SOMEONE HAS SUGGESTED A “WAY AHEAD” FOR US ‘OUTSIDERS’ (I heartily agree. What do you think?)
I would like to begin with an APOLOGY to all those who, in the past, have looked at this website from time to time, and have noticed that I haven’t actually put anything new on it for some considerable time. In one way, that doesn’t matter, because the site is not intended to be a weekly or monthly ‘blog’, but a ‘library’ of articles that might be encouraging or helpful to Christians serving the Lord outside the Institutional Church. However, people rightly expect a library (even an internet one) to make reasonably regular additions to its stock, so I think a brief apology is in order – especially since it is vitally connected to the encouragement I want to offer today.
There have been two reasons for my silence. The first is that a huge backlog of other tasks built up for me in various areas of life – some family-related, but mainly seeing people, the answering of e-mails, and the reading of books ‘fellow-outsiders’ had written, and sent to me for comment. Sometimes a lot of serious consultation of the Word of God was required in answering or commenting. I always meant to interrupt that work with an article for the website, but almost without my noticing it, time slipped away.
The second reason was that I was led to embark on a new book – a book that I believe might be of value for all types of Christian, and not only for those who might look at this website. I got wrapped up in that, which only made my backlog greater, and still further reduced the chances of something new here!
About a month ago, I was unexpectedly carted off to hospital by ambulance. (Even though I am ‘retired’, “overdoing things” might possibly have been a factor.) Before I left, I was fitted with a pacemaker. It was my stay in hospital that stimulated this “Only Way Ahead” article (which, in turn, made me hear the Lord’s voice saying “Forget about the book temporarily, and remember your readers”)…
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Once I recovered sufficiently, Mavis, my wife, brought in a selection of books. Some were, wisely, just ‘light reading’, but one was a book that had been sent to me, for comment, by a fellow ‘outsider’. The next time I write, I’m going to name it, review it for you, and give details of how to get hold of it – but doing that now would greatly extend this present article, so I’ll just refer here to the lesson from the Lord that was underlined for me as I read it.
Three quarters of the book consisted of an explanation of why many serious-minded believers were leaving the Institutional Church. It made similar points to those I had made in “Custom and Command” and “The Remarkable Replacement Army” – though in a much more scholarly way than I had done. It was just as biblical as my books, but also contained a stimulating wealth of references to science, philosophy and current affairs.
The final section of the book, however, was entitled “Where Do We Go From Here?“ It looked as though it was going to contain helpful practical guidelines about how to “do church” outside the Institutional framework – suggestions, perhaps about methods of finding others-of-like-mind in one’s own locality, or about how to start up, and proceed with, ’building’ a fellowship that avoided the pitfalls of traditional churches, but was nevertheless biblical.
The fact is that this particular author thought that following such suggestions would be absolutely doomed to failure! I would sum up His message in this way: “THE ONLY WAY AHEAD FOR US ‘OUTSIDERS’ IS JESUS.” By that he meant: “Walking very closely with Him, listening carefully to His voice speaking to each one of us, personally, through the Holy Spirit, and taking only the next step that He indicates for us.” I heartily agree!
It’s not that this author didn’t value the Bible highly. Like myself – he sees it as the essential backing for discerning whether the Voice you hear (audibly or inwardly) and the advice you think you are getting from the Spirit, really is authentic. However, he suggested that we “outsiders” shouldn’t have plans and strategies for “doing church”, however “bible-based” they seemed to be. He insisted that the way forward, in all things, is to let the Voice of Jesus show us the steps needed – one step at a time – and convince us that it is in keeping with God’s Word – and he applied this, in particular, to “church building” among “outsiders”.
For my own part I have, for many years now, applied the principle of “step-by-step, as led by the voice of Jesus” to my everyday life. However, when (in the hospital) I had time to think more about the issue, I realised that, from time to time, I had actually toyed with plans and strategies for making scattered “outsiders” into recognizable local “bodies of Christ”. I am embarrassed now, when I realise that even some of the articles on this website have some strong hints of “How-to” Teaching (i.e. about developing an informal local church).
The Apostle Paul, in 1st Corinthians 3:10-15 tells us that we are “builders”, and that we are to take care how we build. Now, builders are normally “bricklayers” who construct a building brick by brick, according to the specific instructions of the architect for that particular building. Some preachers and teachers have latched on to the fact that the Greek word Paul uses, when he describes himself as a “master-builder” is Architekton. “You see”, they say, “Paul was an Architect. He was a designer, a strategist. Our leaders should be that too – making the plans that we ordinary Christian builders should fit into.” But that is false reasoning. The English language has chosen to turn the Greek word into something more than what it was originally. The prefix “arch” means “overseer”. (e.g. “Archbishop” means “Overseer of Bishops”.) Paul was merely an experienced bricklayer, who was now an overseer and encourage of ordinary bricklayers.
I am convinced that “The Only Way Ahead”, for us outsiders (and, actually, for all Christians) is to be” bricklayers-for-Jesus” – listening to His voice as He tells us, step by step, what to do for Him, in all circumstances. Architects love to design individual buildings which – though all buildings have certain features in common – will each have unique characteristics. Jesus is the architect. We are the bricklayers. Let us remember that in the matter of “doing church”, as in everything else.
P.S. (For readers on the “Let-me-know-when-you-have-put-something-new-on-the-website” mailing list)….
At the end of March my trusty Dell computer finally conked out after quite a few years of excellent service. Fortunately I had backed up everything I thought I might need if such a thing happened, but there were a few omissions. One of them was the auxiliary address list with your names on it!
Amazingly, I was able to retrieve most of you by going through four years of “Sent Items” on the laptop my wife usually uses. (We share the same e-address.) However, I couldn’t find absolutely everybody. If you haven’t heard from me, but want to continue on the list, please contact me through the website, or, if you already know my personal e-address, through that. S.