SO YOU DON’T WANT TO GO TO CHURCH ANYMORE – PART 9
Many years ago, a co-worker showed me a deer head that he freshly chopped off. It was gross! It put doubt in my mind that I could ever participate in hunting.
Just recently, I took the hunter’s education training…
My instructor shared a golf ball trick in skinning deer and he suggested finding videos on Youtube.com. Hello! What I saw isn’t for everyone. I then looked up “field dressing” and that determined if I would be committed or not. Sure enough after seeing deer guts and blood, I was overwhelmingly……..hungry for backstrap. =)
I’m researching rifles and gear to prepare for this year’s deer hunting season. If it hops, it drops! =)
So how does this relate to Chapter 9…Do you know that chicken sandwich from Chickfila or hamburger from In-N-Out (that makes a body good) used to be alive and someone had to “process” the meat. The Word of God is like that too. There are those that just want someone to do all the work and serve it to them. But there are those that hunt for their food. This separates the men from the boys!
Jake is having a special guest come over to his home fellowship. It’s Tito John! And he brought some friends. See I told you John was Filipino. =) You know you’re Filipino when you don’t RSVP. =)
From the last chapter, we found out Jake’s pastor was fooling around with a church member named Diane. And guess who Tito John brings with him? Diane, her husband and baby boy. Awkward right!
Here is how Jake introduces Tito John to the group:
As we gathered by the food-laden table, I spoke “Let me introduce John. I’ve told you a lot about him before, but I couldn’t be more grateful that God brought this man into my life. We have a bit of a strange relationship since he drifts in and out without much control on my part, but he has really helped me.” Then turning toward him I added, “John we just planned to eat and have a conversation with you. How does that sound?”
May I point out (from the above) that Jake might be married to a Filipina. Ever been to a Filipino party? Hello! It’s a buffet and we love to talk. =)
And here was Tito John’s response which further proves my theory of Filipino influence:
“It sounds like family to me,” John smiled.
Since we call everyone our Uncle and Auntie, I often don’t know their real names. =)
Check out this next detail about Tito John:
He was born overseas and currently lives in Northern California…
Ok, need I say more that John was born in PH and lives in Cali. =) Cali has one of the largest populations of Filipinos. (Source)
So let’s get to the “meat” of their meeting. Tito John shares a great application for including kids in fellowship.
…Eating together is one of the simplest things a family does together. If you’re already dividing up by then, you’re missing something extraordinary. Mix it up, and don’t have families sitting together. Sit down with a child that is not your own and get to know what makes them tick. What do they enjoy? How is school going? Or grab some blocks and hit the floor with a two year old.
“And if you have them with you for singing or sharing, don’t have your own child on your lap where you’ll struggle with them to make it look like they’re participating. Get someone else’s child on your lap and make it playful for them. Do you realize the most significant factor in helping a child thrive in the culture is for them to have caring relationships with adults who are not their relatives? The best gift you can give each other’s kids is the same gift you can give each other—the gift of friendship. And if the kids go out to enjoy some time together, don’t send people out to do childcare. Think of it as an opportunity for a couple of you to build relationships with a significant part of your group—whether they’re toddlers or teenagers.”
…“Do you remember teaching your children to use a fork?”
“But they all use one, I assume. Did you send them to fork school, or have a Powerpoint presentation on the make-up and use of a fork?” People laughed. “It sounds silly, doesn’t it? But as long as we think of this life in Christ as knowledge to acquire instead of living in him, we’ll do all kinds of foolish things. Your children know how to use a fork, but that’s because they learned it in life. As they got old enough you probably put the fork in their hands, but held on so they wouldn’t poke their eye out. You helped them guide it to their mouth and when you grew confident they wouldn’t hurt themselves, you let them do it on their own. Embracing the life of Jesus is a lot more like learning to use that fork than it is sitting in meetings. Children will learn the truth as you help them learn to live it.”
Usually we see children as hindrances and we exclude them from many mundane things. We have the attitude of “it’s faster and less messy if we did it”. Parents, do you know that we raise our kids to be the King and Queen of the house? And we’re the servants! Then we expect them to not be like that when they grow up. We need to spend time with our kids and what better way to get them involved like putting together a playground set. I’ll have to share that story later but we got our little cousins involved in unpacking the thousands of parts and pieces, as well as having my son (3-years old at the time) use my power drill.
We get a lesson on house church 101:
“We thought house church was a more biblical way to do church. It offers more participation and is less controlled by clergy, less demanding of time and resources, and more relational than institutional church. Isn’t that true?”
“Just because it meets in a home?” The skeptical look on John’s face said it all. “That isn’t always true of home groups I’ve been with. Many have people in them who try to control the others. Don’t get me wrong; I love the priorities you just outlined and I’m convinced that a home is the best place to live them. But I know people who meet in buildings who are incredibly relational, and some who meet in homes who are not. The location isn’t the issue, but whether you are caught up in religious games or helping each other discover the incredible relationship God wants with us.”
This reminds me of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
This is one of the funniest parts of the novel:
“I’ve been told all my life what I should and shouldn’t do, especially about religious things. But you haven’t talked in those terms at all. You seem to see this not as choosing between right and wrong, but simply living in a reality that already exists. I thought you would tell us how we should do church.”
“If there is anything I’d say we should do, it would be to stop should-ing on ourselves, and others.” Laughter flickered around the room and more than one person looked to their spouse asking what he had just said. “Certainly there are things that are right and things that are wrong. But we’ll only truly know that in Jesus. Remember, he is the truth itself! You will never be able to follow his principles if you’re not following him first.”
John’s words hung in the air through an awkward silence. I could see the gears churning in minds all around the table. I had been through this before and knew what they were feeling.
Marsha finally spoke choking a bit through tears, “I think you’re right John. The reason I follow rules is because I don’t know how to follow Jesus like you’re talking about. I just try to do what’s right and I’m tired of being attacked by people who say we’re in rebellion if we’re not in one of those blasted buildings on Sunday morning.”
John leaned toward Marsha. “I know this isn’t easy. But just because people say something doesn’t make it so. Jesus is teaching you how to live free. Others will find that threatening, as you will yourself at times. The system must devour what it cannot control.”
This next chunk of the conversation is the very essence of why religion is a disease and we keep feeding it. It’s time for the cure and be done with it. Check this out!
“Jesus didn’t leave us with a system he left us with his Spirit. He gave us his Spirit as a guide instead of a map. Principles alone will not satisfy your hunger. That’s why systems always promise a future revival that never comes. They cannot produce community because they are designed to keep people apart.”
“Why do you say that?”
“By keeping the focus on services or rituals they make most people spectators. By holding up standards and motivating people to conform to them they only encourage people to pretend to be what they are not or to act like they know more than they really do. Questions and doubts are discouraged and people can’t deal with the things they are hiding. Thus relationships become false and superficial because they only let people see the shadow they want them to see, not who they really are. Feeling isolated they only become more focused on their own needs and what others aren’t doing to meet them. They fight over control of the institution, however large or small, so that they can make others do what they think is best. It is a story that has been repeated for a couple of thousand years.” A few furtive eyes shot in my direction.
John continued, “To keep the system working you have to obligate people through commitment or appeal to what their ego needs by convincing them this is the last, best, greatest place to belong. That’s why so many groups create false expectations that frustrate people and focus on each other’s needs, or even their gifts, rather than on the present Christ.”
Someone whose career is a pastor-teacher-leader, probably doesn’t like that. Church leaders teach relationship with Jesus but only to handcuff them to religion. It’s just like what Paul is addressing in Colossians 2. Men will keep us chained to rules that tells us: “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle!”
It’s like the hunting illustration. Instead of letting man process the meat of God’s Word for you, you can learn to open the Bible on your own (with the help of the Spirit). It’s a process to chop, clean, sort and store the Word in your heart but learning how to prepare it and cook it will insure you don’t have tainted meat or get food poisoning. Ever heard a sermon or received man’s counsel and felt something wrong in your Spirit. I call that “spiritual food poisoning.”
There is more to this chapter and I hope you’ll camp out here for a while.
I’m going to close with these tidbits:
Just keep in mind the simplest lesson that has been repeated countless times since Jesus was here: The more organization you bring to church life, the less life it will contain.”
…“That’s where religion has done the most damage. By making people dependent on its leaders, it has made God’s people passive in their own spiritual growth. We wait for others to show us how, or even just follow them in hopes that they’re getting it right. Jesus wants this relationship with you and he wants you to be an active part in that process.”
… If I’ve encouraged you to follow him a bit more closely and to trust him with greater freedom, he’ll sort out the rest. He’s the cornerstone of the church. It’s his not mine. Ask him to sort out all this in you individually and collectively. He’s been doing this a couple of thousand years and he’s really good at what he does.”
Is Jesus big enough to get through to you every day? Do you think he is big enough to get past your blind spots, overcome your doubts and show you his way? Doesn’t that get a resounding ‘yes’? Share that journey together and you’ll experience body life more real than you’ve ever dreamed.”
TobyMac – Family (Lyrics)
Switchfoot – Afterlife (Neon Feather Remix)