Alan Richardson, St. Louis, MO
Meetings have become the center stage in our understanding of what it is to be a Christian – the focus of our definition in what it means to follow Christ?They define our level of “commitment”. They are the pivot point in our function as believers??.the center of our social lives, whether its meetings in large auditoriums or smaller group meetings in homes. They can be the center of our devotional lives with the bible study or “worship service” being the high point of our Christian week Meetings also provide the center for our financial objectives ( the funding of our auditoriums – “church buildings” – and the staff that perform within them). They also seem to be the focal point for what it means to us to be a Christian because its where we invite our friends saved and unsaved, to meet with God.
And in all of these things lies their danger.
Let me give you a few reasons:
1. A Christianity anchored in meetings as its foundation for or expression of life will become performance based and focused. Performance based in our expectations of what those meetings should achieve, and therefore performance focused in our expectations of the people attending those meetings. That is, we will come to judge people by how they perform, appear to us and seem to act or respond at the meetings.
Along with this, Christian ministry or leadership (servanthood is the proper term) will be judged and rejected or accepted according to our estimation of their performance at the meeting, and we will decide whether or not to join ourselves to them on the basis of that performance (very unbiblical!)
2. We will become introspective. A “meeting focused” Christianity inevitably makes us inward looking as everything is geared to whatever goes on at the meetings.
Ultimately, meetings will become our definition of the Christian life which results in agenda taking priority over relationships – worse, even defining relationships. With that we get into the dreadful and unbiblical separation of believers (clergy/laity) with everything that follows – professional ministry, ambition, finding my identity in things other than Christ alone, using the church as a means of provision, peer pressure, party factions, denominations??.and church becoming something which God never intended for it to be – an institution with a biblical name attached to it.
3. And here, we’re getting to the really critical stuff???.
A meeting based Christianity becomes a hindrance to the cross with the result that I DO NOT FIND LIFE IN THE MEASURE THAT JESUS PLANS FOR ME.
Why or how is it that I miss the cross in a meeting centered Christianity? Because I am constantly seeking to preserve my life as a believer instead of learning what it is to lose it.
4. Last but not least, we become meeting focused instead of Christ focused. Our goal becomes “church” – which again is unbiblical – and we become perpetrators of a third kingdom upon the earth, The Kingdom of Church which is a hindrance to The Kingdom of God and powerless against The Kingdom of This World
Now at this point, some of you are going to pop up and say?”But what about scripture? Doesn’t the bible tell us not to neglect to assemble with one another”? We’ll come to that more in a moment, but let me just say at this point that attaching biblical names or descriptions to what we are doing – even in an attempt to vindicate our activities – does not make them biblical or us a biblical people.
But lets for the moment get to the two most important issues reflected above. Because out of them, everything else will flow anyway.
The CROSS and The LIFE (The Kingdom).
Why would meetings cause us to hide from The Cross and miss The Life?
Lets go back to some of the basic reasons we look for meetings – and I’ll give you three.
To find an identity
To share our life with other believers.
An attempt to respond to what we believe is the legal obligation foisted upon us as believers to attend meetings.
There’s nothing wrong with the 2nd. The problem is, in a performance based environment, that’s not going to happen.
The third point is usually found in the over use and abuse of a scripture by the institution to perpetuate itself.
Much more – much, much more! – could be said concerning both of these points, but that’s not the focus I believe God wants me to take here. Instead, I want to stay with the first point???.the Meeting, or assembly of believers, being the place where I go to find my identity or my place in Christ
“What’s wrong with that?” you say.
I appreciate this should concern all believers, but at this point I’m wanting especially to write to those of you outside the camp of institutional or organizational Christianity. For those there is extra significance here.
God’s work is not just individual. It will also be Corporate.
And we cannot find it without the cross. Just as that is true for the individual man in Christ, so it will be true for the Corporate man.
Because the new thing is LIFE. It is THE Life. It IS Jesus.
If you bypass the cross you cannot find the LIFE as a reality..
Because the cross is the separation point between a life based in fear (death), and a life which is Love (LIFE or what we term eternal life). Between the SELF life and the CHRIST life.
Ok you say – but how do relationships, and finding my identity come into all this?
Firstly relationships are the definition of the corporate. And what our relationships are based upon will define whether God is being able to do his work or whether it is simply a rehashed old way.
And the litmus test is The Life.
Is it His LIFE? (Which can only be found through the death of the cross)
Or is it our Life? (Which is death because it is based in fear – self preservation, and the seeking or holding on to my own identity in things additional to Christ)
First things first.
If you mean business with God, you can’t find your identity in anything but Jesus. That will progressively cost you your life. By that I mean it will cause you to have to lay down your search for identity in ANYTHING other than Him. That includes, meetings, ministry, peer groups, leaders, messages or causes, traditions??anything. ESPECIALLY RELIGIOUS!
That’s the first thing. And if you think that’s hard wait till you get to the 2nd!
The friendships that God desires for us can also only be based in love not fear. But before you rush to volunteer, remember that to find those friendships will mean we are going to have to lose our life.
Put it another way, we will only find those friendships through the cross.
What does this mean from the flip side? It means we will be unable to find LOVE if we are trying to find or preserve our life.