It’s always a wonderful reminder for me to spend some time among some people who meet in a conventional setting and yet live the life of the kingdom. I’ve been with my dad and mom over the last week helping them through my Dad’s open-heart surgery and some of his recovery. (He is doing incredibly well, by the way and it was a real blessing to see him get back his sense of humor and a lot of his strength before Sara and I had to head home.)
They are part of a more traditional congregation at least in the forms they use. That group of believers is almost a fourth of the population of the mountain community in which they reside. Though they do a lot of things in conventional ways, including Sunday services and vacation Bible schools, I love most the relational life they share together. During their Sunday gatherings they provide plenty of open time for people to share what they are learning, where they need prayer and how God has moved in their lives.
What I like most is how much they care for each other all week long. When my dad had surgery there must have been 25 people in the waiting room with my mom. Throughout the week they continued to show up at the hospital and at their home offering whatever assistance we needed. These weren’t people assigned to ‘hospital visitation’, but those with whom my parents have become good friends since moving to the area 12 years ago. Watching my parents brighten up whenever someone came through the door was demonstration enough of the relationships they share.
The congregation has a heart that goes far beyond their own program or needs. When a local child needed a special restroom the local school district had no funds to provide, instead of suing the district they got together and built the restroom for them. The man they call their pastor is unconventional to say the least. He was a construction contractor among that fellowship before he agreed to take his present task. He’s not on any kind of power trip, except to see God’s power change lives. He doesn’t lord over people, but serves them with all God has given him. Little of his time goes to maintaining the institutional machine. During the week you’re more likely to find him serving the community by intervening in the practical needs of others, most of which don’t attend the congregation and aren’t even believers yet. He’ll crawl into just about any situation with anyone and see what God will do to touch people. And he is a blessing to the wider body of Christ. Over the past few months he has helped crisis pregnancy centers throughout California get fitted with MRI equipment.
Whether they are walking together through a medical crisis, intervening with an alcoholic, sending people and money to help build up the church in an impoverished city in Mexico or serving each other or their community in some other practical way, they continually demonstrate the heart of Jesus by serving those in need and loving the people God puts in their path. For those of us who enjoy more relational forms of church life, it is good to remember that God shows up in all kinds of places. He is far less concerned with the form we use than whether or not we reflect his heart for others. I know many home groups that could learn a lot from their outward focus and willingness to serve others, as God would give them away without thinking what’s in it for them. Now that’s body life! And whether you find it in a group like this or with two or three over a cup of coffee, it’s worth celebrating. Unfortunately, it’s all too rare these days!