Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Deep End

I grew up in the pool. I think my mom had me in the water everyday or in the river. I was swimming by about age 3. I have distinct memories of the middle of our pool. We had an above ground pool. My dad wanted to make it deeper so we dug out the middle of it to make it deeper. It was shallow around the outside, but on the inside, it was about 2 feet deeper. At a good game of marco polo, u always knew where you were when your nose would start to snort water. We also spent a lot of time at our neighbors. They had an in-ground pool with a distinct shallow and deep end. Those were the good ol days, playing in the pool, then eating ice-cream sandwiches and hot dogs. MMMM.

I feel like I'm in the shallow end of a pool of all black water. Something is pulling me to the deep end and I can't see a thing. I can't even see my feet in the shallow end, much less what it will be like in the deep end.

I guess I've said before that I don't really know where I fit in. I don't feel called to be part of "normal church" as we know it. I went to hear a guy speak this weekend and I think it has revolutionized my heart. His name is Wolfgang Simson. He's a German church planter and has been all over the world planting churches and teaching people. His talks blew my mind. The purprose of his message was to get back to authentic worship and the type of church that Acts speaks about. A place where people share, don't gossip, sell things to pay bills, give away life, and eat together. Most of church today does not have a "real" look or feel to it. We go meet at a certain time, get out fill, then leave. Most leave unchanged. The focus of the church has been to get people to church. Pack the place out. And if it gets too big, build a bigger building. The focus is not on taking the church to people. Meaning, believers being trained and discipled, and going out into the world and showing them church. Wolfgang spoke a lot about what it will take to have this real fellowship and to take the church to the world. It's in the form of a house church. A place where people come together, eat real food, eat the Word, sing, confess sins to each other, and grow. The home is a place where you cannot hide your life. It's easy to hide our lives behind a pulpit. The first church I ever spoke at was interesting. I walked in the door and nobody in there knew who I was. It was awesome. They didn't treat me special because I was the guy speaking, they didn't know who I was. For all they knew, I was a stranger come in from the street. I could have been anyone to those people. I could have spoke about things that I do not live. I could share a life that I don't have. The same is true of many pastors. Most members will never share a meal with their pastor, will never see him interact with his family, or will never see how he handles his finances. It's a very personal thing to eat with someone in their home. You can see their dvds, you can see their books, you see how organized their life is. There is no way to hide! How scary! I think it frightens me sometimes if people get too close to my life. Am I scared that they may find something that would cause them to not like me? Who knows. I'm thinking through a lot of these things and just wondering what it will take to reach people like in the book of Acts. Church growth is not adding people from other churches, it's adding new people to the Kingdom. The growth that existed in Acts was new converts. Thousands, daily. Where do you put these people? Could they have built these buildings fast enough? Most of these people went to house churches. The branched off and would come back together and meet as a whole.

What does a house church look like? It's a place where a person or family opens their home to people. They share a meal together, study and read the Word together. And not only read together, but talk about how the words they read are going to change their lives. How is the Bible going to transform me? How is it transforming me? The last thing Wolf said was that they would gather around and pray. They would go in a circle and encourage each other, maybe in something from the Lord, maybe with just a verse, but something to spur one another on. We practiced this at our table in a room of about 50 people. Tables were about 6-7 a piece. The guy who said something to me did not know me. But he spoke directly to me. How could someone do that? I say God. He spoke about something that pertained only to me that day I felt like. A morsel of food God sent to keep me hungry again. Man what a crazy day it was. It feels so good to know when God is at work again. To know that He has not given up on you and He still wants to use you. I still am clueless about so many things, so many things, and so many things. But I do know that God is still God, He's the same one forever and ever.

I am so far behind in what I am to do, but I feel like I have more direction, that's now enough for me. I know the director and he's still moving His hands at the right part of the song. I can wait.

On a side note, Columbia was awesome this weekend and a win over Carolina was good. More importantly was to see Jason's life group in action. It's neat to see a bunch of strangers come together in Jesus' name. They were super awesome and so fun to be around. I really believe God is about to do some really crazy things around the Columbia area that could have implications in other places. I love to see people think radically outside the box about God. The craziest things can happen. I love crazy things.


Laura said...

Another great post! I'm not sure how much feedback you really want but... Justin, you're a great guy and don't have to worry about people judging you. You've always been a great friend and know just how to make each person you're around feel special. You have this automatic trust factor about you that lets people know that you're not a judging person, that you're open to new friends and open to hear people. Just wanted to share that with you. Again, great post!

michael sapp said...

JT. Great thoughts, I think you are leagues above many of us when it comes to what the church is supposed to look like. I know there have been times when the building becomes more than the people. Great insight into the need to return to loving our neighbor through small groups, impact groups, or whatever else allows us the opportunity to share the gospel and our lives. The Message is not, but we all know the methods are fairgame. Pray for you!!

erin said...

i bet you were that kid that peed in the pool huh? it is always encouraging to see God working in you...keep yourself out of the way..it's one of the hardest things to do and keep seeking and letting God refine you. thanks for sharing.

Vanessa said...

I kind of stumbled onto your site but I really enjoyed reading this post. I've had a hard time lately with what the church should be. As well as walking away completely empty from most 3 point, fill in the blanks sermons. I see people coming and only getting to a certain point in their walk and then stay stagnant and complacent. Anyway, I just really enjoyed what you had to say since the same thoughts have crossed my mind alot lately as well.

Jason said...

Incredible post and summary of everything Wolfgang said this weekend and how it touched your life.

I'm currently struggling to grasp the concept of how it's all going to look in the future. Where our group will go? How a split will be? Will it remain Christ-centered? Where will "teaching" come from? I could go on and on....but as much as I question my own understanding of it....I know that God is in control. So it doesn't really matter if I'm prepared for where He will take us or understand the structure of His plan...He is aware of everything and more than prepared for anything.

It's just awesome to see God move all around us and within us. Inspite of us, along with us, in the midst of us...however it is...it's cool to know He's active. Thanks for that post, and I had a blast this weekend.

Cami said...

What an awesome entry. Some challenging things are definitely going on in your heart.

You said that the church today doesn't have a "real" look or feel to it. I've thought alot lately about people being able to be genuine. Why is it that we feel we need to be a certain way, not have struggles, etc. to be accepted. On the flipside, a more introspective thought..what is it about me that makes people feel that they can't be genuine because they feel I won't accept them.

By not being able to be real and open about our own lives we are cheating relationships and our own growth, as well as growth of people around us.

Defintely alot to think about...
A side note...the chapters on love in Blue Like Jazz have great things to say about all this as well...