….. Jonathan and I used to hang out with friends from church. We inadvertently formed a young adults group – ages ranged from 18 up to about 26. There were about 15 or so of us who would hang out – not usually all at once – and it was through this that Jonathan and I met and married. There was a real special bond between everyone at this time in our lives. On Friday we attended the wedding of one of our friends from this group and found ourselves to be the only couple there that we knew.
Over the years we have all drifted apart. Some went on to university and simply lost touch. Others deliberately lost touch – two, who had been a couple, split up just before Jonathan and I married and it was shortly after our wedding that they both decided to disengage from our group of friends in case they bumped into one another. Within two years or so of Jonathan and I marrying there were only 6 of us still in touch. Two had, in this time, married. Unfortunately they had a painful divorce five years ago, and at first they separately kept in touch, but soon find this too difficult as it reminded them of the past.
Our friend, who married on Friday, announced three or four years ago that he did not believe in God anymore. Through this, we have found, that we are the only Christian friends he still has, everyone else (from our group of friends and beyond) appears to have bailed out on him. For us it was simple, we love you for who you are, not what you are. Also, we know that he has been kicked in the teeth quite painfully by several churches in the past. He has been used and abused. We wonder if this is really why he no longer goes to church and that maybe the belief in God remains, even if just a tiny amount – he did, after all, get married in a church. He doesn’t like to talk about God and church anymore, and we respect that, so we don’t really know where he is at, but I pray that he finds that love and relationship again one day, if it has been lost. I’m curious to know if it was merely easier for him to say to others that he did not believe anymore, rather than to justify why he didn’t attend church anymore? Maybe one day we’ll know.
I found myself thinking on Friday how sad it was that a group of people who were so close at that time have drifted away into history. We all shared a real passion for Christ, we would pray and worship fervently together. We laughed and cried together. We celebrated together. We were quiet together. We had lots of fun together. We had a community that I have only just managed to touch upon since before it fades away. I miss the times we had together.
When we was in France just over a week ago Jonathan went along to his parents church. I stayed home with the kiddos as we knew they weren’t feeling too enthusiastic about going – I guess I wasn’t either! I think it would be fair to say that Jonathan’s parents are not 100% comfortable with their church, partly I think due to the format and partly to do with the fact that half of it is in French. It has emerging church all over it though, without the leaders even being aware of it. Isn’t that great! What Jonathan experienced was a community of people (maybe about 20 people) who worshipped God is a haphazard way, as the musician’s (note just one man here, not a band!) guitar strings had broken. They sang along to songs unaccompanied, but they were truly worshipping and reaching out to God. Next they each read out a bible verse and then prayed over each other – everyone prayed and everyone received. This was not forced, it was natural. All of this time children are in the same room as the adults, they worshipped, they prayed over others and were prayed for by others. The children went for a walk whilst a short sermon was given, and then fellowship ensued. This is a bilingual church run by a British ex-pat couple, so as I wrote, half of the service is in English, half in French, a good way of inclusion and reaching out.
The couple who lead the church started up a building and maintenance firm a few years ago, through employing people they have led many to Christ, but they also give jobs to new ex-pats trying to find work. They train them up with a new skill so that they can get an income. Again through this many have come to their “church community” and have found Jesus. Jonathan was raving about this church when he got home. Everyone was included. there was a real community hub. The best bit for him was that he didn’t have a notice sheet plonked in his hand, there was no formal “welcome” team or any other program. He doesn’t even know if the church community has a name. The “service”, if you want to call it that, was quite disjointed, but it was real, it was life, it was full of God. Maybe Jonathan will comment more if he has time. He came away feeling really encouraged again though, about what church can be.
I’ve just seen a great post on Glenn Hager’s site called Stating the Obvious. In the post Glenn discusses Rob Bell’s comment that the church is not where you go to change the world. Glenn says that this is because the church is consumed with it’s own needs, and that many of us were sold an unintentional bogus bill of goods when about what it is to follow Christ.
I still get frustrated that some churches are so consumed with their programs that they forget to get outside those doors and be in the community around them. Time and time again I am coming across communities/organisations which are really touching the world, making a difference to peoples lives the way Christ would, yet some of these people are not even aware they are walking in this way, as they are not Christians. They simply see a need and reach out and touch it. This week has been frustrating for us, as the church committee said we were not allowed to take people out of church and disciple them to enable them to be missional within our community, issues with the church hall were more important to them. This poses the question to us as to why we are here, everything we were brought here for seems to have had the door shut. Maybe God has other plans. Maybe we were here for Ben. Pray for us right now, Jonathan is pretty down.
We had a great time last night. We hosted a BBQ at our house for some of our friends from church. Jonathan and I were actually too emotionally and physically drained from the week we’ve just had to really soak up the evening, but it was good. Kids were running around our house and the garden chasing each other, and parents were chilled and relaxed. There was no program, no routine to get through, it was just community. Two of our friends who came are expecting babies within the next three weeks. It was great to rally around them, and continue to support and offer them advice as they prepare to bring new life into the world.
When we host things like this I’m always left thinking about Jesus and the disciples, the way of life they led, the community they must have had. The disciples were centre of something really special, really loving, totally of God, despite some of their gaffs that we read about in the bible, I wonder if they knew?
We had an amazing experience of community today.Â I joined Education Otherwise, a UK based homeschool association a few weeks ago.Â Through this I found out that there is a homeschool group near us which meets once a week for swimming lessons.Â We went along for the first time today (there are still 6 more weeks of school in the UK before summer break).Â People there were really friendly, welcoming and embracing.Â We had a lovely coffee time whilst the children swam.Â After swimming a lot of parents get together and go to the park or on a visit somewhere.Â We couldn’t go today, but maybe next week.Â There was just something about this community which is missing from church.