Is it possible to be apart of the 2 best church services ever in one day? How cool is it that in many ways yesterday was a red letter day for churches in my world ? I was apart of two very different gatherings in two very different theological landscapes and both were awesome...
The "church" yesterday morning was inspiring. It was the kind of time spent in devotion to God that leaves you wanting more, leaves you looking forward to next Sunday and strengthens your resolve to stay focused on the lessons learned yesterday until we can gather in that way again. Our time in scripture focused on Acts 1 and 2. We discussed the amazing, and often overlooked, events of Pentecost. Tongues of fire, strong winds and people forever changed by the message delivered in Acts 2 by Peter...all wonderful things indeed. The closing thought was about community...based on what these new believers did in Acts 2. We discussed how our community of God isn't defined by church affiliations, doctrine or traditions. Our community is defined by one simple criterion...do you live out your lives daily in the presence or at least close proximity of one another? If so, you are a community. The goal from there is to become a Christocentric Community...one having Jesus as the focus for the ways in which they live and conduct themselves. We closed with songs about Jesus...his goodness through his sacrifice being the theme. We then prayed...we prayed for the sick, for those traveling, for family members in general and for us to have a great week. After we concluded with prayers we all spent time together, kids playing and preparing lunch. How much better can it ever be?
I guess the coolest part of our Sunday morning service is who was in attendance. There were 5 of us. My wife, 3 sons and me...that's it. I told the story from the Bible in particularly dramatic ways (anything to keep the attention of 3 young boys). The boys lead our worship with songs like, "Jesus Loves Me", "Mungu Yu Mwema" (God is so Good in Swahili) and "Mary Had a Little Lamb"...of course explaining that the Mary of the Bible did indeed have a lamb...as in the Lamb of God. We were all truly blessed. We all grew and we all follow God today with a bit more clarity as a result of the church we had in our sun room...perhaps we should call it the "Son-room Church"?
The second service yesterday was in the afternoon. Greg Newton (http://web.mac.com/disciplesfellowship/Travelers/Journal/Journal.html ) and I are working together to plant a church among the residents of Trade Towers on the southside of B'ham. This will be a really cool experience for us all as God gave Greg the idea to do what he did in Tanzania, Africa for about 7 years. By the way, I first met Greg in Tanzania when I interned under him in 1998. So now, 10 years later here we are working with a new community...or as the example from Africa labels it, "a village". These people are already living in close proximity with one another. They already eat together, have recreation together, have arguments together, etc. The thing they seem to be missing is Jesus being the author of their village. What Greg and I will attempt to do over time is to invite them to see Jesus as the reason, focus and facilitator of their community. As they accept this and begin to function as a community of Jesus (church). Greg and I will back away as they will be functioning on their own and will no longer need us.
I think this new church is special for several reasons. The people are already living in community. There is no need to find, rent or purchase a "church building". There is no need to hire a "professional minister". Through the initial expectations of growth and maturation we anticipate they will at some point be leading the church.
So yesterday the crowd wasn't exactly huge...which isn't unusual. So exactly how many showed up? Well, since we know numbers indicate success (just typing that would cause me to choke on my tongue if it wasn't in my cheek)...I will say that the total crowd, including Greg and me, was somewhere right around...2. But that's really cool. How? I'm glad I asked.
It is really cool that things didn't go as planned because it reminds us who is in charge. The building manager responsible for getting the announcement out to the residents was ill and in the hospital so the word never got out. Greg and I discussed further what we will attempt to do there and then we spent time in prayer asking God's guidance and blessing. It wasn't a huge kickoff with people spilling out of the chapel area into the hall...but it was special because it was the start of something new, something good and something of God.
The "Son-Room Church" Sunday morning was an excellent experience...one that is sure to be repeated. The gathering at the Trade Towers was also excellent and is sure to be repeated...although with more people. God is really good to allow me to be a part of both groups. I can't wait to see how each community continues to be shaped by Mary's little Lamb.