Something larger, Someone greater

The ad below had been posted prior to the known U.S. virus outbreak.  “C’mon” opportunities such as this one seem off the mark to me anytime, but almost silly to think about in current times:

The shallow goal of “attracting visitors” has always put my soul to sleep.  But what about Christmas and Easter?  Shouldn’t we be capitalizing on the times that people are thinking about Jesus and try to have them visit our churches?  I guess I don’t really put much stock in the permanent effects of Christmas or Easter visits.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t celebrate Easter.  We should, but, in these times, I hope institutional churches can be newly concerned with Jesus and Kingdom over attendance.  Those are so much more important than attracting visitors to add to their coffers, or to bolster institutional and personal egos.

As congregational assemblies change shape, size, and type, we must remember to be church—The Second Incarnation, as authors Rubel Shelly and Randy Harris put it—and then to count every gathering of believers as potentially God-honoring.  We may not be able to offer a stunning, collective “sacrifice of praise” (never have quite comprehended that phrase, sung in “All Things Praise Thee” by Folliott S. Pierpoint, 1835-1917) during this time, but we can still gather in some ways, to some degree, and we can certainly still be His people.  The numbers don’t really matter too much.

And yet they do, to some.  A church in Frisco, Texas has (or had … things are still changing every day or two with the pandemic scenario) a plan for people to drive to their church parking lot, stay in their vehicles, and listen to “church” via FM transmitter.  Said a leader from that church,

“Although no one’s interacting with each other in a drive-in scenario, they can feel that they’re part of a larger community rather than isolated in their homes.”

Being a part of something larger than myself?  Yes, if it’s a good sort of “larger”!  We all will benefit spiritually and emotionally by moving away from self-centeredness and thinking outside our tiny boxes.  A new friend at a church in nearby Missouri wants to have a drive-in event tomorrow, on Easter morning.  The cemetery on that church’s property is to be the exact location of the activity.  The cemetery idea was partly tongue-in-cheek, but actually, if you think about it, there’s a wonderful irony there.  It’s not about the dead; it’s about the living.  (I hear jokes about how stiff churches can be, and maybe also about the “frozen chosen.”)

SPECIAL NOTE The Institute for the Art of Biblical Conversation is hosting a free, special “gathering” tomorrow, about 24 hours from now.  I am personally very invested in this group and am excited for this event’s potential.  Please consider registering and joining in here:

The Organic Church Movements FB group hosts a range of ideologies, but primarily, group members hold values that run counter to “Yellow Pages” religious groups.  I like the following inspiring words that were recently cross-posted in this group.

Church tamed the resurrection, created a yearly ceremony and called it Easter, but Jesus, bodily walking out of the tomb, is so much more!  To proclaim that Jesus is risen, while refusing to be led daily by His living presence, is inconsistent.

Perhaps it’s time to roll the religious stone away from Easter and to interact with the risen Jesus everyday. Church makes remembering Christ’s resurrection an annual event, but biblical Christianity is based on daily interaction with the risen Jesus. – Steve Simms

We are part of something larger than “church” and religious observances.  We are servants of Someone greater.  We have come into the “heavenly assembly” in a spiritual sense, and we also gather physically (how and when we can, for the time being).  Such oddities as vehicle listening and internet “church streaming” may be the rule of the day for now, and these things may provide minor gains.  We must not be overly concerned with membership and attendance, and yet gatherings are important—deeply so.  The institutional mindset would have us think about numbers and organizations and programs.  God is King of something larger than what we can see, but the Kingdom includes people.  The Kingdom mindset rather focuses its loyalty not on fiscal matters but on the King and His reigning among people.

God the Father and God the Son are not residents of buildings.  The shift in ancient Israel from tabernacle to temple is telling; the shift from temple to Jesus as Lord and New Israel is more so.  On my primary blog, I’ve made some comments on “Temple(s).”  Go here to check that out.

I share now two of my grandfather’s prayers, composed for his 1970s worship handbook/textbook.  These words (adapted slightly here) close chapters on the assembly and on the “why” of worship.  They don’t necessarily flow perfectly here, but it is the 111th anniversary of his dear wife’s birth today, and these poetic thoughts do speak to gatherings and our submissive worship of the sovereign God.

O Lord, You are peace and order, and Your thoughts and ways are as much higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the Earth, yet You are intelligible.  We now submerge our will in Your will and pray that we may grow toward the constant practice of resignation to You.  All the peace we know has come from You; we are in constant and hopeless chaos until our spirits commune with Yours. Through whatever means You see to be necessary, even harshness and trials, shatter our willfulness—remake us in harmony with Your own order and unity, and with the cords of Your love, draw us, O God, to You.

Father in heaven, teach us to love to assemble with our fellow Christians. . . .
God of power and of passionate concern for all men kind, give us fellowship with Your concerned servants, and the peace and victory made possible when we join with them in adoration of You.

– Andy T. Ritchie, Jr., Thou Shalt Worship the Lord Thy God, pp. 57 and 42 (adapted)

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