We're talking about the church being the place where we do life together, where we become disciples together and are sent out into the world. So, of course, the natural place to go next is to the actual disciples - the men and women Jesus traveled with routinely. Because they have something essential to teach us about what it means to do life together.
Jesus said our one anothering would be a hallmark of who we are as a people. He said that the world would know who we are by how we love one another; the world would know that we are His. And if that's true, then the ways that we live together in our communities of faith is essential to the development and practice of that faith.
Look at the disciples. Look at how often they were together. Look at how they traveled together, showed up in houses together, had dinner together. Even after Christ's death, the disciples are often together. The Bible tells us they were out fishing one morning. Now, who was fishing? Was it just Peter and Andrew, James and John? Was it only those guys who were already fishermen? The Bible isn't 100% clear on this. But it would not be a stretch to imagine that some of the others were there, too. After all, Matthew can't just go back to tax collection, and Simon is unlikely to return to his political zealotry. Some of those guys needed something new to do, and it wouldn't be a stretch to think that they took up fishing...because that's what the rest of the disciples were out doing.
But it's clear about who was in the upper room together - the disciples. All of them. Except Thomas, but he shows up next time, so maybe he was out getting groceries or using the restroom or something the first time Jesus shows up. The point is that these guys learned so deeply how to be with one another that even after Jesus is gone from their physical presence, they still are doing life together.
And here's one place where I think the church can learn quite a bit.
See, for most of us, when we talk about doing life together, we talk about planning a bunch of programs and outings and service projects and inviting the rest of the church to join us. We have potlucks or pitch-ins, we have community clean-up days, we get together to put a fresh coat of paint on the church, we have game nights and concerts and movies on our big screens. And all of that is great, don't get me wrong.
But it's not really "doing life together."
It's adding one more thing...or a dozen more things...to what are often already-full social calendars, then adding a bunch of stress to it by calling it a "Christian" event. A church thing. Something where you get heaven points for attending...or lose them if you don't show up. And let's face it - we are paying attention. We know who's coming to church events. We know who is most likely to show up. And we know who isn't coming. And we have a lot of judgments wrapped up in that.
Then, of course, we run into the hurdle of trying to plan events that reach a wide range of demographics. Card nights aren't for everyone; neither are movies. Not everyone wants to attend "faith night" together at the ball park. Some persons can show up and pray for an hour; some can worship; some want nothing to do with either. They simply aren't wired that way. So what we end up doing is creating a bunch of different events so that there's "something for everyone to do," something for everyone to get involved with over the course of the calendar year.
And honestly? This doesn't further our one anothering. We make it about what's happening, and who shows up is kind of secondary. You might see this person at this event and that person at a different event and still someone else at a third event. We create a broad fellowship, but not a very deep one. It would be as if Jesus kept a different group of disciples for every location He visited, and the disciples from Jerusalem occasionally run into the ones from Galilee, who might meet the ones from Nazareth once or twice. We could not then say that these are all Jesus's disciples doing life together, that they could at all be known by their love for one another.
How can they have love for one another through a series of simple chance meetings?
I have a proposal. I was intending to propose it today, but this post is reaching its maximum length per the average reader's attention span, so I'll propose it tomorrow. Do come back and see what you think.
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