Neglecting to Gather…

To Gather or not to Gather, that is the Question…

The greatest accusation for those who walk outside of the framework of the organised ‘church’ meeting format is that we are neglecting to gather with other believers and therefore in grave danger of growing cold. Just yesterday was in a conversation with a ‘church leader’ who mentioned a couple who had left a church, and his comments form the belief of a huge majority of Christendom. ‘They are not in fellowship anywhere at the moment, they need to make sure they are not like that lump of coal that falls from the fire and loses it’s heat and warmth and glow.’ Is not neglecting the gathering together of ourselves really about going to church? Should everyone that believes really be part of a community of believers that meets on Sundays and various times through the week? Would I be stronger in my walk for Christ by singing songs, hearing sermons and signing a membership form for some local church? I want to suggest something radical here, that the gathering together in the traditional way of many churches and fellowships today actually robs many individuals of true community, real relationships and the release of true creativity and life through-out the earth. It stifles, hides and creates a false image of victory and safety for all those who become gatherers. And in reality the gathering ceases to take place where it should be revealing itself; in community and in the world and complexities of relationships within which we live. We can be so busy ‘gathering ourselves together’ with every spare evening and weekend we have, that we cut off the very people we should be naturally gathering with. I was so busy with Sunday and mid-week meetings I lost my school friends, my band mates, my sports friends and parts of the family could not comprehend me any more. Was this the price of being a believer? No, it was more the insecurity of a leader who wanted another bum on a seat at something he was doing or organising. I gathered and I lost on the gathering. I had my church community, but I lost my real links of community and true relationship.

The Future of Community.

Does community have a future? Whenever people relate through the earth community occurs. It does not have to be recognised, titled or named, it can just happen in spontaneity, or be an organised get together with a bunch of people we want to spend time with. Always remember the N.I.V. saying this about Jesus choosing the twelve; Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He wanted to hang out with this bunch of guys. It was a community of people that just hung out together. It was not about creating church or having meetings or signing up to anything, they just wanted to journey, chat, eat, drink, argue, laugh, walk, just be together. Why the hell do we ever make it more than that? The future of community lies in hanging out with friends for no particular reason. Meeting to have a pint together, go to a gig together, walk together over the mountains, have a meal together. Community is then released back into the hands of people who gather anywhere and everywhere. No spiritual dress codes where everyone has to be ‘born again’ and singing from the same hymn sheet, just people who want to share time together. This can happen with family, a husband who would actually want to spend time with his wife or kids. It can happen with work mates going for a pint together after work. It can happen with journeying friends and pilgrims gathering to chat through evolving beliefs and faith thoughts, or just gathering to chat football. Where you happen to be today can be a gathering of community. Don’t try to make it a spiritual event or you could miss it and mess it up. Just be with those you want to be with. The future of community and gathering does not belong to the preachers, the theologians, the teachers or the worship leaders, but to the artists, the poets, the storytellers, the experimental instrumentalists, the disorganised, the flakey, the double-minded, the marginalised, the misunderstood, the excommunicated, the myth makers, the doubters, the agnostics, the atheists, the Divine, you and me. And these type of gatherings together I would never want to neglect.

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2 thoughts on “Neglecting to Gather…

  1. steve t

    There is something to be said for a more formal expression of Christian community. Informal and structurless expressions can often turn into something quite exclusive ( me and my mates) rather than open and inviting. Me and my mates might be fine with that but definitely a role for communitys basing themselves around a radically inclusive church space. Sure it needs to be done with humility : remaining open to both resource and learn from the wider community without any agenda of increasing membership. Personally it’s important to me to meet with my local church. This week I skipped the service and met with them on the local lgbt pride march that afternoon. Ive done the church ministry team and pcc thing at the moment im comfortable as the odd bloke with a dog who pops in for the occasional service and organises the odd gig in the church. I think the time will come for me to move back towards the community’s centre but I still belong and take pride in the welcome I see given to others.

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  2. johnmatthews2013

    Well said Paul. Been reflecting a lot on this lately as well. BTW, the classic metaphor for the “lump of coal falling away from the fire and losing it’s heat and warmth” can be applied in other ways as well. Is it better for the lump to be thrown into the fire once per week to have an external fire stimulant applied to it to relight it a better alternative? Perhaps the lump needs to learn how to maintain an internal fire without the need for external stimulants.

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