Growing Persecution of Christians

Persecuted ChurchI have been following the news feed of Christian Today, an organization in the UK. They report the following: 

  • Four churches targeted in attempted firebombings in Indonesia.
  • Pastor beheaded in Tanzania.
  • More than 50 Christians detained in Sudan.
  • India: attack on revival meeting sends Christians underground. 

Reports of this kind attract my attention because of the way we have been doing church for the past twenty-some years, namely in homes or other “off the grid” locations.” Of course, we don’t regard churches that don’t meet that way as somehow inferior, rather we suggest that there is more than one way to live in Christian fellowship. Moreover, in some parts of the world such small, below-the-radar meetings are a necessity. 

With respect to the headlines above, particularly the 4th one, the challenge of living as a Christian village in the world may call us to smaller, less obvious expressions. They have their advantages. When we think of “a church” as a relatively small gathering of, say, 12 to 20, then it doesn’t take much to start one — not much trouble or money. And considering that one Christian preacher has said, “the most effective tool of evangelism under heaven is the planting of new churches,” it very well may be that learning to meet this way is vital, especially if the church faces persecution. 

Fortunately, the Spirit is not intimidated by the seemingly insignificant. Indeed, He has often used persecution to advance the gospel when the church is forced underground. Let’s pray for our brethren who are experiencing threats of harm that they will grow in faith and influence in spite of the circumstances. 

(Also posted at http://tween2worlds.us)

The Community of the Table

Consider…the Lord’s Supper. There is not the slightest doubt that the early Christians celebrated it while sitting (or reclining) around tables. The Eucharist itself was part of a real supper, a full meal, love feast or agape; meal. These were caravaners gathered as the community of the Lord, celebrating that community, and demonstrating community. The service took place while looking in the eye a brother or sister you knew by name (and more than just by name), breaking bread with him or her, and even exchanging the holy kiss.

~Vernard Eller (The Outward Bound)

Love and Risk

Greetings from Sarah and G242! Here is a brief intro for the first of what will hopefully semi-regular reflections on simple church. Jesus is the head of His church and when we submit to Him and to one another, He directs our gathering as He sees fit. It is amazing to see week after week how He weaves themes together and how many of us are in the same spot. While Jesus ministers to the gathering as a whole, He also ministers to us individually. I say that because below is my summary of this week’s gathering. We would all agree on what the theme of the week was, but different pieces strike different people in different ways. It’s part of belonging to the body of Christ! We are both corporate and individual.

Since at least the beginning of summer, the Holy Spirit has been bringing up the theme of belonging. This past Saturday, He built on it, focusing in on love, and what that love produces, in the midst of belonging. What comes when we are secure in our belonging both to God and to one another? Someone shared that she had been reading Hosea this week. How throughout the book, Israel’s (and through that our) turning to other gods is likened to adultery, and she was struck by the raw emotion of that. Then the book ends with the Lord saying that He loves Israel (and us) so much that He will heal the heart that turns away. In His deep love, He won’t merely forgive, but heal the cause.

We also discussed the idea of church membership. That is should come from belonging to one another. That it should be a formalizing of relationship that is already there, rather than a requirement for the beginning of relationship. There were also personal stories of the faithfulness of God and how He worked through obedience to that membership commitment.

In the midst of this reflection on love and belonging to God and belonging to one another, we asked if anyone needed prayer. Someone shared that he was struggling to reconcile the time and energy demands of work, and the callings and passions in his heart. That he felt in a fog and needed direction. Someone shared a story about Mother Theresa. A man had asked her to pray for clarity. She responded that she could not do that, as she had never had clarity. But what she did have was trust, so she would pray for that. We waited on the Holy Spirit for how to pray. A question that came up once we starting praying was, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid of losing everything?”

Later that night, when I was getting ready for bed, I was reflecting on that question. The verse about perfect love casting out fear came to mind. Love was the context for such a dangerous question. We need to be secure in love—God’s love for us and the one another love of the body of Christ. As we grow in trust and learn to rest in love, we can risk to that level. It is really about trusting God and trusting our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are members one of another. The same Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts, and we are His hands and feet tangibly showing that love to each another. The world will know that we are Christians by our love. And when we Christians know that we are loved, we can risk everything, because we know that the one thing we can’t lose is our belonging.

Building community in Jesus

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