House Church Talk - face to face

jim sutton goodword at
Tue Aug 10 09:10:31 EDT 2004

Speaking, in part, about the Jewish nation, Paul says:

Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 
but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.  Now the Lord is the 
Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And all of us, 
with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a 
mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to 
another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.  (2 Corinthians 3:15-18)

Even as Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth, the Jewish people still had 
plenty of religion.  What many of them lacked, though, was the Lord Himself. 
 And Paul observes that even when the Scriptures are read, their minds were 
veiled to the truth that would otherwise have set them free.

I remember talking with a Baptist pastor of a very large church in a certain 
city in Indiana.  While in town, my wife and I had visited his church a couple 
of times.  He told me that his father had pastored the church before him.  And 
he told me that when he was growing up, it was very common to have well known 
fundamentalist preachers, men like Jerry Falwell, visiting in his home.

He could recite Scripture for any of the practices and methods and beliefs 
held by his church.  He could debate with anyone about any facet of doctrine. 
 He followed the Bible, as he understood it, to the letter.  He could explain 
to anyone what it meant to be born again, according the Bible.

This pastor was full of the doctrines and traditions of his church.  He knew 
all the words, all the reasoning, all the methods.  He understood, 
instinctively, how to react to anything that might come up.  And he was 
faithful in his service.  He kept his eye on the membership roles, the 
visitation programs, the number of people being baptized, the tithes, the many 
"special" offerings of the calendar year, and the outgoing expenses of buses, 
salaries, building repairs, utilities, etc.  He knew what to do and say.  He 
knew when to do and say it.  He knew just how to do and say it.

Yet as I talked with him, I began to wonder if he knew the Lord Jesus at all. 
 I seriously wondered, and was surprised to do so.  The one thing I had come 
to expect of any Baptist preacher in this particular denomination was that he 
should know the Lord.  He should understand the reality of a living 
relationship with Jesus Christ.  That was the core doctrine, after all.  It 
was the belief that set them apart from many other denominations.  But this 
man gave no evidence in his public speaking or private conversation of 
actually knowing and loving the Lord Jesus Christ.

In fact, he never mentioned Jesus outside the context of a doctrine or sermon. 
 His was loyal to the denomination, to fundamentalist tradition, and to the 
leaders he'd known and respected since he was little.  And he viewed this 
service as loyalty to God, even though God figured very little into his daily 
life.  He seemed to trust that as long as he did all these other things, and 
answered to all these other people -- meeting or exceeding expectations -- 
then he would be alright with God, too.  He did not seem to know much about 
simply walking with Jesus each day.

His life and service made me think of King Saul, as opposed to David.  Saul 
tried very hard to be a really good king.  David had a hunger and thirst for 
God Himself.

It's very possible, of course, that my impressions of this pastor were wrong. 
 After all, I didn't spend years or even months in this man's company.  I only 
saw him and talked with him a few times while we visited the city. 
 Doctrinally, I was very close to the theology he embraced.  I'm not a 
Baptist, but I do hold some of the basic convictions common to many Baptists. 
 And yet, I felt no kinship, no fellowship, no family ties with this Baptist 

He was proud to say that he knew Jerry Falwell.  But did he know Jesus?

I said all of that because we in hc can end up just like that Baptist 
preacher.  I'm very much at home with the beliefs behind home church.  I hold 
strong convictions that prevent me from being a part of denominations.  I do 
not believe in following after men.  I do not believe that the traditional 
structure of religious service, as practiced by most ic churches, is necessary 
or even spiritually profitable.  I believe in body ministry as opposed to the 
stage and showmanship of most ic church groups.


I've also noticed that hc is no different, in many ways from any other 
Christian group.  People are people.  Christians are Christians.  And the 
traditional structure we now see in most ic churches are there because the 
people tend to gravitate that way.  people like structure.  They like things 
to be a certain way, over and over.  They will often fight to keep things a 
certain way, whether it's really necessary, good, and right or not.

Lots of people are happy to have a veil of some kind between them and the open 
glory of God.  Layers and levels of human faces, human administration, human 
ritual, human methods and practices -- all of this feels good to lots of 
Christian believers.  Very often, we do not seek the Lord Himself so much as 
we seek to be happy in our environment.  We will try to changed our 
environment to suite our likes.  If others threaten to alter what we have 
created, we will complain and even fight.

But what people really need is Jesus.  What we each need in our lives is Jesus 
Himself.  We need His Spirit, His Presence, His Word in us.  We need to be 
truly alive in Him.  Someone mentioned yesterday that we must abide in the 
Vine, to continue as living branches.  That direct source of contact and life 
is what makes us true believers in Christ.  Otherwise we become believers in 
some ideal of our own making.

In hc as in any other Christian group, I understand that we want to pass along 
what we believe and see.  And the Scripture teaches as much.  But I also know 
that we need to look beyond the patterns and styles that we like, and behold 
life as it really is.  We need to -- daily -- look into the face of Jesus and 
see what He is really like, so that we do not forget.  Memory alone might tend 
to reshape Him into our own image.  But real fellowship each day with Christ 
will have the opposite effect -- we ourselves will be changed by Him, from 
glory to glory.

It's not the ideas we hold of hc that make us alive and that make our 
fellowship meaningful.  Rather, it must be the reality we hold each day with 
the living Christ that makes hc alive and meaningful.  We need the Lord.  Our 
daily walk needs to have Jesus Himself at center.

Face to face with Jesus.  Changed from glory to glory.

Doctrine alone does not produce life, but true life in Christ will produce and 
maintain a reliable doctrine, a genuine experience.  We cannot inherit that 
from others.  We must each one see Him, face to face.


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House Church Talk has been renamed. These discussions, via the web, now occur at the Radically Christian Cafe.