I just returned from an awesome weekend in Sacramento. While I went there to primarily spend time with one group of believers that are wearied of the status quo and seeking a more authentic faith and community, I also got to spend time with people from at least three other groupings of believers that are going through some wonderful transitions as well. I talked with four current or previous ‘pastors.’ I wish those who are ready to write people off who are still trapped in the system, could have been with me to meet people who are taking huge risks personally and corporately to follow what Father has put on their hearts.
One of the themes that kept coming up in personal conversations is how complicated we make the life of Jesus in our day. Jesus gave us something so simple, and we humans build all kinds of structures around it that rob us of its simplicity and power. Instead of freeing people to be dependent on Jesus and trust him to bring it all together our fear that he won’t makes us create complicated systems that weary people in endless strategizing, heated debates and time-consuming maintenance. Part of that has to do with building ministries today by making people dependent on certain models or personalities. While it may make good business sense, it makes lousy kingdom sense. And unfortunately many of those ‘outside-the-box’ continue with the same methods in smaller boxes and the same fragmentation.
I returned home to an email from a brother on the coast in northern France. He said some hard things about Christianity in America, but I do think he hits the nail on the head. I also think what he says is true not only of American Christianity but also other ‘Christianized’ cultures where I’ve traveled. It seems wherever Christianity has dominated the landscape we can get easily lost in the things that divide us rather than in the life of Jesus itself. I found his perspective from a different culture to be incredibly refreshing even though the mirror he holds up for us may make us cringe. In his words, I heard the voice of Jesus and commend them to you:
You may know that France is extremely poor spiritually. 90% of the population is Catholic, 20% of these actually go to mass on Sundays. The second religion here is Islam. Third comes the Protestant churches, most of them are spiritually dead. Most of the pastors are not even born from above. Then comes the Evangelicals (a few thousands), most of them are federated into some religious institutions and have lost touch with spiritual reality. I would imagine that in France (60 million people) there are only a few hundreds truly seeking believers. France is one of the poorest country in the world spiritually, and one of the hardest missionary fields. All the missionaries I have known did not last long here, simply because the French will only listen to the French…
I wanted to say that here we have no time to waste about arguing and bickering, the situation is too grave. I feel that somehow there is something that most American believers miss, and that is the simplicity of being in Christ. Christians makes all sort of things their ground of gathering, but even the (Scriptures) is not the ground of gathering—only Christ is! And this simplifies things to the extreme, it puts man aside, it puts Christ first in all things, and second it puts my brothers and sisters before me. As a fellowship we are trying to maintain the simplicity of the truths as they are found in the Word. We don’t agree on everything – we don’t have to – the main thing is to make sure that Christ has His full place in our individual lives and in us collectively.
I hope that you will not misunderstand me. I am not criticizing what you do, in fact I enjoyed most of I have read on your site, and I do not want to sound too critical about my American brothers and sisters. What I mean is that when I observe what goes on in America spiritually and what goes on here, it would seem that we are on a different planet!
That sounds like a planet I’d like to be on. Living deeply in Christ is not rocket science. We miss it so easily, not because it is too difficult but because it is far simpler than we’ve been allowed to believe. Authentic Christianity in our day is also more rare than we know. If we truly lived like the counter-culture Jesus demonstrated we wouldn’t have time for bickering, wouldn’t have the heart to maintain religious machinery and wouldn’t fragment into small camps of Christians that can only walk with those who see everything the same way we do.
Let Jesus simplify your perception of him and your journey in him. And while you’re at it, pray for the brothers and sisters in France. I’ve been there. His observations fit what I tasted of as well. So many people are lost in the emptiness of religion, and that includes many who claim to be Evangelicals, so that the voice of Jesus is not often heard in the culture. But we probably have no idea how many groups of people just like he walks with are hidden all over the world.