Mega-churches. Tiny Churches. Denominations. “Non” Denominations. Emergent churches. Traditional churches.
Conferences, buildings, rituals, dress codes, books, blogs.
Christian Movies. Christian Dating. Christian Music. Christian Jewelry. Christian T-shirts.
It’s like a Christian all-you-can-eat buffet, just waiting to give you a spiritual tummy-ache.
If you would, turn off your Christian radio for just a minute. Stop surfing the web for Christian apparel, put down your latest Christian book, and turn off your Christian TV station. Don’t worry, it will all still be there for you when you’re finished here, if you still want it. I want to invite you to experience an ancient Christianity, nearly forgotten completely by the Western world. Its beauty and life was so contagious that all Christendom has been built upon its foundation. I’m going to ask you to strip away all your modern conceptions of your faith, so you can gaze on the raw beauty of God’s original intentions for us…
It starts with the one we call “Father God” (except we didn’t call Him that yet) and He was filled with longing.
He had an ache in His heart, but not the kind of ache that comes from pain. The kind that comes from having too much joy, too much pleasure, and no one else to share it with. He was totally satisfied in Himself, in communion with Jesus and Holy Spirit, but he was so satisfied that He was desperate to create. If you’ve ever had a feeling inside you that was so big you thought you would explode, it’s kind of like that. He had to share this thing we call love, but to Him it was simply His nature. How could He share something that was simply Him? You can almost hear Holy Spirit whisper in His ear.
“Papa, I have an Idea. Let’s make them like us.” Brilliant. A people made in His image, sharing in His nature, that could share in His goodness. A people who could love. The Almighty was about to become a Father. The Three-in-One would soon have a family.
Man chose to forfeit this blessing by choosing to find goodness through alternate means, but lets look at another Man in a Garden…
Jesus Christ, the God-Man, trembling amidst the olive trees. Wounded to the heart, overwhelmed, sweating blood. He is there for one reason. He has determined to die for the very people who have rejected Him. He is going to provide the way back to true family. His Father still longs for children to love, and He still longs for brothers and sisters. Since the very first day, only a few had ever tasted it, but soon the whole world would have an open invitation once again. The events that followed would soon be called the gospel– the good news that Jesus had made Family possible in a way that no one had ever seen before.
This movement spread like wildfire. It was a movement of love, not hierarchy. Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, were all treated equally. There were fathers like Paul and mothers like Phoebe that helped nurture and raise this new Family that was collectively called “the church.” It was a messy movement, filled with broken, yet beautiful people, just like us. They made huge mistakes, and often fell short of all God had to offer them, but they were genuine. They carried something no one had ever seen. They had fierce love for their God who was actually a Father, their Savior who was actually a brother, and their fellow “Christians” who were now connected by a blood stronger than any family tree. They helped every person they saw, they healed all who were sick, they empowered every person they met. It was spectacular…but it started to fade.
Soon, “religion” began to infect this thriving community. The beauty of community was replaced by the beauty of gold. The freedom of family was replaced by the cold stone of cathedrals. Brothers became rulers, and Fathers became abusers. God’s beautiful family tree drank rivers of blood and oceans of greed. Its life withered and died; there’s a reason why these times was called the Dark Ages. But a remnant remained.
New fathers arose, taking an axe and fearlessly hacking away everything that did not produce life. We now call these men the Reformers. They started a revolution in the church, that began calling people back to a life sustained by the love that God originally intended. This too was greatly corrupted, and much of what these men did was perverted by weaker men that wanted power more than intimacy. “Reformation” became “Rebellion.” The tragic truth is these men intent on unifying God’s broken family in a culture of freedom and honor could not get along. They let ritual, theology, worship practices and ministry styles divide them. Soon, factions and denominations formed, and the Family fragmented even further.
Many other movements came and went within the church, each one helping and wounding in its own way, until eventually the Church arrived at where it is now. Yet, today a longing is rising to the surface again. The forgotten Christianity of the Apostles is being whispered among this generation. We want something that our Father in Heaven is desperate for. We want the thing our Older Brother died for.
A generation is arising that refuses to be satisfied by “church.”
This Generation wants to be Family.
Denominational walls are being shouted down by a new breed of worshippers. There is a hunger for fathers and mothers who love freely. There’s a pursuit of “religion” that actually promotes relationship instead of paralyzing it. The Church is dreaming of the ancient plan of God that has been percolating in His heart even long before creation. The Happy Father is ready to recieve His children.
This isn’t about a system, or a brand, or slapping a Christian label on yet another area of our lives. It’s about relationship that transcends being “congregants” or “churchgoers.” It’s about realizing that the pastor you are hatefully shouting down for his “wrong theology” is actually your brother. Realizing that its not okay for there to be “black churches” and “white churches.” That it’s not ok for Baptists to say that Charismatics are devil worshippers, or to slander a book another Christian wrote on youtube without even talking to the author. It’s not ok to hold up “God hates Fags” signs or to refuse to be in community with other Christians because they are against gay marriage and you are for it. It’s not ok to assume all “pro-choice” voters are murderers, or that all “pro-life” voters have the right motives. You can’t condemn another Christian for liking music that is not Christian, and you can’t pat yourself on the back for only watching Christian movies. Brownie points for Christian T-shirts don’t count. The same goes for purity rings (yes, I wear one) and cross necklaces. What counts is how you love.
How much of a brother can you say you are to those that disagree with your perspectives?
How much of a sister are you when you won’t talk to the new girl in youth group?
How can you say you are part of the “Family of God” when you secretly think the way you follow God is better than everyone else’s?
How will you ever love the world if you are so convinced that you are more righteous than them?
I’m a new creation, and in Christ I am righteous, but it’s only because I embraced the identity He purchased for me. I was a wretch without Him. So were you.
I started my own church this year. Just a small group of young people that said “There’s got to be more. Let’s find it.” I’ve been surprised by the simplicity and beauty of what I’m discovering. Structure doesn’t really matter. The songs you choose don’t matter too much either. Christian T-shirts don’t improve things, and purity rings don’t impress anyone. It’s not about all that. Something so much deeper binds us together and keeps us moving forward. Two Saturdays ago, as we were sitting in our softly lit prayer chapel, I looked over my “congregation.” What made the moment so incredible is that the word “congregation” never even crossed my mind. These weren’t my “sheep,” my “flock,” or my “disciples.” These were my dearest brothers, and my closest sisters. For the first time, “Brother” was not just one more religious title that I use when I’m greeting one of my Christian acquaintances. These were not just “Brothers and Sisters in Christ,” they were my family. Broken. Messy. Passionate. Beautiful. In that moment, I knew I had finally found home.
We are a royal priesthood. Royal, blood relatives given the power and authority to change the world. Priesthood, given the job to serve and to love above all else. Since the dawn of time, we were called to the most intimate form of fellowship. One in Christ, One with Christ, one with each other. Total unity that causes total joy. A whole new kingdom.
The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t a structure. It’s not even an ideology.
We must stop ignoring the Kingdom in the name of the King.
The King is after a Family, and your Family is worth everything.