thriving congregation in Sacramento, further north, BUT had been refused an extension of their three-year religious workers visa.
After much job-hunting, my son secured work as a computer science teacher at a Christian school in Port Elizabeth. One weekend he and I took a few days’ break, in beautiful St. Francis Bay, for listening for God’s voice. Immediately God began to speak, and my son realised that God was busy weaning them from institutional church/Christianity and preparing them for another more biblical way of being church.
As he and his wife often tell us these days, they are in no rush – they want to spend a year or so trying to shed the ‘religious spirit’ traditional churches fall into and take on a truly biblical family lifestyle that becomes the foundation for the church plant. One reason why they left their very relaxed charismatic congregation was God’s convincing them of the disastrous results of the ‘pastor-led’ church (‘pastor’ is mentioned only once in the NT, and then in the context of other ministry gifts: see Eph. 4:11ff) plus the disastrous clergy-laity divide of the past 1700 years of church history! Small wonder most Christians are lulled into a deathly passivity in so many churches, leaving the work to the ‘minister.’

And so the revelation continues…


How do you feel, come the year-end? Exhausted, with the feeling that the year gone has just been ‘too busy!’ Or, ‘Yes, I was busy but somehow I coped better this year.’ Or, ‘Don’t even raise the subject!’ Often we don’t seem to get the balance right, i.e. between renewal and activity, being and doing, faith and works (see Letter of James). Now that I am more or less my own boss and live within simple, missional communities (see my blogs for ‘simple/organic church’), perhaps its just a tad easier?? Theologian Karl Barth, living in the crisis days of Nazi rule, declared prayer to be “the true and proper work of the Christian,” and observed that “the most active workers and thinkers and fighters in the divine service in this world have at the same time, and manifestly, been the most active in prayer.”
Philip Yancey relates how in modern-day Los Angeles, at the Catholic Worker soup kitchen, the day’s routine always begins with a brief prayer, acknowledging that they are partners with God in serving the poor. Also, during the food preparation, one person volunteers to go off and pray for an hour. The crew insists on this practice even though the extra pair of hands could be chopping vegetables or making coffee! Finally, one morning a week, the entire community gathers for half an hour of meditative prayer. They want it to be GOD’s work, not theirs! And they don’t want to yield to the workaholism of our culture and much 21st century churchianity. Maybe we can trust God for a better balance in 2012!?
A very practical step in the right direction would be to be bold (!) enough to exchange the busy-ness of institutional Christianity for the renewal of small organic groups (of which there is much teaching in my blogs). We can certainly do without the subtle ‘control,’ driven-ness, guilt, shame and even boredom imposed by ‘church as we know it!’ C’mon, I dare you, for your and Jesus’ sake!