Picture: Mathew Sumner, Associated Press Over the past several weeks, I have been struck by something profound about the church. It’s simply this: fellowship is really important.
I have been somewhat skeptical of the word ‘fellowship’ over the years. For me, it conjures up images of clustered cliques. All too often disconnectedness, disjointedness, and rejection of others have all happened within the church within the guise of fellowship.
True fellowship, however, is rooted in communion and having things in common with others. That commonality is not based on external appearances and hobbies, but in the desire to experience unity and oneness that exists in the Body of Christ. Understanding fellowship in this light removes the cliques and points to Christ. The feeling of fellowship is a beautiful thing as long as the purpose of it points beyond ‘self’. The peace experienced within bonafide fellowship has a purpose.
In discussing the purpose of the church in this world, I was talking to a gentleman who sarcastically brought up the phrase 'holy huddle’ in reference to how the church practices fellowship. It was intended as a negative description, that is, congregations gathering together separate from this world in their own 'closedknittedness'.
But then I got to thinking: Isn’t the phrase 'holy huddle' a fairly accurate description of the church? In fact, shouldn’t our holy gatherings be even more of a holy huddle type experience? Huddles are about the quarterback sharing the vision of the next play. The mission of the team: To fight for ground down the field, and to score more touchdowns and field goals than the other team. Ultimately, the goal is to win! The huddle is a time of separation, but it has to be. It's a time to regroup, to rebuild, to reform, to plan, to rebuff, to recast, to rebuke and to encourage. But all this happens inside and within the game. The huddle is part of the game, not outside of it. It’s not like the huddle happens in locker rooms each time. Huddles happen out in the public for everyone to see.
There is a purpose to a huddle, and its purpose points beyond itself.
I wonder how effective church outreach would be if all congregations treated time together as a huddle. What if churches spent more of their time huddling together and dreaming and scheming how to advance forward with the Gospel? What would it look like if each Sunday was meant to regroup, to rebuild, to reform, to plan, to rebuff, to recast, to rebuke and to encourage? I think the result would be something similar to how the early church experienced fellowship. They learned to love well. They loved so well that the world couldn’t help but be convinced that this love is grounded in something real; namely, Jesus Christ. Do you think it is possible for the church to learn to love that again?
A few moms put together a baby shower together a few weeks ago. All were invited, which meant I got to attend my first baby shower. All three babies are now here!
Over the past 2 weeks, our small community has experienced the growth of three new babies: Ezra, Ava, and Myra. Ava, of course, is our first daughter and the sister of two older brothers. Ezra and Myra are firstborns of two young and amazing couples. We are thrilled with the arrival of these newborns, and I have had some time to reflect on how their new life serves as beautiful illustrations of Resurrection Life.
Several reasons guided our decision to choose the name Resurrection Life Church. ‘Resurrection’ is a classic, historical and theological term. It carries with it weight, and as such differs from other church plants starting up in our area. Combining ‘Resurrection’ with ‘Life’ tries to captures the immediate, present, and future. The intent was to capture, in a nutshell, what best captures the experience of new life in Jesus today. Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection set a pattern for all his followers. We are called to ministry, to deny ourselves and pick up our cross, in order to rise with Christ. We live because Jesus lives. Resurrection Life is about freedom, deliverance, salvation, joy, peace, and mission all wrapped up together.
Resurrection Life finds its roots in a few Bible passages, one of which Jesus converses with Nicodemus, a religious scholar. Jesus invites Nicodemus to be reborn. “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” In 2015, we take for granted and hardly blink an eye to a title like “Born Again Christian”. But to those who first heard about being reborn, how ridiculous would that have sounded!? I imagine Nicodemus’ face scrunched in disgust trying to figure out what on earth Jesus was talking about. Birth is not an easy process. It’s an involved process that includes pain, crying, urgency, anxiety, adrenaline, and fluids of all kinds. At times, the church can sanitize and cleanse illustrations intended to be earthy and tangible. Do not get me wrong; joy abounds in the birthing process, but the whole event is one whirlwind of sacrifice and joy.
Then when the baby comes, the work really begins. From dirty diaper after dirty diaper (I forgot how often a new born needs changing…) to burping, nursing, crying and sleeping (or the lack thereof) the baby creates a new normal that is not easy. With the gift of new life comes hard work, sleep depravation, intense happiness and frustration. New life is a gift which requires responsibility like no other without wanting to go back to what was.
The new life of a newborn baby serves as a fitting illustration of someone who experiences new life/resurrection life in Jesus. The responsibility of the church for those who are new believers is critical but often neglected. The celebration is in the ‘rebirth announcement’. Certainly this is worth celebrating. What requires more emphasis, however, is the hard work ahead and the responsibility of the local church to get involved and to keep feeding newborn believers no matter what the age. The decision to follow Jesus is important, the discipleship required afterwards is equally if not more important. Following Jesus is a life long journey. As a church plant, we are sorting through what that path of discipleship looks like. How does one grow from newness of life in Jesus to experiencing resurrection life everyday? As we process through this question, I look forward and anticipate the people the Lord is leading to us. Like a pregnancy, there is anticipation and excitement on the horizon. We are preparing to help, serve, and sacrifice for those who are discovering rebirth. This desire comes not out of obligation, but out of a bonded love for those looking to thrive in life today.
According to church history the resurrection is more than merely the new life that Jesus experienced coming out of the grave. From what I recall in seminary, the resurrection includes the time after that moment to the time when Jesus reversed the law of the gravitational pull and ascended into heaven. In other words, Jesus’ resurrection was more than an event; it was a process that led to Christ’s coronation in heaven. For those who follow Jesus, Resurrection Life is not merely a one-time event that happens to us. It is a life-long process that lasts. It’s a process that is not easy. Like raising a child, the process of growing up in the faith is constant, ongoing, and consistent. It may involve intense suffering as well as overwhelming joy.
If you have experienced resurrection life, how have you grown up in the faith? Which mentors have helped you along your faith journey and what resources would you recommend for those questioning faith altogether? If you are searching well, contact me and I would love to talk with you.