Frank Viola, in his book The Untold Story of the New Testament Church uses a phrase that I love. He says, as each church is started by the apostles and they continue to their next destination, "a community that expresses God's nature is left behind." Another way he says it is "a community that expresses Jesus Christ now exists in Thessalonica" or Derbe, or Lystra...
Many indicators seem to be causing us to believe the Lord Jesus is calling those in our house group to start something new in Martinsville--another "community that expresses God's nature." We are weighing the coincidences and the words, and the impressions, and praying about them. We know there is a lot of work and headaches to starting something new and fresh from the ground up, but also a lot of joy and excitement in seeing people blessed.
We have been praying for confirming words and a knowing in our hearts this is what we are to do. Last week a friend called to say she was excited for us because our pastor had announced in church that the Lord seems to be calling us to a new adventure. As we talked, I mentioned our hesitation because of all that is involved in the process and that we would miss going to the church we've gone to since we moved to Illinois. She made a statement that seemed to go right to my heart. I felt as if God was speaking directly to me. Have you ever had that experience? The statement she made, which every Christian knows but we forget to act on, is that this life is not about sitting in church and being comfortable, but it is about introducing people to Jesus. I think I have gotten too comfortable sitting in church.
One of the things we have been discussing as we seek the Lord's Will in all of this, is that there are over 16,000 people living in this county, and as best we can determine, only about 5,000 are members of a church. That leaves a lot of people who have never heard the gospel in a way that makes them want to be part of the body of Christ.
We are praying that other churches will be excited about the prospect of something new coming to the neighborhood, too. Since our purpose in life is to help other people know Jesus, isn't it exciting to have even more people trying to fulfill this? Our intention would be to reach those who don't already attend a traditional church. We don't want to take people from churches who already are a part of the body.
I have often pondered the reason for so much variety in churches and denominations. It seems to me that just as each of us prefers a particular color, or flowers, or bird, etc. we also have different preferences in the way we worship God. We see Him differently and worship Him accordingly. I believe He is pleased by that. He is a God of creativity, not sameness. Each church or denomination seems to emphasize a different part of Him and relates to Him in that way. That is wonderful! I don't think He is pleased, though, when we begin to get exclusive--thinking ours is the only way. How do we so easily forget who He is when we have all the magnificence of creation to remind us of the diversity and beauty of its creator?
Won't it be wonderful when the body of Christ represented by the various denominations and churches begins to see that we have a common purpose and that we can work together to fulfill that purpose? There is no need for competition. I pray we will begin to work together in harmony and unity to see that "God's will be done and His kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven."
If things progress as it appears they will, I will do a future post with details of the coincidences, words, and direction we have been receiving in the order they have come, so that you can also see how we have come to the conclusion that God is calling us to step out and follow Him wherever that leads.
Please pray for us and for those who will be part of what God is doing. We want it to be said of us that there is a another "community of believers who express God's nature" meeting in Martinsville.
It is an exciting adventure to follow the Lord!