Is Christchurch Christ’s Church?
On Sunday for both the morning and the evening I was invited to speak at an Independent Evangelical Church in Aberdare called Christchurch. This has now become a regular jaunt as they ask me to travel over the Maerdy mountain to the other valley about three times a year. My speaking engagements are a bit of a scarcity now as in the world of local church I am no longer the pin up boy (lol), plus it is something that I no longer go running after like I used to at one time. I loved nothing more than standing in a pulpit preaching to people, whether it was to two (which it was on one occasion) or to thousands like I did in India. When the invitations first dried up, if I am honest, I missed it, but now the craving has gone. I will still go if invited but I much prefer something of greater reality and what I can relate to in the new landscape, chatting around meal tables, in people’s front rooms, in coffee shops, in the staff canteen like I had the privilege last night. Now in all I have been through Christchurch has continued to invite me. This makes me smile. When I was a ‘pastor/prophetic type’ I wondered what I was doing there and often thought of never going again. It was like time travelling back in time to another age. Like entering a period drama. There was not a pair of jeans in site, the small gathering were mainly women in their 60’s and 70’s, they used chorus’s as a preliminary to the real service that was a hymn prayer sandwich, there was no Holy Spirit time or spiritual gifts in operation and even worse after I had travelled over there twice on a Sunday, which was quite a venture, they would give me the tiniest of gifts that would not even cover my petrol. And it would be given in that secretive church way in a special hand shake as if they were giving me a million pounds. So why did I keep going? Why didn’t I just give them a prophecy condemning them for their religious spirit and get out of there? Why do i still allow myself to sing hymns I have never heard of with a small group of people that sound like they don’t know it either, but the organist loves it so we will sing it? Why go there when the doors will be closed in thirty years anyway because no one will be alive to run the place? Is Christchurch Christ’s Church?
It Is All About People.
I admit I used to be so proud and puffed up about my perfect Christianity and vision for church life. I looked down my nose at people like this. People that would probably have never had an interest in a computer never mind read a blog. People that are oblivious to the fact that the Pentecostal movement happened never mind Toronto, Pensacola, the house church movement. In my haughty state I thought that God had finished with people like this. If they deny the Holy Spirit and His gifts surely that is as cultic as denying Christ’s deity. That is how I used to think. No wonder I wanted to get rid of these invitations from my diary. Just something to laugh at, scoff, pour condemnation on. Praying that they would get it. Who did I think I was? I still go and feel so out of place and grieve for the lack of freedom in the place, but I have learned a valuable lesson on my journey. I love the people. I really love the people. They are lost without a shepherd, but we all have need of a Shepherd. They sincerely love God and believe what they are doing is serving Him faithfully. They have got so much wrong in their walk and interpretation of all this but they are precious, really precious people. And when I say I love the people it is not just because Jesus loves them so I better love them, I really love them. They are hungering and thirsting for the real thing, I can tell that after I have shared with them. They have soaked it up like dry, crisp sponges. Yes you can be faithfully wrong and be so wrapped up in religion that you miss grace, but these people are only walking in the revelation that as passed down to them, they know no other way, and at this time of life probably never will. I have concluded it is not up to me to change that or begin shouting out in tongues or laying hands on for deliverance, all I can do is love them and serve them. From fresh manna that has fed me, share it with them in the hope that they will be fed and find some nourishment. I cannot relate to their form of worship, but now I cannot relate to many forms of worship at all, all have religious structure to them, we just replaced a hymn sandwich for a chorus roll, still no more nourishing but just takes a bit more effort to get through. What I can relate to is them as people. Weary travellers who have given much for their cause. Like Saul needing David around to sooth his troubled soul, these precious saints need those with the balm around to sooth the soul. It is not about form but about people.
Jesus did not Die for the Church but for People.
Jesus never gave Himself to death for the church. He gave Himself for people. He stepped out of freedom and glory and Father’s presence to walk in a religious world, with religious people and religious systems. Why? He loved people. He had compassion on them. He walked to where they were with Words of life. Yes He had to speak sharp truth to those who held positions and keys, but to the people He had nothing but Words of hope, life, freedom, love. He spoke in the synagogues and people were amazed at His Words. He never criticised the ordinary people for where they were walking, they knew no different. There was a time I judged those who belong to such ‘lifeless’ churches, but I now realise many of these people know much about life but may never be able to express it. Which is like all of us really. We think we are so free and yet we replace one form for another. Now we all go to get drunk on the Spirit. That is no more freedom if that is what happens every time! Just another form. Just like we all had to be Toronto’d and fall on the floor and have laughter. Another form. We need to look beyond the form and see something so much more precious. People. Get back to the simplicity of loving people of all walks of life and all expressions. I so love those precious old(er) saints at Christchurch. Their stories of their walks with the Lord, their memories of revival days, their longing for something new. Their hunger to hear God and walk with Him and connect through the hymns. All alien to me, but God seems to love them and bless them despite my opinions of how they do it. So that is what I now decide to do, love them and bless the despite what I think. Why? Because I have decided to give myself for people and not for form. Because in the new landscape I love people, just people. And somewhere outside of opinion and form Christ is building His church. Not because he loves church, but because He loves people. This time travelling man is learning to love people too.