“Walking in the open hot desert longing for some shade and water to refresh from your treacherous journey, you notice some shade of dark at a distance and hopefully dash towards it with the little strength remaining in you. The more you run the further the shade goes and takes you a while to realize that the shade is not real – it’s a mirage.
Upon this realization, you throw your hands in despair and for a moment collapse your now very tired body to the ground. With your face in your hands, you close your eyes and start reflecting how you got to this current desperate situation.
You once lived in the big city and a member of the biggest church group in town. The church group was not your first because it had taken you a bit of church hopping to get to the one that was everyone’s else envy.
The more you think about each church group you were part of from the time you believed, the more you start seeing consistency in the pattern in the different instances. In each of the instances you recount that you’d start with great zeal and positive hope of finding fulfillment and vibrancy in your walk with the Lord.
Somewhere along the way, that zeal and hope is gradually replaced by frustration and apathy – you start noticing some faults in the church group that you were not noticing at first and eventually you leave in frustration to find your next church group. The cycle repeats itself and after a while you are out of that group into the next en-vogue group.
You are suddenly startled from your thoughts by a tap on your shoulder. You look up and notice the tap is from another lone traveler like you, who even though she’s sun beaten has a glow in their eyes that says they know where they are going.
You engage in conversation and it does not take too long to realize that there’re some similarities in your journeys. She’s easy in conversation and willing to help so she asks you what the problem is. You say you are thirsty and have not drunk water for a while. She shares her own from a container she carries on her side.
She asks you about the small bag you are carrying and then you realize that all this while, you had forgotten you had some water in your bag because you were too focused on external sources. Your friend offers to refill your bottle from her own and then you start walking together.
She tells you about her last stop-over where she had refilled her water bottle, and also some tips of desert survival. She shares how she’d learnt over time how to identify water spots in the wilderness and also how to share with others she meets along the way.
It is becoming dark and you look for some place to spend the night together. You agree to sleep immediately so you can regain energy for your journey the following day. To your amazement, by the time you wake up the following morning, your new found companion is nowhere to be seen and you are on your own again. Although you are alone, you are actually not feeling alone. Your interaction with your acquaintance seemed to have stirred in you some fresh energy you were not aware you had. You tell yourself, “It was good while it lasted, we keep moving”.
As you start walking on, an old song comes to mind and you start singing loudly as you move, “Yes, I feel like travelling on, I feel like travelling on, my heavenly home is bright and fair, I feel like travelling on….””
The imagery above is my way of painting a general picture of the experience of many believers (myself included) in the Lord Jesus Christ. We start our walk with the Lord with lot’s of zeal for Him. Most of us were told when we believed, look for a bible believing church and join.
The intention is normally that the new believer would be discipled into a mature saint, but more often than not the discipling is skewed in the direction of the group’s world view. In my experience, I have been a member of at least 4 christian groups defined by doctrine and social class.
In each of the seasons (some long, some short) while I was in a particular group, I’d believe I was doing ‘church’ in the best way, until I’d be dissatisfied and would move on. It is only not too long ago I’ve realized that perhaps what I am looking (and has been looking ) for is not a perfect church model.
“If not the best church model I am looking for, then what is it?”
Not an it, but a person:
As long as one is not aware what he/she is looking for, they can be out on a search for a long time because they will not recognize it when it is found. This is the reason it is important for every believer to understand what the longing in them is for.
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem…..
4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
The encounter of Saul with the Lord above gives us illumination to what/who the Church really is. It seems easier to most of us to accept the church as the dwelling place of Christ, but a little far fetched to take the church as Christ Himself.
However, when you consider that the church is the body of Christ (2cor 12:27), then it makes sense to say the church is Christ Himself as any person is both Head and body, otherwise he’d be dismembered and Christ is not divided (1cor 1:13). The moment you are opened to this reality, you will start encountering Christ in other brothers and sisters and this is where the pursuit of the mirage ends.
Live organically and authentically.
If you are a believer, you have been made a partaker of the divine nature, and ought to stop looking for Christ in organisations and buildings for He does not dwell in houses made by men. He’s in you and in your neighbor, start living by Him.
Stop searching for the ideal church and be the Church.