Church is fantastic - Part 2
No, we're not talking about big super-duper organisations.
Nor about the all-bells-'n'-whistles programmes. Not even well-rehearsed
When we chose the title 'Church is Fantastic', we were
thinking of ordinary believers, scruffy, gumbooted Kiwis. And the impact they
have on the folk around them.
What have they got in common? Believers, of course, like we
said. Apart from that, not much. Unless...
Perhaps we've spotted something. These guys are themselves.
Know what we mean? Let's explain what we don't mean, and maybe you'll
get the picture...
We found ourselves in a church a few thousand kays from here.
Somebody was into human cloning in a big way. Because, apart from variations of
height, width and (whisper the word) sex, all the saints there had been
mass-produced to the same basic pattern. Same clothes, same slightly holy
We'd been given (no kidding) a long printed list of
thou-shalt-nots plus a hymnbook as we entered. Skirt length, hair length,
sleeves and necklines were carefully prescribed or proscribed.
The effect was unnerving.
Look - there's a whole world out there. Sure, sinners are
lost and Hell-deserving. But if there's one thing we've learned in our
combined 130 years marooned on this planet: sinners may be bad, but they're
not stupid. They can smell a set-up at a hundred metres. And they don't want a
bar of it. They know that earnest smiles and firm handshakes are something you
learn at charm school.
They don't want believers who do nice. They want believers
who do real.
That means not being a tight-lipped prude. Nor being one of
the lads. Just being the real you.
If ... you ... dare.
(Know what we mean? We know our hearts; do you know yours?)
And believing (...it's a risky business, believing...) that
the glory of God will twinkle through the cracks in our earthen vessels.
(Read the last seven verses of John 17, then say wow.
That's us, folks. And you. Better believe it - He's coming back to check
progress any time soon. Go on, read it for yourself; this isn't a sermon.)
So, what are we saying?
That believers are at their most effective when they are
simply being ordinary. We're not talking about those whizzbangs who can
remember prooftexts and references. Nice, if you can do it; we can't. We're
talking about folk who remind you of a prune with a hangover, not airbrushed
supermodels. Folk who are rather relieved that God grabbed them, not ladies and
gentlemen doing God a favour.
Warts and all.
Look - if you introduce the great unwashed to Jesus on false
pretences, they're going to spend a lot of time and effort unlearning the junk
that you've put on the package. Don't present the Christian life as a
non-stop parade of happiness and success. It isn't, not in the razzmatazz
sense of an emotional high. Yep, there's miracle and joy and victory - but
sometimes it's kind of deep and serious. Almost a mature, sober business.
Hello? Did we just lose you there?
Being a believer means that you have (not will have; you have)
the same glory that the Father gave Jesus. You have (not will have; you have)
the mind of Christ. Your spirit and the Lord's spirit are (not can be; are)
one and the same. You (not the couch-potato you; the real you) are seated
with Christ in the heavenlies.
'Don't feel like that,' we hear someone grumble.
We're not talking feelings. Feelings are like travelling
salespersons: treat 'em with suspicion. Not feelings. Faith.
Us two, we're not much good at anything. (Hey - except for
being humble, folks! Sorry - that was a joke.) But we've learned to believe
that God's in whatever situation we're in. That's faith. And it works.
And all those goodies - the glory, the mind of Christ, the
one spirit with the Lord - aren't for us to get warm fuzzies over. They're
tools. Or jewels. For the heathens around to catch glimpses of.
Now, none of that is awfully glamorous. (For the eggheads
among you - check on the origins of the word 'glamour'. And shudder.)
But we're trying to write about the radical Church.
Nope, not 'radical' in the sense of violent or protesting or whatever. But
'radical' in the sense of 'the original root meaning'. Like the basic
structure. The bit that God does.
If - perish the thought - the return of the Lord is delayed
for a few more decades, all manner of fancy religious fashions will come and go.
Meanwhile, let's try and remember what are the basics. (Not doctrine;
lifestyle.) And let's not lose sight of them. Because it's mostly been the
basic stuff that has been the material the Holy Sprit has used over the
Sure, there are the Ministry Gifts. Apostles, prophets... you
know the list. D'you know what they're for, though? To equip the saints
for the 'work of the ministry'. So - who are the saints? We are; us two.
And, like it or not - so are you. (If you can't say okay, get born again;
there's no middle ground.)
Therefore 'the work of the ministry' falls on us and you.
Ordinary types. And we're in full-time ministry, same as you. Starts when you
crawl bleary-eyed out of bed, ends when your curly little heads hit the hay.
Every day, with no remission for good behaviour. It's called life.
Living epistles, to be read of all men, said someone. And
remember that there's a whole list somewhere of character profiles that make
up the Fantastic Church: not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble, style
of thing. You see, God plays favourites - He likes the foolish, the weak and the
base. Okay, that's not awfully flattering, but it's a bit of encouragement
to normal folk.
Let's give you an example.
Terry, a mate of ours, has been through a major trauma in his
life and survived. Recently - because of his experience, and rather to his own
surprise - he became a believer. Then...
'I was in Macdonalds and started this conversation with a
dejected-looking character at the next table. Blow me down if he wasn't going
through a re-run of all my troubles. Identical.'
'So I told him, I said, so you can't see any way out. Me
neither while it was all happening. But I'm here and out the other side. So
you can be, too"
Terry must've spent a couple of hours helping the fellow.
'You know, God meant me to be there in Macdonalds. At that
table, at that time. Because all my disasters were a carbon copy of his. And I
saw him straighten up. Change. I'm still new to this business of believing,
and it's pretty awesome, knowing God would organise something with me and him,
just like that.'
What's the phrase?
'In all your ways' - good, bad and middling - 'acknowledge
Him, and He shall direct your paths.'
Church is fantastic.