Last Sunday I was in church. I was also sitting on my laundry room floor frantically folding laundry and keeping a watchful eye on a gang of four and five-year-olds as they ran, yelling by me into my makeshift playroom. The laundry was not mine. It belonged to one of our newest friends who did not have a washer and dryer and was currently sitting on my couch in the other room deep in conversation about the Bible. This friend works 6 days a week and Sundays are her only day to do laundry. But since coming to Christ less than a month ago, she’s found visiting the laundry mat is less important than spending time with us.
One of my children followed the screaming 4-year-olds into the room and sat down next to me on the floor.
“Can you make the chaos stop?!”
Bless your heart, type-A child. I feel your pain. And the feeling my child was having is probably one many of the body of Christ has when we step out of our comfort zones and into some very Biblical church life.
Becoming Fishers of Men
We all remember the story of Jesus calling his disciples. He promised them that, if they followed Him, they would become fishers of men. 1 We also probably remember what following Jesus looked like for those disciples.
In fact, that’s what my child and I talked about as we sat folding laundry. We talked about how, realistically, the sick, hungry and demon-possessed probably didn’t stand in a quiet and orderly line waiting on their healings. We also know for a fact that those men the disciples were fishing for, didn’t stick to a Sunday morning schedule and show up exactly at 10:30 and then promptly leave for lunch at 12:30. We know that they would “over stay” 2, they wouldnt pack a lunch and we know they’d show up anytime and anywhere while Jesus and the disciples were in the middle of other seemingly important work. 3
Even in our own small house church, which is already a little on the unconventional side, we find ourselves needing to continually ask what best serves the body of Christ and the unbelievers we to whom we are called. If it isn’t serving well, why are we holding onto that method, convention or tradition so tightly? We as humans tend to love a good method, a good model, a solid tradition. The Church’s tribalism has gotten in the way of Christ throughout history.
For the record, Jesus did not say “Come follow me and I’ll take you into the deep waters of Scriptural study” or “Come follow me, and I’ll make sure you’re refreshed and re-invigorated for your next work week.” Instead, what He said covered it all, and so much more.
The Blessings That Flow
The good news, however, is that when we do step out of the comfortable predictability of our own plans, we receive the gift of tremendous growth and blessings from the Holy Spirit.
My favorite picture of what a life poured out looks like is that of a mighty river, which has, at some point poured into a stagnant little pool. Once the mighty river filled up the little pool to its very brim it continued to rush on by to other streams and places further on. Meanwhile, the little pool, in its full stagnant state started to develop a film of green muck on the top. Its waters become cloudy and dirty and as it sits, less and less is able to survive beneath its surface.
But what if someone went in, and removed some of the rocks holding that little pool in place? What if it could flow elsewhere, down into other streams and pools? Then the water from the river would once again have a place to go, flowing into the pool making it fresh and vibrant.
This picture applies not only to our own lives, but also to our churches. We tend to be talkers (and, yes, hearers) as well as studiers, and not necessarily doers. 4 However, when we become doers (no matter how uncomfortable it feels), when we invite in the lonely, the difficult, the hurting, when we hunker down beside those in pain instead of focusing on our own capacity, it turns out our capacity miraculously grows.
Doing The Impossible
It seems that we gain this growth in capacity if we rely less on ourselves and more on the Holy Spirit’s good work…
Wait. That makes it sound like all of a sudden we become eloquent evangelists, that our own wounds and struggles have miraculously healed and are no longer any issues, and that our schedules have become empty to accommodate the needs of others. Hardly.
Instead we’ll continue to experience our own weaknesses. We’ll make eye contact with one another over the chaos and we’ll grin, knowing that the other person knows that you’re freaking out on the inside. Instead it will become all too clear that none of this is in our own strength!
The impossible will happen.
There is nothing more wonderful then seeing someone saved, healed of brokenness, or a long-prayed prayer finally answered, and knowing that it was absolutely not because of your own talents, your own strength, or your own holiness.
The world continues to be more and more chaotic and in the end, if we obediently follow Jesus into it, we will have some chaotic moments too. However we’ll find joy and peace in the midst of it.
As a church body, and as followers of Christ the more we are willing to cast aside our own plans and purposes, we will get to walk in His mercies as we bring the Best News into that broken world. What a terribly uncomfortable, glorious place to be.
What would it look like to set aside your own concepts and your own plans and pray for the Impossible to happen?
What changes are you most scared to make? What would it look like to listen and obey in the hard things this week?