I love those moments when God pulls back the curtain and I get to see what he has been shifting in my heart. I used to think most change came from hearing a new truth and applying it. I am increasingly discovering that real change comes from a relationship with him that changes the way I think about things, and thus the way I live. I almost recognize change after the fact. Sometimes that comes from being in a familiar circumstance, but finding that I’m not responding in the way I used to because I don’t have the same reactions or emotional triggers I had before. That’s fun!
And, because I’m a writer, sometimes I get to see that when people send me a quote of something they read of mine and I realize that’s not quite the way I think anymore. I had that happen this morning. Someone sent me an email quoting from THE NAKED CHURCH:
Much has been written in the last few decades about the church being an organism and not an organization. We are comfortable with that theology, but the models are hard to find…
They concluded their note with these words, “We continue to pray here for transformation and transformed models.
I had to chuckle when I read that. The one thing most folks don’t know about writing is that it is only a snapshot in time of the thoughts and experiences of the writer. If that writer continues to grow on, he may look back on some of his earlier words and phrasings that make him cringe, thinking he wouldn’t say it quite that way today. I always find that to be true, which is why I usually tinker with one of my books when I reprint them. I want to keep updating them to reflect my current thinking.
By the way, this is a good reason why we’re encouraged to follow Christ, not an author or a book! While either may be helpful to discover things God is doing in us, when we shift our focus from following him to implementing someone’s ideas in a book or even a seminar, we’ll find ourselves losing the vitality of his life in us. You cannot follow Jesus by following someone else’s idea of following Jesus. Hopefully the someone else’s in our life are helping us learn how to follow him.
Anyway, back to the point. Since my last rewrite of THE NAKED CHURCH in 1998, my thoughts have shifted yet again. When I read, ‘the models are hard to find..’ in that quote this morning, I laughed. Wow! I remember being there, in the desperate search for a model that would put this all together. Since, I’ve discovered the search is ill-fated. Jesus did not leave us with a model to implement, but his Spirit to guide us. Finding a model always suggests we’re replicating some THING instead of learning to live in someone.
Now, I’m not looking for models at all! If I wrote that line today, I’d probably say something like this:
“We are comfortable with that theology, and though the models may be impossible to find, examples of people living in the reality of the church are not. They exist all over the world as people who know how to love those God puts before them and to walk in concert with other believers on a similar journey as Jesus connects them.”
While I was praying and seeking for a model, I kept stumbling over people who were simply living the reality that I hungered for. And you know what? None of them were following a model. In fact a lot of them were disconnecting from models they had served fruitlessly most of their lives. And when I stopped looking for models, I found examples of people living in him everywhere!
My whole view of the church had shifted. I no longer see her as weak, corrupted and rare in the world, but strong, growing in purity and in every nook and corner of the world we live in. So perhaps instead of praying for ‘transformed models’, we can simply ask God to open our eyes to those who are simply living in the reality of his church—with a growing trust in the work of the Father and growing connections with others on a similar journey that allow the church to take shape in each locality and in each circumstance as he desires.