Recently we enjoyed several days of deep challenge and refreshment.
We attended the annual CGi “MORE” conference in Chelmsford and the next day we went with Josh to St Peter's church in Vauxhall, London.
Both places of faith had very different styles of function and we were strengthened by seeing God in both places. One gathering was a relaxed but intense and a powerful time of worship with prophetic words, healing, prayer and good teaching running throughout. The other was full of liturgy and with a sung Eucharist. It was great to see that both had streams of God's grace running through them. We saw people in both places being impacted by God and in both communities broken people were experiencing the love of Christ.
Linsey and I are constantly reminded that when God looks at a city, a country or this planet God sees only one “church”.
That “church” consists of people who are humbly committed to following and living out the teachings of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
They are people who have their hearts set on God and who try to live out, as best they can and with help from others, the reality of the love of Christ. In our humanity, we have different ways of expressing our faith and worship but as Linsey pointed out from the CEB version of the New Testament “God’s purpose is now to show the rulers and powers in the heavens the many different varieties of his wisdom through the church.” The New International Version of the book of Ephesians says in chapter 3 “through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” or in the Classic Amplified version “[The purpose is] that through the church the complicated, many-sided wisdom of God in all its infinite variety and innumerable aspects might now be made known to the angelic rulers and authorities (principalities and powers) in the heavenly sphere.”
My journey has been one where I have interacted with a wide variety of Christ followers who expressed their love, action and worship in very different ways.
I discovered the life of Jesus through a Brethren based community in South Wales.
I had my eyes opened to the reality of the kingdom of God by people in small churches in the jungles of South India.
My insights were expanded through interning in Anglican and Congregational faith communities.
My understanding deepened through working with people who were from the Evangelical, Baptists and Charismatic expressions of faith.
I became more aware of the integrated impact of the kingdom of God and the love of Christ through setting up alternative urban churches with marginalised people.
And I saw the healing and renewal of hurt people through the active engagement of humble multi-denominational Christ followers.
Through these multi-faceted images of diversity and expressions of faith in Christ,(God) showed me that through being interdependent and interrelated we get to see a fuller image of Christ and God’s kingdom.
I am so thankful that like jigsaw pieces connected together we are all part of illustrating a deeper and richer image of Jesus Christ.
I read that Christ entered this world to bring freedom, healing and shalom to people and communities on earth. His mandate and the mandate for all who are followers of the way is to “to proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
It is, therefore, with sadness that I read in a recent survey report that “Religion (In this survey this included Christianity) scored poorly as a force for creating a feeling of community among EU citizens (7% in the UK, 8% in the EU)” (see http://www.brin.ac.uk under Importance of Religion).
It appears there are many challenges.
It is, however, with faith I have confidence that when the multi-faceted communities of Christ humbly work together there can be an outpouring of the presence and fruit of God’s Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, goodness & faithfulness - to a degree that is not possible when we only work on our own.