The Principal of the collective
We have looked at the first principals of relationship, now we need to look at how that should work out in practice. Let us look more closely at the issue of collectivism, the coming together of the followers of Jesus. This subject, for some at least, looms large and is discussed widely, the whole action of meeting.
I hear some crazy discussions about meetings which are not sound arguments; are reactionary and emotive, and not based on solid reasoning and good understanding. One phrase I frequently hear is, ‘I love God, I am a Christian, but there is no need for meeting with other Christians.’ A very strange and unhealthy comment which is diametrically opposed to what the bible says, which is ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,’ (Heb 10:24 NIV)
At the opposite end of the scale of the meeting debate is feeling that we have ended up with meetingitus, or meeting for meetings sake. Meetings have become the standard mark of ‘spirituality’. If you are not at the meeting then you must be ‘unspiritual’ whatever that means. What is the purpose of meetings? To comfort preachers who need to see lots of ‘bums of seats’? To make sure that the offering is taken?
I also hear people say, ‘I love God but hate church’. I find this hard to swallow, because the bible says that ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (Eph 5:25 NIV). Although I do have sympathy with some of these expressions and feelings, even though I don’t think that they are well thought through.
A friend of mine asked me if I thought God would tell jokes, I said that as we have a sense of humour then it must have come from somewhere, and I am willing to believe that my friend God has a sense of humour. My friend went on to ask me if I would like to hear one of God’s jokes, of course I agreed and this is what he told me ‘I was at a meeting, and I was due to speak later in the programme. Sitting at the back I was finding the whole event boring, tedious and pointless. I started to chat to God, “Father, this is so awful, I don’t believe that you are even here!” to which God responded, “Son, I am here, omnipresence has its problems!”’
So yes, I do have sympathy for those who get tired of pointless meetings, but another friend of mine has this simple quote with which I wholeheartedly agree, ‘the answer to wrong use is not no use but right use!’
The other problem is our perception of church, which is not the building, but of course you know that don’t you? But then you announce, ‘I am going to church’. How can you do that? You are church. Christians, singly and collectively, are the body of Christ, or church. So you can’t ‘go to church’ you can only be church, but that does not mean that you don’t need to meet!
Why do we need to meet? Quite simply because you cannot form real, long term relationships via Face Book or My Space, although I am sure there are some of you that think you can. I am reminded of the little child who wanted her mother to stay with her at bedtime until sleep arrived. The mother said ‘I can’t, I have lots of work to do, but don’t worry, God is with you all the time.’ The wise child replied, ‘I know that, but at the moment I want someone with skin on!’
Real relationships require contact, real contact between real people, and that includes all of us, with our hang ups, foibles, peculiarities, difficulties and awkwardness, as well as the positive aspects that we all have of being ‘just lovely’.
The development of real love requires that we connect with each other physically, not just over the ether via our favourite social networking site, but with our skin on, in real time. We need to get to know each other, to explore each others needs and to benefit from the gifts that God gives to each of us individually. These gifts strengthen and develop the church, that is, us. Certainly the videos, the blogs, the books, the CDs all have their place, but nothing can totally replace that personal contact, and you cannot get that without meeting.
The final question is what kind of meeting should it be? The answer is very broad, from a formal meeting with a timetable, to an informal ‘let’s see what happens’ meeting, when we worship and pray together. There are ‘learn together’ meetings, ‘share our stories’ meetings and meetings when we just want to be together and provoke one another to LOVE. Then there are the meetings when we just hang out together and have fun. Whatever we do, we don’t want to be meeting just to have a ‘meeting’, the ‘hymn-prayer sandwich’ type meeting, the one I must go to in order to look ‘spiritual’. All the other meetings I have mentioned have a purpose, but no one was proposing anything else were they?
For our lab Blog
16th February 2010
(Editor by A.S. Brookes)