I have viewed a lot of meetings over the years, and many of those were called “church,” and these meetings did not have any engaging relational dynamics, they were just meetings. People herded into a building, much like cattle into a barn. Their trough is a pew, or one of those cozy plush conference room chairs, and they come in nice and fresh, and in line, row upon row. Usually if it is a family they have debated from the get go that morning about the meeting, and why they are going, and where each of the kids need to be as well as where each spouse is going to be. There are times of frenzied debate and arguments about toys, books, ipods, sports scores, all before they are even out of the car, and somehow they are to be able to come into a building and be focused on God and a mindset to worship Him.
If they come for the Christian Education hour (before or after), then their family is scattered dependent upon age and sometimes gender, and segregated for 45 minutes to an hour, and they they have the “worship” servicec that can last as little as less than an hour to an hour and a half, and even there, the youngest kids get separated for “junior church” (as if there is a “junior God”?). A basic family of five will on any given Sunday be segregated into a minimum of five to seven different messages, totally non-related, and then they are somehow supposed to be one and united and focussed on the drive home. How is this possible?
I grew up in the church thinking that Christianity was characterized by meetings, because it all revolved around Sunday morning worship, Christian Education hour, Sunday night revival meeting, small groups/cell group meeting during the week, midweek Pioneer Clubs, youth night, various socials and other committee meetings. Meetings were all I knew about being part of the Christian church. My parents were missionaries and church planters. My in-laws were church planters. All I ever saw was meetings. No one ever talked about “life” or “community.” No one mentioned that confessing faith in Christ and repentance led to an exchanged life, whereby Christ lives His life in me and through me, and in connection with other like kind people. It was not until after bible college and seminary that the lights began to go on that there was something wrong with this picture. What I had thought was the Christian life was in fact the Christian religion, and the obsession with Christian busy-ness and religious activities that were all a distraction from really living the life of Christ “in Christ” and “in community.” All this activity and obsession with meetings, and for what exactly?
How on earth can someone practice the relational dynamics and community life shown in the Gospels and in the book of Acts and the epistles, all the “one anothers” that people fondly say can be expressed in small groups, when in fact, most of them cannot be applied at all, for these “one anothers” can only truly be lived and experienced in the ongoing relational life of a group of people who are committed to walking and sharing life together beyond a group of meetings. It involved deepening friendships between men, between women, between couples and smaller groups of people, and youth and seniors. It entails gathering around meals, outings and times of recreation and play. It is all about “family,” being and acting as a family. This is what it means to be part of the “family of God” and these are the relational dynamics that are almost non-existent in the bulk of Western Christianity. Small groups barely scratches the surface, and the larger scale (apostolic type) meetings are centred around personalities and the ministry of the few rather than the ministry of many to one another. The body of Christ is in a mess and in desperate need of rediscovery of what it means to have a deep passionate relationship with the living Christ, and what it means to actually be in loving, embracing, and engaging body life as Christian community.
If the Christian church is going to truly be family and express the life of Christ, it will entail the rediscovery of all the “one anothers” and the embracing of community life over and against more religious meetings. In the Christian life relational dynamics are not an option, they are the crucible where life actually happens. Jesus modeled servanthood. The Koine Greek word is “slave.” We were once slaves to sin, and we are slaves to Christ. Our attitude needs to be one of humility and service toward other believers and non-believers alike. We are to extend love and grace in relationship with other believers, and give sacrificially to those not yet in the Kingdom of God. Just as Jesus, took on the attitude of a servant, and washed the disciples’ feet, He did so to exibit the humility and gentleness of heart toward those He was in relationship with. How can we not return to similar relational dynamics in our own Christian communities?