First off, I know that my title seems to be missing an al somewhere. Trust me it’s not. I meant a Classic education as opposed to a Classical one.
I’ve been reading some great books lately, not just skimming mind you actually reading them, many come out of Orange. Nieuwhof, Noble, Joiner among others including Manning, McLaren, Belcher Bierly and OBrien, all great authors, all offer differing insights, which is great and all but while each author and each book that I have read and am in the middle of are bringing great new ideas, and struggles, none compares to a classic that has been digging into my spirit in a very different way.
Acts 2:44 (NLT) — 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.
All is a pretty encompassing word, at least as far as I can tell. It means all so when this verse in acts says all the believers I’m going to go on ahead and lump in the leaders of those believers as well. Meaning the apostles, the elders, the teacher, the preachers. All means all.
As a pastor this has different implications, especially when pastoring a church that needs an influx of people, a mix of returning members and new blood would be very welcome. That very need makes the lessons that are pushing deep into my heart while reading this little known classic of Christian literature all the more painful.
The book in question is by Charles M, Sheldon. Most will recognize him as the author of In His Steps, or for those that were around when the bracelet craze of the late 90s and early 00’s took hold the guy that wrote WWJD. Take time to read that one book alone and I can guarantee that no matter what flavor of Christianity you subscribe to, you will be challenged and changed. It’s not an easy concept to master, and is one that I feel is parallel to our walk through this life as a Christ follower, imagine if people would really ask that question… anyway I digress the real issue today is the other book that I am reading by said author. It’s title is The Miracle at Markham, not really easy to find as it’s been out of print for a while. The Nook shop has a poorly rendered microfiche copy, luckily I located a usable pdf file that was a strait up scan from forgotten books. Great difference and the reading is much easier, oh that the lessons being taught were simple to apply.
The idea of the book is that there are so many churches in the town of Markham, each supposed to fulfill the great commission, each cloistered away and preaching to the faithful few. The idea of the churches in the town working toward a common goal, and on a common mission is where this is all going, and it is meeting with resistance. The introduction of the issue that needs changed is of course brought about by those younger men and women who desperately want their faith to be more than church attendance and brand loyalty. They want to see the great commission taken seriously again. They want churches to work toward a common goal. They are turning traditional methods upside down, challenging everything from inter church cooperation, to appropriate clothing choices for clergy, to letting another pastor preach in the pulpit, not from the approved of supply list, but from another tradition all together. We would all do well to read this book, written in the late 1800’s yet completely relevant to the current church climate.
People in leadership have forgotten the great commission, so have Christians, in their desire to be right, they have forgotten that we are all wrong. We all have sinned, we all fall short. In their need to prove or disprove the importance of the gifts of the Spirit, they are forgetting the one who gave those gifts. In the need to stand firm in a belief of how God created, they are forgetting the real challenge is faith THAT He created. Relevance is important, something I strive for, but there are times that in striving for relevance I can overlook people who have always felt God had something to say to them. With each swipe of the screen I am confronted with a glaring question. Would I as the Pastor of a small church that needs to grow be willing to work with and help a church in my city grow? Better yet could I work with that same church to effect change in our neighborhood without either of our congregations seeing any immediate benefit?
The church world today, Christianity today has become such a polarizing place, but for all the wrong reasons. We should be beacons of light to a dark world and to dark souls, sometimes I fear we are so worried about what it looks like or feels like to have the world in all it’s messy, hurting, disgruntled, and disjointed self really enter our place of worship, our sanctuary. If true change happens in a persons life when they come into contact with God, and we are the ones that are supposed to show people who God is, it follows that discomfort will be par for the course. If churches could see beyond their own denominational traditions, if we could all look past what God is supposed to be as prescribed by our own particular interpretation of scripture, and instead focus on his final words, his basic instructions before leaving earth as Burlap to Cashmere so nicely put it. We wouldn’t really have time to argue about non-essentials. I am on a quest in my personal life, and in my ministry life, I want my faith to be distilled, over and over again, until it is something easily seen, not just heard. I want to be able to look at the other churches in our neighborhood, not just as partners but as essential to the fabric of faith in Locust Point.
If we can all see the city through the eyes of Christ, if we can each see the community we work in through the eyes of Christ instead of through the eyes of our denomination we will begin to see the Work of Christ in a new way, an maybe just maybe we will forget about the things that make us different, the things that divide us, and we will be able to accomplish much for the Kingdom of God on this earth.