Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds? Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness? O Lord, I cry out to you. I will keep on pleading day by day. O Lord, why do you reject me? Why do you turn your face from me? – Psalm 88
We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. – 1 John 1
Over the past months and even years, there have been some incredibly dark times; as we look to go into the world and make disciples, to build a different sort of community, we have at times felt so lonely. Perhaps our writings portray something different? I hope not. At times, the darkness has been overwhelming. Recently especially, we have felt attack. The enemy is very real.
I don’t want to malign any church, but it would have been easy at times to walk into a ready made ‘fellowship’ and commit to the programmes on offer. But is that what we are called to do? We don’t believe so. For anyone pioneering disciple making and ultimately church planting, I would suggest that it can take years of seemingly fumbling around in the dark, wondering which way to go, how to structure things, where to find the support? Are we sure we heard the Lord correctly (let’s ask him one more time, just in case).
The times where people have wandered into our fellowship, speaking of the desire to do something different, out of the ordinary have been numerous. They are tired of church, how their church looks so different to the church in the Acts. But we have no building, no pastor, no sermon, only occasional music and a desire to be intimate and all share the load. We try to be a kingdom of priests here on earth, each one of us. We expect our everyday lives to reflect our beliefs, and give each other permission to speak into each others lives. While Sunday is a special day, we try to meet throughout the week, and on Sunday, our ‘service’ might last most of the day, with a good part of it spent on the streets and in the neighbourhood talking to people about Jesus. We take Jesus’ final words, ‘go into the world and make disciples’ quite literally.
Needless to say, most have not stayed and have moved on. Many move back to church. On the odd occasion, we have even asked some to leave.
Read through the Acts and Paul’s letters carefully, and you may realise that the description of the early church seems more like a family than a service, where people interacted with Jesus and each other, moment by moment. If it’s anything like ours, it will be messy, disorganised and spontaneous. We spend time looking across from one another, rather than at the back of each other’s heads; everyone has an equal voice, an opportunity to share what the Lord has been saying, and what they in turn have been saying to others. The question, “who are you speaking to about our Lord this week?” is a common one you will hear. There is expectation, even a demand perhaps. How are we obeying?
For some, this is too much. On the odd occasion, when we have had no interest from those we talk to on the streets, and nobody has turned up to a gathering, life has been very bleak. Darkness is not far away. Is this really what God wants us to do? Have we been disobedient? Loneliness.
We say this to those reading, wondering whether it will be worth trying something different, or for those who have tried or are trying to move into the realm of making disciples and feeling they are getting nowhere. Is this what it is meant to be? The truth is perhaps yes it may be.
Yet pursuing Christ is not an exercise in darkness, but an activity filled with light. Take last week as just an example. In our small group, we had children and older people mixing together throughout the morning. We prayed into each other lives, beginning to confess to each other some of our fears, hurts and joys. As we talked, we stopped throughout to pray, to invite Jesus then and there to speak and move on the issues as they came up. We celebrated and prayed specifically for those each of us were ministering to in the world. We discussed when we would meet, and asked for continual prayer. We celebrated communion, along with Christ.
Later we went through a ‘Discovery Bible Study’; we read a small passage, seeing what the Holy Spirit says as he leads us together through the passage. Is there something to share, to obey? What does the passage tell us of God, or of man? What questions do we have, what pierces our heart? Then, at the end, a challenge – who will we share this with this week?
Some left us at this point, while others of us had a brief lunch before we headed for the streets for the afternoon. There we spoke at length with a young Muslim man about Christ, convicted by the Holy Spirit to continue on, even when we felt the urge to stop. In the end, we prayed for the Lord to open his eyes, after we had explained the Gospel. Others spoke with a woman, and brought her up to the step of turning towards Christ, before we decided it was better to meet with her again later this week. We pray she will be available as we spoke to many others as well.
This is our Sunday, our church – a family of believers, living and sharing together, and moving out into the world filled with the Spirit with “God making his appeal through us.” It is the Light breaking into the ‘sometime darkness.’
We hope to share more of the real life we have over the coming weeks, but let us be truthful as well. There are times when we feel isolated, when God seems to have deserted us, surely as Christ must have felt often. Yet there are times of indescribable joy, when we get a glimpse that we are moving, walking, right where God wants us to be.
It doesn’t get any better. We are learning to be content.