Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Tale of Two Churches

They started arriving about two o’clock in the afternoon.  Hugs and slaps on the back were exchanged.  Greetings and kisses on the cheek were enjoyed.  They brought cookies and other goodies and shared them freely.  As they settled into chairs and gathered around kitchen counters conversations grew and stories were shared.  Children chased one another as a grandfather broke into their merriment to get a bit of exercise and to show that he still had some energy and fun left in him.  The bar-b-cue was started and the various asadas were grilled to perfection.  Beans were made and salsas completed and tortillas were warmed.  All the cooking and preparation culminated in a fantastic meal set on the island in the kitchen.  Hands were held, a circle formed and prayers arose in thanks to Jesus for supplying this food and our family being together during the Thanksgiving holiday.

As the meal was consumed more stories, both sad and strong were shared.  Gathered around the table were both strong and struggling followers of Christ and one or more who weren’t sure.  As dinner wound down, some took care of the dishes while others lingered telling tales of how Christ was showing up in their lives and how grateful they were for His love.  One share how they were producing a product to sell so that funds could be donated to meet others needs.  The Scriptures were opened and truth was shared and encouragement was received.  There were even a few “aha” moments around the table.  Faith was being renewed in one who was struggling while another had their faith increased. 

After several hours had passed, it was time to part.  With joy and sadness, goodbyes were shared and hugs passed around with grand anticipation towards the next time we were to come together. 

Fast forward a few days…

A handful of pastors gathered together to pray for the Lord to move powerfully in our city.  It is always a sweet time.  One of the pastors was beginning a new church that is full of young people new in their faith.  One of our retired cohorts decided to visit this new work on the previous Sunday and he was sharing his experience.  He was greeted by a few people playing ‘cornhole’ near the entrance.  Hands were shook as he entered the worship area.  The singing was strong and moving.  The preaching was reported to be wonderful and when everything was done, many people lingered to chat.  The retired pastor and his wife left encouraged to see a vibrant work. 

As I pondered these two stories I wondered which one was more like the experiences we read about in the Scriptures?  Both are good.  One is has a more cultural expectation of church.  One has more of a family feel of church.  One had deep relationships, the other had as good of relationships as possible for a Sunday gathering.  One was simple.  One was complex. 

42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.  Acts 2:42-47

Which experience of church is more inviting to you?  Why?
Which experience of church is more likely to penetrate deeper into our culture?  Why?
I would love to hear your thoughts.