This last week in class the speaker (Dan Shannon) spent a few hours teaching us (a bit of) what he knows about “simple church planting.” He worked for a few years with a man named Floyd McClung in South Africa with an organization called All Nations. Considering that I have only heard the most basic teaching about this stuff, I feel intimidated to retell it on the world wide web, but I want to at least process a bit of these running thoughts in my head….
Dan started by saying that Jesus never gave us a model for church. If you’ve been to more than one church you might be surprised to find out that the way that church goes about its business is not based on strict mandates about when to give announcements, when to stand up and sing together or how to give a good sermon that won’t make people fall asleep (if we followed the apostle’s ‘model’ we might have all night sermons).
There are absolutely timeless truths to be found throughout the Bible concerning relating to God and each other, but it doesn’t have to look exactly like the Christianity of our parents. Dan said that the basic ingredients for church were these, “A community of people committed to three loves: loving God, loving each other and loving the lost.”
I think what most struck me about all of that (and some stuff he told me personally about how to teach in other cultures) was this idea of bringing the Gospel to people in a culturally neutral way which would allow them to see the truth and own it for themselves. I know so many Christians now who had to spend years dismantling their own religion to get to God. For myself much of that dismantling had to do with how I read the Bible- was it a self-help book written to make me a better person or is it a history book written to help us know our creator? It was the latter that I wanted to somehow get at without knowing the way.
In college I read one and a half books which intrigued me in the area of cultural neutrality. Bruchko and Christ of the Indian Road. I only read part of the second book, but what I took from what I read of both was the idea that since God created all things, he put his image within all cultures and peoples. Because of that reality, it seemed vital to me to discover God outside of my own culture, the tangible personality of him. Like others in my generation, I have asked a lot of questions like, “Why do we do it this way?”… “Is God really like that?”…”Does what I’m doing even make sense?”
I don’t claim to have great understanding, but what I do have is a deep longing to know the real God and to help others really know him, too. My mom told me that it was just last Sunday in church that she finally really understood that God loves her. What is going on with church that she could go for over 35 years and just now have it sink in? I am not throwing stones here, but rattling the rafters of this ceiling we put between God and ourselves.
I don’t want to know how to be a good Christian, I want to know God. I don’t want to display good morals with my actions, I want to LOVE people… And I don’t want to evangelize the nations, I want to make God known to a world hungry for the reality of him.
I really haven’t explained much of what Dan taught, but I would certainly butcher it if I tried. What I wanted to express was this growing revolution which is going on inside of me. I think it has to be an ongoing conversation. What are your thoughts?