Thoughts from T.B.

Combs, Eric and I went to Walmart for some last minute supplies, and then hit up Taco Bell for some late night goodness. While we were there, we noticed a couple of families, or at least family groups in line behind us. Eric started thinking about how these people represented so many in Marion…the poorest and neediest of our community. Seeing these people started in his mind the questioning of what exactly we’re doing as far as ministry. We started questioning first of all our own involvement, and secondly the involvement of our college in the community. 2500 college students who for 8 months of the year inhabit this town and effectively constitute one-tenth of its population. Yet aside from one chapel a year where they give out some numbers of ways to get involved, we do nothing. We sit here on our butts playing video games, or drinking coffee, or even doing homework. And it’s not that any of those things are bad, and homework is even necessary. But what impact do we have in the community? Little. Do we have some? Yes. But for a collective of 2500 people, not that much.
Somehow the conversation ended up leading to emerging worship, and a severe questioning of what we’re doing in church. I myself have been struggling a lot lately with the way we worship in general. Of course, I feel it is very important, and in fact the reason we were created, that we worship God. But I question so much the way we worship. Churches every year spend millions upon millions of dollars on technology for worship, but what do we gain from it? What is so important about singing hymns or praise choruses that it demands more effort and money than other ways we can worship, such as working with inner-city youth, or unwed mothers, or needy families? In the church of the 1st century, you wouldn’t have found a building where they had church. Yes, there were Jewish synagogues, but certainly no Christian churches. People met in houses, and their worship was an intimate gathering of friends, who are all fellow belivers. They shared meals together, shared communion together, and shared their worship and learning together in a small, tightly woven group. Yes, they also functioned in a larger corporate setting, as all the house churches in a town would be considered one church of a city, but the main focus was on the close intimacy that lends itself to accountability and discipleship.
I’ve come to realize this year that my group of friends, particularly the people who are in Chorale with me, in many ways act as my church body. True, I go to College Church on Sundays, but I get very lttle fellowship there, the fellowship I get is with my group of friends, and that is a great thing for me. So tonight, we began to talk about the possibility of experiencing this model of church in a personal way. While it’s still in the works, we are looking at once a week having house church, where after Chorale we would all gather for dinner, and then ave communion, and then have a time of worship and discipleship. The more we thought about it, the more excited we got, and I just wanted to share that with you, as it is still running through my mind. I also want to share with you a letter that has been challenging me recently. This letter was written circa AD 120, when the church had been established for 50 or 60 years. It is from Aristides to King Hadrian. To be honest, I don’t know who either of these men are, but it doesn’t really matter. The letter speaks for itself.

“Now the Christians, O King, by going about and seeking have found the truth. For they know and trust in God, the maker of heaven and earth, who has no fellow. From Him they received those commandments which they have engraved on ther minds, and which they observe in the hope and expectation to come.
For this reason they do not commit adultery or immorality, they do not bear flase witness, or embezzle, nor do they covet what is not theirs. They honor their father and mother, and do good to those who are their neighbors. Whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols made in the image of man. Whatever they do not wish others should do for them, they in turn do not do; and they do not eat the food sacrificed to idols.
Those who opress them they exhort and make them their friends. They do good to their enemies. Their wives, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest. Their men abstain from all unlawful sexual contact and from impurity, in the hope of recompense that is to come in another world.
As for their bondmen, and their children, if there are any, they persuade them to become Christians; and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction.
They refuse to worship strange gods; and they go their own way in all humility and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them. They love one another; the widow’s needs are not ignored, and they rescue the orphan from the person who does him violence. He who has gives to him who has not, ungrudgingly and without boasting. When the Christians find a stranger, they bring him to their homes and rejoice over him as a true brother. They do not call brothers those who are bound by blood ties alone, but hose who are brethren after the Spirit of God.
When one of their poor passes away from the world, each provides for his burial according to his ability. If they hear of any of their number who are imprisoned or oppressed for the name of the Messiah, they all provide for his needs, and if it possible to redeem him, they set him free.
If they find poverty in their midst, and they do not have a spare food, they fast two or three days in order that the needy might be supplied with the necessities. They observe scrupulously the commandments of their Messiah, living honestly and soberly as the Lord their god ordered them. Every morning and every hour they praise and thank God for his goodness to them; and for their food and drink they offer thanksgiving.
If any righteous person of their number passes away from the world, they rejoice and thank God, and escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby. When a child is born to one of them, they praise God. If it dies in infancy, they thank God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. But if one of them dies in his iniquity or in his sins, they wouldgrieve bitterly and sorrow as over one who is about to meet his doom.
Such, O King, is the commandment given to the Christians, and such is their conduct.”

Wow. How do we stack up today?

Just so you know, I am leaving for Florida and spring break in about 2.5 hours. I have decided not to take my laptop with me, so I don’t know how much posting I’ll be able to do. Just post your thoughts anyways, and I’ll update you when I can.

By the time you read this, I’ll be in Florida.