Archive for the ‘God Building His Church’ Category

What Jesus Taught About the Church

Posted on: July 6th, 2016 by Wayne Jacobsen 3 Comments

(Picture above taken from A Man Like No Other. Copyright 2011 and used with permission.)

Our Book Discussion on Finding Church continues at the Lifestream Discuss Forum.  You’re welcome to join us, or just read over our shoulder as we work our way through that book.  Today we are beginning Chapter Four:  What Jesus Taught Us.

Whenever people talk about “the church” all they an think of is the building on the corner or the the Sunday morning meeting and the institution that surrounds it. This idea of “church” arises from planning, organization, budgets, and leadership. This chapter is designed to shatter our images of his church as an institution and begin to see it as the fruit of a kingdom where people are learning to live in the power of self-sacrificing love.

Excerpt:

Our way of organizing congregations in the twenty-first century has little in Scripture to commend it. We spend more time making the Scriptures fit our preconceived view of church, rather than deriving our understanding of church from the Scriptures themselves.

Our view of “church life” today has far more to do with institutional identity, meetings, rituals, ethics, and doctrines than demonstrating what a community of Godly love looks like. From that foundation, it is difficult to find our way into the reality of Christ’s church. Maybe he didn’t talk so much about the church because it was not the means to his end. What if he knew it was simply the fruit of his working and that it takes shape quite easily wherever people learn to follow him?

You can find the forum here.  You can read entries without registering, but to participate in the forum you will need to register.  Grab a cup of coffee, or a cold drink and come join us every week or two and let’s explore the book together.

My Heart for His Church

Posted on: April 26th, 2016 by Wayne Jacobsen 8 Comments

In my opening comments to the brothers and sisters who gathered in London a few weeks ago, I expressed my heart for the church Jesus is building, this incredible bride he is preparing for himself.

For too many years we have tried to build a church for him, and we’ve done it according to the world’s methods and systems for managing power and conforming people’s behaviors. While God has been gracious to make himself known in our childish attempts, the result has been less than satisfying. Most Christians and Christian leaders are too focused on the church, when our focus in this incredible story is to be on the groom and let him shape his bride.

How do we let Jesus build his church, so not only does hell not prevail over it, but also it expresses all that God is in the world? How do we become a community of the beloved and in the loving of others incarnate his reality in the world around us.

For those who are interested here are the first twenty-three minutes of the day we shared together. I don’t know where else I have so clearly expressed my heart for his church and my passion to see her rise in this day with the glory Jesus has for her.

Beginning next week I’m going to facilitate a chapter by chapter book discussion on Finding Church: What If There Really Is Something More? The links will appear here. If you haven’t begun the book yet, now would be time to get a copy.  It is available in hard copy, e-book, and audio book.

Finding The Church Jesus Is Building

Posted on: April 13th, 2016 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

One of the greatest tragedies for the past 2000 years is that we’ve tried to build Jesus’ church for him instead of recognizing the way he is shaping his bride in the world. When we use institutional priorities to maintain or sustain the church we end up disfiguring her and using the term “church” to describe something that is not the church.

During my recent trip to the UK, I was asked by Tim Nash and Dave Ward to join them on their Nomad Podcast. They wanted to discuss my latest book, Finding Church, and came at it with lots of interesting questions people ask who haven’t yet figured out that the church Jesus is building and the one humanity don’t always speak to the same reality. They had some great questions and the engagement was generous and passionate as we discussed the difference between the church Jesus is building and the one humanity has been trying to build for him. I can’t imagine a better summary of how I hope Finding Church encourages and equips other followers of Christ.

The podcast is titled, What Sort of Church Is Jesus Building? You can click on the link at left to stream it or use this one to download. It is an hour and 15 minutes long, and the interview begins at the 6:10 mark.

The Hunger for Real Community

Posted on: March 8th, 2016 by Wayne Jacobsen 3 Comments

These are the Scriptures that make people hungry to see the expression of Jesus’ church on this earth, and why they are not satisfied with our human attempts to create it continue to fall far short of it:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. John 17:20-25

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

Someone sent me those a few days ago telling me that this is what they are looking for. “I have seen many forms of Church but have never found this. Is it possible to find a community of believers who Love Him and Love others and that is their devotion. Do you know of anyone that might have this on their heart or do you know of any churches that this is being lived out.”

Here’s how I responded:

For what it is worth, it is my experience, that no human and no program will fulfill those Scriptures. They describe a work of the Spirit not the work of humanity no matter how well intentioned. I don’t know of any “churches” living this out, but I know pockets of people all over the world who have found their way into that reality and share that kind of life with others. I have many connections that fall into this reality, but none of them would consider themselves a “group.” Instead this is an ever-expanding well of interconnected friendships that do all of those things by gathering sporadically as the Spirit indicates. Sometimes you’ll find pockets of those kinds of relationships in existing congregations, but it is not the congregation that creates it, but the work of the Spirit knitting lives together.

We don’t create it. We can’t create it. It’s what love creates as people learn to love the next person in front of them and watch what comes from that. It’s a lovely process but not one we can control or organize. The more we try the more it seems to elude us.

Finding a Place in the Family

Posted on: March 3rd, 2016 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

Here is a question I get often. I love his hunger and the openness of his question. I thought others might appreciate looking in on our exchange:

I recently graduated from college and started a teaching job at middle school near there. I am having a hard time right now, trying to figure out who I should be walking through life with right now. My closest friends have either graduated and moved away or are about to after this semester. I used to lead a college small group but I would feel awkward continuing going there. So I have been trying out a young adult group.

On top of the transition, I am just feeling resistant to being committed to my local church or really any local church. I’ve read “So You don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore,” “The Shack,” and listened to transitions and the Jesus Lens. I am wanting to be discipled, live life with a family of believers, grow in understanding of the Bible, be apart of furthering His kingdom, yet I am dissatisfied with the structured means by which the church is trying to accomplish those things. Anyway, just looking for any wisdom you have on next steps to finding people to grow in God with, while wrestling with this resistance toward church structure.

My response:

Follow him…. It’s the best counsel ever.

I don’t know what he has for you, where he can connect you with others on this journey, but he does. It may be through a structured congregation or it may not. But if you go to one, go for the relationships ,not the programs. The structure is only helpful to the degree that it helps sustain community. When it subverts it, ignore it. The connections you seek could also come outside of it in some unanticipated way. How are you going to know? Just go an an adventure with him. Wake up each day and ask him to lead you. Follow his nudges wherever that may take you.

Don’t overly spiritualize it. If it feels good in your heart to go to a fellowship, or get involved with a small group, do it. See if what you’re hungering for happens there. If not, see what else he might have before you. As you follow those nudges, love freely the people that cross your path, and follow up on any leads toward others who might be hungering for more of a family connection, it will eventually become clear how Father is tying you into his family. Don’t try to figure out a grand strategy, just follow his leading and eventually it will become apparent how you fit in his family.

But it takes time. So relax (as best you can) in the process as he works his glory in you.

Discovering Life Beyond the Congregation

Posted on: January 21st, 2016 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

I love the email this book generates and hearing stories of how God is freeing them to see his church as so much bigger than our institutionalism can contain.

This is from Joy in Ohio:

Thank you so much for writing this book! I Absolutely love, love, love it!!!! I love the simplicity of how everything is described and explained!! But the best part is that it proves I haven’t been weird, odd and wishing for things that aren’t “real”. This book proves there is something more. I haven’t been kooky all these years!!! So many times what you explain is so refreshing!!! I especially love chapter 10… The Family Way. There are no words to describe what I feel! Many times I’ll be talking or exploring a subject with someone and later go to read the book, only to find you talking/explaining it! Makes me do a happy dance! And them I can’t wait to get back with the person I was exploring with and start the conversation all over again. So I guess I am trying to say is, thank you for all the happy dances!

And this from John:

I was given Finding Church 3 weeks ago and it has taken me that long to read and process it. My wilderness has been 17 years of not fitting in to an organization/local congregation. Upon reading the book, I realize I have been a part of God’s church as I have been in regular contact with two close friends (both pastors who no longer are associated with organized religion either). Thank you for removing my guilt. I have felt so alone except for these people. Strangely, my relationship with the two has grown since reading the book. I can view them as family not just a life buoy to someone so estranged. Thank you. I’m tearing up now.

I’m blessed to hear how my book has opened a view for others into a wider world where they can see that they are already connected to his family and give themselves more freely to it.

Taking Shape In the Neighborhood

Posted on: December 18th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen 1 Comment

When we stop seeing Jesus’ church defined by a building, a meeting, or a program, we begin to see her take shape in the most remarkable ways. One of the joys of publishing Finding Church is that so many people send me stories of how Jesus is building his church in the simplicity of loving people wherever you engage them and watch how his life takes shape among them.

Mike is a friend of mine from Florida, who sent me the following letter used to be a vocational pastor and then for a brief season was part of an attempt to build a house church network. Now he works in sales, coaches basketball and has found the church growing in his own neighborhoods as he was a catalyst for helping neighbors connect and care for each other. A recent tragedy brought all of that into focus.

I have told you a little bit about this neighborhood we live in and how there is a lot of sharing meals and helping each other out. Father has shown me community here. Steve and Diana live just a couple doors down from us. Diana is a firefighter and races motorcycles. Two Sundays ago I received a text from one of my neighbors to come outside. He proceeded to tell me Diana had been killed that morning in a fiery crash. Her and her best friend were on her new Ducati and slammed into a truck pulling out of a driveway.

In the week that followed I have watched this neighborhood act in extraordinary ways. Instantly two neighbors went with Steve to the hospital. We decided to stay back for the time being. I sent a text to one of them, John, asking that he let Steve know we were praying for him and that he (John) and his wife were the right people to be there with Steve. John’s response to me was “I have no clue what to do or what to say”.

My response, “THAT is why you are the right person. There are no words. It’s just about being present.”

He thanked me for the encouragement.

That short text exchange, a bit of discipling? Could it be that simple and organic? Me thinks just maybe it can.

Over the course of the week our neighborhood had dinners together to be with Steve and each another.

John and Tara arranged to go with Steve to make funeral arrangements. (It ended up that the fire dept. took the lead and they didn’t have to go) But they offered and were willing. Perfect. John had a conversation with Diana’s teenage son who didn’t want to go to see his mom’s body at the hospital. John opened his life and shared from his own hurts and regrets and encouraged her son to go. John’s wife Tara said she had never known her husband had these hurts and was amazed to see him show that level of vulnerability. This was NOT her husbands norm or hers for that matter.

At times we would meet out front in the street to discuss logistics of the funeral reception. People pitching in time, money, and overwhelming love for neighbor and one another. On the day of the funeral I counted at least 10 families represented from our small neighborhood. People had taken off work to support their neighbor. One guy came back from North Carolina to be here, having moved north this past spring.

Loving one another. Love for neighbor. Bearing one anthers burdens. Grieving together. I believe Jesus spoke of such things.

Wayne, during this past week I watched gifts, real gifts being shared. Leaders, elders, etc. No titles, no committee meetings, no jockeying for position. It has all been organic and fluid. Seriously one of the most beautiful expressions of church I have seen. The Holy Spirit present in people’s lives who didn’t even recognize it. So beautiful. For the most part these aren’t people who “go to church” although there is one family of that persuasion. Some of these folks would describe God as, “The big guy in the sky.” But yet to deny the presence of Jesus in our midst would be foolish.

I came home one evening and a few neighbors were standing outside talking. When I asked what was going on Tara said her and John would like to talk with Kim and I again sometime soon about some struggles they were facing. We invited them over for dinner a few days later. We had dinner and talked late into the night about the struggles of life, Jesus, church, living in the reality of grace instead of belief systems, and on and on. Numerous times we all had tears in our eyes as we talked about some of the things Jesus said. John had gone to sunday school some as a child but neither one had been raised in religion. They said when their kids were young it was their intent to “do it right and go to church on Sundays but when Sundays came around they always decided to go to the beach or spend time as a family some other way, figuring God was probably ok with it.”

We all hugged. They walked next door and Kim and I looked at each other and just said, “wow, that was awesome.”

So yea, that is just a glimpse. Life is FULL here these days.

‪‬

Church Refugees Is (Finally!) Out

Posted on: June 5th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

churchrefugeesIt seems like I’ve been talking about this book for months. I have, actually. Church Refugees was finally released on Monday and it is an amazing read, even if you have to negotiate some uncomfortable language.
Some will be uncomfortable because it blows up the myth that you have to attend a local church to have a meaningful and and fruitful journey with Jesus and his people. Some pastors have questioned whether this research should even be out there “to confuse believers.” One Christian book chain is not even going to carry it.
Others will be as uncomfortable as I was with the use of terminology. In this book “the church” is only the institutional congregations that gather weekly. Those who don’t attend are refugees, “Dones”, and even worse, de-churched! I don’t consider myself a refugee or de-churched, but I’m called that on every page. While I don’t appreciate how the terminology is distributed in this book, read past it and you will see that the church Josh and Ashleigh are really writing about is far bigger than any or all of ours institutions can contain.
The church is his family growing in the earth and though some of it gathers in institutional settings, a significant part of it is growing outside those walls to great effect.

Not a New Problem

Posted on: May 27th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen 1 Comment

gfoxA friend from New Zealand sent me these quotes from George Fox’s Autobiography, published in 1650. Isn’t it amazing that the same things than plagued Jesus’ family then, still do today? What else could we expect when the priority of the kingdom is lost to humanity’s insatiable need for power and money?

“I was sent of the Lord God of heaven and earth to preach freely, and to bring people off from these outward temples made with hands, which God dwelleth not in; that they might know their bodies to become the temples of God and of Christ; and to draw people off from all their superstitious ceremonies, traditions, and doctrines of men; and from all the world’s hireling teachers, that take tithes and great wages, preaching for hire, and divining for money, whom God and Christ never sent, as themselves confess when they say they have never heard God’s voice nor Christ’s voice.

I exhorted the people to come off all these things, directing them to the Spirit and grace of God in themselves, and to the Light of Jesus in their own hearts; that they might come to know Christ, their free teacher, to bring them salvation and to open the Scriptures to them. I directed them from the darkness to the Light, and to the grace of God, that would teach them, and bring them salvation; to the Spirit of God in their inward parts, which would be a free teacher unto them.

… and when I heard the bell toll to call people together to the steeple-house, it struck at my life, for it was just like a market bell, to gather people together, that the priest might set forth his wares for sale. Oh, the vast sums of money that are gotten by the trade they make of selling Scriptures, and by preaching..”

George Fox: An Autobiography, 1650

I realize not all pastors are mercenary like this, especially in smaller congregations where they really care for people. But so many of our pastor-prenuers have let the money and success control the message, drawing dependency to themselves rather than on Christ.

But almost all of our steeple-houses today could use a fresh reminder that God does not live in buildings made with hands, but in the heart where he can lead and guide us all into his reality

Blown Stereotypes and the Doorway Into a Larger Church

Posted on: May 15th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen 7 Comments

churchrefugeesI love being wrong, especially about things like this.

I had asked if I was willing to meet with some Southern California pastors who had been reading my book Finding Church, and wanted to discuss it along with Church Refugees, and the latest research by Dr. Josh Packard on “The Dones,” those who no longer participate in the traditional congregation but continue on a passionate walk with Jesus and more relational connections with others.

He said he thought he could pull together twenty or so. I told him I would be gloriously surprised if he could find five who were up for that kind of conversation. I know how resistant some pastors groups have been to both the books they wanted to discuss and had spent the day before with a young man whose family became a “Done” about a year ago after an incredibly manipulative confrontation with one of the staff and no one was willing to talk about it in a way that could bring healing. Now he is being vilified by his former pastor and members of his family who still attend that fellowship for leaving. His faith and integrity have both been questioned because they would not submit to “the authority of their leaders”. When he asked the pastor, an old friend, if they could just get together and reconnect, he was told he could only do so at a meeting of all the elders.

So imagine my surprise when the next day I showed up and there were over twenty pastors who wanted to have this conversation. I was also told another fifteen wanted to come, but couldn’t because of scheduling conflicts. I was dumbfounded, not only by their interest, but by their understanding and appreciation for those who felt the need to move on from their congregations even if that means they didn’t join another one. Not a hostile voice was raised in the five hours we were and some of them even hinted they have considered being done with it all, too.

We talked about Jesus’ desire that all of his followers be brought into unity and that love and respect would help put us in that place rather than animosity and suspicion. At one point I was asked, “If we know someone who is done, how would you recommend we interact with them?”

I love the question and had never been asked that before. I suggested that they just love them like a friend. If you loved them before, why wouldn’t you love them now? Treat them as a peer in the faith, interested in their journey, without the agenda to win them back to your own congregation.

When I arrived home I had received an email from one of the men in that meeting. After he left he called one of his former leaders whom he now recognized was a Done and invited he and his wife out for coffee. They did it while I was driving home and the pastor told me they had a great time. They didn’t discuss “church”, but what God was doing in their lives. What a great takeaway from our time! God wants more connection, not less, and we dare not let the walls of our institutions keep us from the engagements that build up his kingdom in the world.

This is what that pastor wrote me the next day, “I greatly appreciate the call that God has on your life. God, through you has spurned me to love more. How do I “love and respect” more? How do I reach out, love and affirm others where they are? I am eager to jump in this conversation at a different level and in whatever way God wants. There is so much healing that God wants to do—including in myself. There is one body under One Kingdom.”

Did you feel the heaven and earth move a little this week? My heart trembled when I read his words. This is the stuff of the kingdom, not flying across continents to do something great for God, but sitting down with a relationship that got separated and putting Jesus at the center of it rather than how we view church.
I love that. If that’s the conversation we end up in, then God’s purposes will be well served.

Bridging the Divide with Love

Posted on: May 8th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen 1 Comment

There are many Christians who believe you have to attend a local, organized congregation to be part of Jesus’ church in the world. There are others whose hunger for “something more” has led them outside those congregations when they felt their passion was being stifled by the conformity-based dynamics any institution needs to survive. The tension between these two groups has always been pronounced. Often the first group condemns the second for bitterness and abandoning the “church”, and the second group accuses the first of being legalistic or trapped in a destructive system.

What’s often at stake, however, are just people hurting from the loss of friendship and proximity. When we lose our need for everyone else to do it the way we do, we can find our way back into the tenderness and love that marks Christ’s church in all it expressions. I love this email I got the other day from Jenny (not her real name) and I loved how fear and threat so easily turned to honesty and affection when a bit of compassion was mixed in:

I didn’t realize how the life I live is centered on self reliance. I am beginning to identify more clearly how destructive this behavior has been. It has limited me in experiencing God’s love for me.

I received an email from a woman that I had participated with in ministry. I wrote her back. She called a couple of weeks later. We had an enjoyable conversation. She invited me to lunch and I joyfully accepted. There was nothing in the dialog over the phone that would have prepared me for what I encountered that afternoon over lunch. About 30 seconds into our conversation the condemnation began. Initially, I wanted to bite and momentarily imagined one sarcastic verbal blow that would render her speechless! That is until I noticed someone very familiar in the woman I was listening to sitting across the table from me. I heard myself.

What astonished me was my response. It was as if I had imaginary tape over my mouth. I was silent when the accusations didn’t fit. I nodded and quietly said, “I know” when she seemed right on target. Within a few minutes of listening to her I recognized I not only had the capacity to confront someone in that manner, but had done so more times than I would like to admit. I could dress it up to appear honorable, smile and sound caring, but it was disapproval nonetheless with the intent to control another human being. Unexpectedly the climate seemed to change, she admitted that she missed me. When the tape came off, the me I least expected responded. I told her I was sad that my not being in the congregation was hurting her. She expressed fear that I would get lost on my journey. I reassured her if I’m lost HE will find me. She said she didn’t want me to leave the church. I assured her that I remained part of the church. I shared with her how grateful I am for all I have learned while serving within the congregation including our friendship. I told her I loved her and felt it deeply.

I have experienced sorrow since then. The kind of sorrow that comes with repentance. I trust that God is changing me and it will take time. I have spent most of my life working toward making positive changes. Self reliance and introspection can be grueling work. My need to control actually escalated in that process, but I didn’t see it. I simply masked my controlling behavior more creatively. I had become self-centered under the guise of sacrificial love. It has helped relaxing in his love. My anxiety is decreasing. I feared I would become irresponsible if I relaxed, but actually the opposite appears to be happening. I am more observant to what God has right in front of me. I am beginning to experience adventure with the heart of a child in the process. I like that.

Don’t you love the self-discovery that rose out of a situation where loving each other was more important than getting the other person to see their point of view. What could have ended in more pain and anger actually found its way into a generous conversation and a reconnection of friends. When we give up our imagined right to control another human being, we can find our way back to friendship and connection.

We need more of that across these issues that divide us. That’s especially true of how we view church and how we engage it, whether it is inside institutional forms or outside of them in more relational connections. That’s why Jesus told us if we could just love others in the same way we are loved by him the whole world will know that wee belong to him. Without that kind of love the church has no presence in the world.

The Church Rising

Posted on: February 5th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen 5 Comments

bridedancethmbFinding Church invites us all to recognize the church Jesus has been building for two thousand years, even beyond the failed attempts of humanity to do it for him. This church is his wisdom, spoken into the world. The way God frees humanity to live in his affection and then how that love flows to others with great grace and joy provides a profound example of the truth and reality of God. Sadly, that process gets lost in all our human activity to do for God what he simply wants to give to us. A friend from England sent me the following words that came out of a time of reading Jeremiah and captures by the phrase, “This is what the Lord says.” She began to see how a vibrant church is his way of speaking to the world. I hope you are inspired by her words like I was:

The Church Rising
By Anne McGowan

This is what the Lord says:
This, the church,
She the bride, glorious without spot or wrinkle.
Beautiful.
Born out of brokenness, out of grief
Bearing in her body the sufferings of her Beloved
Full of Joy and Hope and Glory.

She has been quiet, unseen, her beauty hidden
Behind steeples and bells,
Behind long winded words and hell fire with brimstone
Behind false shepherds and false gospels
Behind strange fire and witchcraft
Behind well intentioned but shackling care and control

It’s been a long time but now
He is calling her forth
He is saying her name,
You hear it, like a whisper on the wind,
It echoes in your dreams,
She is the this, She is what the Lord is saying.

In every moment he is sounding her name
Until every rock and tree
Lamb and lion shake with the sound.
For this has been their groaning, for so long
And she is rising,
Shaking off the dust and mothballs of her fear induced coma.
She is his Beloved and He is hers.
To her he makes known the unfathomable riches that are in Him.
Through her he makes known the manifold wisdom of God
To all those who sought to keep her hidden, quiet and afraid.

Can you Hear your name,
Beloved?
Hear Your Name
for you are She

More People than Meetings

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

openwindowThe best conversations I’ve had with people who’ve been reading FINDING CHURCH is when God has allowed them to get a glimpse of a wider world than they were previously seeing. I love that. We tend to subtly alter the passions God has given us for substitutes that don’t provide the same reality. God is at work in us all the time, but because it doesn’t fit neatly into the boxes we’ve been trained to respect, we often miss it. Here’s an exchange I had this week as someone as God was sharpening their focus on the things he cares most about:

Now almost 40 years later I have found myself withering in the institutional meetings and longing for home meetings again—and pressing my husband to do something! But he hasn’t sensed any leading from the Lord, and he’s learned not to do an Ishmael-thing (by forcing his own efforts). So as I’ve struggled the past four years the Lord showed me that the “meeting” wasn’t the answer, I began to ask him to teach me his ways. It has been very much as you described in your book! I can’t tell you how many times over the past 2 years after I’ve felt particularly low and alone and telling the Lord how much I miss him in his Body, that he has provided true Christian fellowship – church – in unexpected ways.

For example, I couldn’t find anyone to go with me to an artist reception in a close town, so I sadly went alone – only to find that the artist who is from Hong Kong, is a believer, and we enjoyed a time of sweet fellowship. I drove home crying and thanking the Lord! I teach English for free, and one of my students has come to the Lord. There are times when we pray or share, and I have again enjoyed his church. The widow across the street, I discovered, sits in her house and reads her Bible. She said she doesn’t go to church because the people are unloving. We have been meeting on Monday mornings to study the Bible together. She told my next door neighbor, and that lady prayed to surrender to the Lord in my living room. I don’t personally get a whole lot out of my little neighborhood study, but I have realized that this gathering too is his church.

I think that your book confirmed that we are where the Lord wants us, though I still wish we had “meetings!” Not meetings like we have today that are so programmed, but free Holy Spirit led meetings. Yet as you wrote, this too would become stagnant after a while. So I had to laugh, as much as I disagree with not having set meetings, I see that the Lord has brought us to a kind of fluid church exactly as you described!

My response: And I’m not as opposed to regular meetings as you might think. Where they facilitate what God is doing in a given area and stay true to him they can be quite effective. It’s just not what God is asking of us in this season. But we’ve never been lonely either. God has provided his connection to the family wherever we have been and like you have had some of the most serendipitous contacts when we least expected them. It has given us a fuller appreciation for his body than we ever knew attending the same meetings every week with the same people. Now we gather with his body all the time in the sense that our lives are known and the conversations of life go on throughout the week in ways we find exhilarating. It’s the best of a functional extended family where people share, help, encourage, serve, care, edify, admonish each other with joy…

Thanks for answering my questions. I find it so wonderful – yet perplexing! Through the struggle to find His church I sense His leading through it all. I wanted to share that the morning after I had finished reading your book and had written you, I was talking to the Lord as I have for the past six years since we left the congregation and saying, “Lord You’re the one who gave me this desire for Christian meetings…”

But this time He gave me a gentle correction: It wasn’t for meetings, but for My people.

Sigh.

Now I understand how His desire He placed in me for His people, had gradually morphed into a desire for meetings. Your book was His instrument to get me back on track. You have greatly helped me in giving language to communicate what He has been up to in our life.

When our focus shifts from finding a meeting to attend to loving the people God puts before you each day, we’ll find ourselves connecting in wonderful ways to the church God is building in your corner of the world. That doesn’t mean we can’t love people we go to meetings with, it’s just that in time the attending the meeting becomes more important than loving the people, almost always. I find now that my conversations with people and exploring life together with prayer, service, discovery, and love fulfill every desire I had for his church in the world and fulfills all the Scriptures about what his body is living in the world.

Ashley’s Amazing Day in Rio

Posted on: January 5th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

bridedancethmbThe church of Jesus Christ is not a meeting to attend, but a worldwide family you belong to, and God can give expression to her however and whenever he desires.  Ashley wrote me last week to share her experience of how easily God can do that, even when we’re not expecting it:

God has used your writings and podcast to help me find the real him for the last year and bit. After 20 years of church filled with rules, regulations, and guilt the freedom I have found in his truth and life is more than I can say. I am writing to share how Yahweh used your book to connect New Zealand to Brazil. A kiwi by birth, I am currently in Rio de Janeiro.

Yesterday we did a tour of Rio with a guide I found on TripAdvisor. We start driving and asks about us our lives, if we have children etc. We ask the same questions back and he says he has a daughter who is nearly two but not talking and he is a little worried, now at this point I get a little vibe because I am a speech pathologist by profession but we just keep going with the conversation.

Then we are driving around and he asks us what religion we are, I say my husband is Muslim and I am Christian. He looks at me sideways while driving and asks if I am Catholic or Protestant. Knowing that this is a strongly Catholic county I am wary but tell him I am Protestant. He smiles and says he is too. Asks what denomination I am, I say Baptist but not freaky full on Baptist, he just laughs and says he goes to a Protestant fellowship in the city. End of conversation.

We go see the big Jesus statue, walk around, chat generally and then walk back to the car. He begins to talk again about God and how things are changing for him, he has read a lot of books and my husband laughed and said “Ashley has been doing exactly the same”. He then goes on to tell me that he had just finished a book that has changed how he feels about church, so I ask, “It’s not by Wayne Jacobsen is it?” He says yes and I swear I could have fallen over. I tell him that’s the same guy who God used to start my journey to finding the real him and I had read the same book.

We start laughing and hugging and exchanging thoughts on grace and freedom and how much bigger God is than we ever imagined, his love and compassion and how he plans and organises things we couldn’t have done ourselves. He fills me in on how he has felt like the odd one out as although his church is supportive they have told him that he is always the one looking the opposite direction from everyone else.

We talk like that for about half an hour as we tour the city, with my husband laughing and saying, “that’s exactly what Ashley has been saying.” He fills us in on how he sees God now, how his life has changed. It’s nothing short of magical. He is encouraged to know he’s not alone, that his family is even in New Zealand, he encourages me to stay strong and keep going in the faith and this journey. We both feel part of something so huge and wonderful its ridiculous.

Then (after checking with my husband and find he’s happy for me to offer) I tell him what I do for a living, that I help children and families who have trouble talking and I would be happy to meet his little one and assess her and give them some tips if I can be any help. He immediately calls his wife and she is hesitant as she is busy getting ready for New Year’s Eve but agrees. So after our last tourist stop we travel across the city to the real Rio, to an apartment block where I meet his wife and beautiful daughter. I assess her and we discuss strategies and write down recommendations.

Then we all bundle back into the car and I get to have cuddles with little one while Mum and dad chat away in Portuguese in the front. After a while our guide says he must tell me what his wife was saying. She said she knows that God knows her and her worries and answers the prayers she doesn’t even pray. She has been very worried for her little one and knows that God organised for me to come to help them.  We talk more about how much we are loved, how God works out these amazing things half way across the world. Generally just share the joy of the miracle.

So thank you for your books, podcasts, and generally just pointing to say for others to find a Father who’s love reaches across oceans. Keep it up!

Yes, it is an amazing day filled with grace and connection. But look at the courage it took for the driver to engage a conversation about “religion,” and for the couple to answer honestly. Look at how Ashley and her husband continue the conversation rather than just stay to their “tourist activities.”  Then look at the generosity that Ashley and her husband offer to help with their young daughter. Yes, God does some extraordinary things but it is not without people taking part—risking the conversations, pursuing the subjects of faith, and caring for each other even when the day had a different agenda.  I love how God connects this family around the world, whether it is for long-term friendships, or just for one amazing day!