In the fourth and final installment of our Faith Journey series we’ll show you the model we aspire to and examples of times we feel we got close.
If you’re new to this series you can read:
In Finding Church: What If There Really Is Something More, author Wayne Jacobeson has a simple but revolutionary theory:
What if Jesus chose to show us what church should look like, rather than tell us?
Some quotes from Finding Church:
Jesus didn’t talk much about church at all, mentioning it only twice. He said simply that he would build it and he gave counsel about dealing with someone who is wittingly or unwittingly destroying it.
Maybe he didn’t talk so much about the church because it was not the means to his end. What if he knew it was simply the fruit of his working and that it takes shape quite easily wherever people learn to follow him?
If so, then Jesus really did tell us all we need to know about the church by not talking about it.
So, what if when he was walking the countryside with his disciples, talking to a woman at a well, seated in Zaccheus’s home having lunch, or relaxing in Bethany, he was showing us what his church looks like?
So when Jesus spent time with the Samaritan woman at a well, told the story of the Good Samaritan, or embraced Peter with prayer before and love after his betrayal, he was showing us how the church lives.
Its teaching is more like a conversation about faith in the stern of a boat after a fierce storm than it is a lecture from a pulpit with a Powerpoint presentation looming in the background. Its gatherings look more like a meal in the upper room than people sitting in rows of pews or theater seats. And its leadership is better expressed at washing dirty feet than sitting in a council meeting fighting over the budget.
We Complicate Church
Wayne goes on to describe what happens when people try to make church more complicated than Jesus’s example of simply loving the people God puts in our paths.
It’s a familiar story to those of us brought up in the institutional church - buildings, schedules, programs, titles, budgets, and projects.
It’s the abandonment of grace in favor of a system of legalistic religious performance.
Our Uncomplicated Model
We’re still figuring this out. It’s still awkward at times. We still miss moments and talk later about what we should have done instead.
40+ years of church experience is tough to unravel and unlearn.
- Stopped “outsourcing” our faith journey to professionals and prefer a sharing economy between amateurs
- Don’t go (to church) - we are (the church)
- Try to love the people God puts in our path
- Don’t try to schedule “church” or force an agenda in any situation
- Purpose to be around others on the same journey - but with no expectations
- Pray with people if we feel called to do so
- Love to eat with others - there is something magical about sharing a meal
- Try to be honest and vulnerable in our relationships and conversations with others
Here are some examples of when we feel like we followed Jesus’s example of loving and relating to people.
I feel like I’m bragging as I type these - please know that isn’t the intent.
Church on Skype
We had a Skype call with a young family considering fulltime travel. The conversation touched on church life. Towards the end I felt called to end the conversation by praying over them. I asked if they minded. They didn’t and I stammered out an awkward prayer.
Last year we purposed to camp alongside friends whom we feel do an awesome job of modeling Jesus in their everyday life. Our desire was to watch and learn from them.
God did an incredible job in setting up a classroom for us. We ended up camped by people that included a male couple, an otherwise homeless woman in her 40’s, and an actor from LA on a long solo journey.
There were kids running around. Teens off being teens. Parents walking together. Everyone sharing meals. We had after-dark poetry slams. We played card games. We had some of the deepest, rawest, and most authentic conversation about God and faith that we have ever been in.
On a recent group business call there were some tender, teary, and transparent moments shared in regards to income and debt levels.
I felt called to pray for the group but I’m new to them and didn’t know where everyone was faith-wise. I got shy and bit my tongue.
I prayed for them after the call, but not speaking up while on the call still bothered me. I posted in the related Facebook group, told them the situation and learned that the prayer would have been welcomed.
I’m not “planning to pray” next time but know that if I again feel led to I can.
Last year we had a period of time where several traveling families moved in and out of the same Florida state park.
There were flocks of girls swarming the campground. Outoor movies. Men leaning on trucks talking. Women off walking trails together. We shared meals and observed communion at one. We had group campfires. At times the conversation got very deep, personal, and authentic around our faith journeys.
All of this happened on the fly - there was no weekly schedule, no “church night” etc. If one family was out seeing the local attractions there was no guilt laid at their feet for “not being there”.
This past summer we rented a seasonal lot in a Michigan campground.
We had seasonal neighbors on one side - we spent time with them eating, watching movies, playing cards and fishing. Conversations didn’t get as deep as the others I’ve mentioned, but we tried to love on them and trust in God’s timing for everything else.
On our other side was a campsite that had different people in it each weekend. We met young families, people we knew from past churches, and other people that we never managed to connect with.
We just trusted Gods providence and figured if we were meant to connect with them we would have.
We overnighted at a park where another fulltime RV family lives. The conversation got around to work and income.
We were both seeing a decline in the businesses that had been sustaining us. I knew I was scared about continuing to meet our bills, and could sense they were too.
I offered to pray and they were open to it, so I prayed over our finances and for trust in God to meet our needs.
I recently got an email from a blog reader who was close by and wondered if I could meet for breakfast. I said “Sure - how about tomorrow?”
He expressed surprise - he said he had buddies from high school couldn’t find time within two months to grab a beer together, how could I be that available?
I explained that we saw our availability as part of our new faith reality. We’ve simply made it a priority to always say yes to proposed connections and to do them as soon as possible.
We met the following morning, I prayed over our breakfast, and we went on to have a great conversation about careers, kids, travel and our faith journey.
We aren’t 100% confident in our faith walk yet. There are many times where it feels like we “should be doing more”. We still feel that way more on Sunday than other days.
It’s easy to do some web searches, find opinions by people who seem to know the Bible better saying we should still be “going to church”, and start to doubt our actions.
We naturally hunger for more of the authentic connections like the ones I listed above. It’s easy to turn that hunger into a plan or a program with the goal of achieving the same outcome.
Pressing On Regardless
But we know that’s the first turn back to the way we just came from. Back there, the activity might have been more regular and scheduled, but it was far less authentic.
We’re more interested in the road ahead.
Looks like some other folks had church find them on the road too..