“Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.” (Acts 12:5)
I enjoy what this verse serves to remind us: that “the church” is people.
Think about it for a minute. Do you think some dedicated building that was empty almost all the time took a few moments to pray for Peter? How about an organization?
No. PEOPLE prayed for Peter.
Neither “church buildings” nor Christian religious organizations had yet been added to the Lord’s Church by the time Peter was thrown in the prison. In fact, God never intended for His Church to become a mere earthly “organization”. The Church is an ORGANISM – a living thing comprised of living humans who had received Jesus as their Lord.
This morning I was thinking about my friend Jim Lott. I was Jim’s pastor. Today is his birthday….his first since his death this summer. It’s a significant date for all of us who are grieving his death. I spent some time early this morning thinking about how we met, the trips we had been on together, ways he had served me, and ways I had served him. I thought about all the people I know because he had connected us.
I thought about the last time we spoke. His mother and step-dad had blessed me with allowing me to spend one of Jim’s last nights with him in his hospice room. He slept for most of the time that night. I just laid there…not sleeping much…listening to him breathe so if anything changed I could serve him.
In the wee hours of the morning he coughed a bit and sat up in the bed. He looked at me and smiled and said to me, “I’m so glad you’re here today. I always enjoy our visits.”
We reminisced a bit and then the pain started to rise and he needed more medication and went back to sleep.
This morning I was thinking about the many, many times I shared a meal with Jim. We experienced countless meals, prison ministry trips and men’s gatherings together over the many years we knew one another.
Often he would get quiet as we drove or while we ate and he would look me in the eye and say, “I love having church with you.” I loved it too and still do with the people that share their lives with me now.
While there is a place for occasional large gatherings of believers, most of what Jesus did in His intense three years training His disciples was almost always done in small groups of 2, 3 or 13 people (including Jesus.) They would sit around or walk and have interactive discussions and during those beautiful times Jesus would reveal Himself and His ways to all those there.
This is really our model for “having church.”
Why do I say that? Jesus called them His disciples. One of the last things He said to us was to go make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) and He spent so much of His precious time sitting or walking with small groups of people who shared themselves with one another.
My favorite thing when we “have church” like this is when one of us asks a question or shares an observation from the Word of God or from something God has been revealing to us. Often these times will start with “Have you ever wondered….?” or “God showed me….” or “Have ya ever noticed….?
“How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)
All Christians are equally anointed in that the very same Holy Spirit dwells within ALL Christians (1 John 2:20; 27). This means that when we gather the Holy Spirit can teach us all through any of us.
In addition, the familiarity and intimacy of a small group of people sitting around a table or a living room….walking down the street together…or even riding in a vehicle makes it easy for us to receive what the Lord intends to accomplish in that meeting. Besides regular life time constraints, there is no “order of worship” forcing us to keep to some man-made schedule. We can relax, lower those boundaries we all have, and receive what God would have us receive in these meetings that He has ALWAYS known would happen.
Being free to and sharing what the Lord has brought to their attention is one way I have seen people co-bless one another in deep and impactful ways. The same Holy Spirit in each of them teaches, nourishes, heals, comforts, and refreshes them all. When it comes time to part each one leaves knowing he has experienced “zoe” life from God…not just a regularly scheduled and human orchestrated spiritual performance or experience. Each also walks away knowing that what he brought to the table was valuable even if he didn’t have an earthly “spiritual” title.
I miss my times with my friend Jim. I do feel the loss but that is a small downside to the incredible riches I have harvested from all those times of “having church” with him.
My intention is to worship at times in homes and at times in large buildings with way too many people to ever have any meaningful personal interaction with many (or any) of them. At times I’ll worship alone and at times with one or two people in a vehicle or an office or a restaurant or in a park…..you get my point.
And although I have used the term “having church” in this article, as if doing so was some event that started and then stopped and then was repeated many times…I don’t really use that term at all in real life. I don’t consider it at all to be a biblically sound idea.
We Christians do not “have church.”
We ARE the Church – all the time…..24/7. It is an eternal thing and we are eternal spiritual beings.
My heart’s desire regarding this topic is that more Christians realize the value of what could even be seemingly chance meetings with our brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray that we will RECEIVE the spiritual nutrition God has for us as we share some of our little time on earth together….as we share OURSELVES with one another, even while doing seemingly mundane things like eating meals, moving other people, building a fence, or riding in a car together.
We’ll be richer for it.
I wonder what kind of amazing visits Jim is having today in heaven…..”having church.”