Why are we lost?

I rode a bike around for the first time today since I moved here. I've been thinking of buying a bike, but I wanted to know for sure if I would keep to it before wasting my money. I did the same thing with this blog. I opened up a blog and posted to it for about two weeks before announcing to the world that I was blogging. Although in the blogs case I wouldn't be wasting my money but your time, which I still might be doing. Thanks for coming and listening to my ravings.

It looks like I'll have a new morning ritual. No, no. It's not riding my bike. It's getting chased by dogs while riding my bike. I wanted to ride around the country block. However, I'm a weakling and couldn't do it today. I didn't know this, but one of the houses on the country block have a very large, unchained dog, who apparently likes to chase cars and, in my case, bikes. I rode the bike by them, realized I was too tired to go all the way around the country block. I worked up the courage and flew by the house. It was a scary ordeal because there was a stop sign in front of me. This time the big dog turned into two big dogs and I had to stop at the stop sign to wait for traffic while being chased by these loud, barking dogs. I lived and might not go that way again. Life in the country is good.

I think many view the church as I viewed those barking dogs. I got close to their territory and they didn't welcome me in. They actually ran me off, maybe out of enjoyment of the chase or because they were scared of me. I've felt like a man being chased by barking dogs when encountering the church at times. I know people out there have had it much worse than me. Why is that? I'm going to wager that it is because we haven't quite mastered being the family of God.

I'm currently reading Going to the Root by Christian Smith. It is amazing. He has a section on Christian community. I will be stealing a lot of ideas from there in the following.

But first I want to emphasize the importance of Christian community. This is an excerpt from the book.

"Christians can't fully live out the Bible's call without living in community. Thus living in Christian community is not an option a few fanatics might choose. God calls all believers into community."

"Belonging to a church means more than having our names on a list and attending Sunday services. It means being members of an extended family or household (Gal. 6:10; Eph 2:19; Heb 3:6; 1 Pet 4:17) whose ties are stronger than those of our natural families (Luke8:20-21). All believers are called to koinonia, to an experience of deep fellowship, sharing, and communion (Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:3,7; Philem. 6). "

"Believing in Christ does not simply make us new individuals who meet together weekly. It makes us a new race, a new nation. It turns us into the people of God, into citizens of a new kind of city (Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:9-10; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 13:14). It is this collective identity, this experience of fellowship as the family and people of God, which Christian community seeks to express."

"Unfortunately, may churches believe these ideas in the abstract. But because their sturctures and practices obstruct the actual experience of Christian community, they encourage casual and sometimes even shallow relationships. Far too many Christians only see each other a few hours a week on Sunday mornings (and maybe Wednesday evenings)."

Let's look at the good relationships we have in our life.

I bet those relationships are with people we interact with regularly. Imagine a friendship with a co-worker who you only interacted with at largely structured business meetings. You never joked around with them throughout the week or spent time together outside of work. If we expect to have a good relationship with someone, it has to go beyond the structured meeting. You need to see them regularly throughout the week.

One thing I thoroughly enjoy about doing church in a house is that the meeting time seems to count as quality time spent together. In the traditional church you have schedule time outside of church just to get to know one another. In a house church you just spend time outside of church because you want to hang out with one another. It's a completely different experience.

Having good relationships means sharing time together working. We need to realize that we don't have to be in a commune in order to experience community. Not that there is anything wrong with communes; however, most of us don't have a desire to experience communal living. We are where we are supposed to live. We live with whom we are supposed to live. For those of us like this it is important to remember to share time working together and to share our possessions. Healthy families do that and so should the healthy church family.

When we moved down here, my friendship with a high-school friend named Brian really flourished. Brian would come over every Monday and help me work on the house. He was currently unemployed and I had Mondays off, so it worked out well. Then Brian got a job and we hardly see each other any more. Brian and I still have a good friendship; it's just not as active as it once was becaue neither one of us makes the sacrifice that is needed in order for it to continue to flourish. We need to make sure that we make time throughout the week to be together and help one another as our church family.

I think it is a shame that on many Saturdays churches have everyone in their church working on their own houses. If they would do it together and rotate through one another's houses, then they would be able to have community while having their hosues fixed up at the same time. Their houses might even get more fixed up that way. When we work together, we grow together.

"In community, believers gradually relearn how to relate to each other according to the principles of the kingdom of God. They learn, for example, how to really love and serve each other in concrete ways, how to support each other in difficult times. They learn how to admonish and forgive each other for hurts or sins. They learn how to share thier resources, and how together to minister God's mercy and love to broken people in a broken world."

"Gradually, as believers learn these things, their communitites develop distinct ways of life. They acquire particular patterns of social relations visibly different from those practiced by people in the larger world. The community then becomes a new social reality in which the kingdom of God is expressed, not only in the actions and attitudes of its individiuals, but in the culture and social relations of a whole body of people."

"By simply living out concrete, alternative social relaities, informed by an alternative set of spiritual values, Chrisitian communities witness to the breaking of the kingdom of God into history. By simply being the people of God in this way, communities stand as concrete signs that God is indeed transforming this world by his love and mercy."

"Hence, living in Christian community is both a necessary means for pursuing Christian discipleship and the natural result of a body of people shaping their lives according to God's kingdom. Christian community is, in this sense, both the path and the destination for believers."

I think being part of the kingdom of God is an important element of being right with God. If we do that, the world would see a light that would begin to transform it. Until we reach that point, we are just individuals who struggle and get frustrated in trying to live out our Christian life. Most people, including many churchgoers like myself, view the church as a bunch of rabid dogs that are protecting their territory. We need to be a loving kingdom that welcomes everyone into our king's throne room for a taste of his bread and a drink of his wine, not a journey by themselves but alongside us. The kingdom of God should be here among us.

Watch out for the potholes especially when getting chased by rabid dogs.