Monday, March 9, 2009

Lighting Up The Room

Most churches could use a healthy dose of 1 John 1:7.

That's the verse that reminds us that God dwells and basks in light. He is completely truthful and pure, faithful and holy.

That's the text that dangles the possibility of enriching fellowship before us if we will just immerse ourselves in that same light. We will then enjoy closeness with the Lord and intimate connection with other believers.

Genuine fellowship is not simply backslapping, joketelling, handshaking, coffeedrinking get-togethers. It is a shared life. It is a deep bond. It is unity of spirit and purpose. It is bringing everything we are and have to the table along with others who do likewise. It is "fellows in the same ship" who delight together in the sea when the wind and waves are calm and work hard together in that ocean when the weather makes conditions adverse.

Real fellowship is hard to find in a lot of congregations.

Because of our busy, hectic lifestyles we often don't take the time to really get to know one another. Paradoxically, due to our relative affluence, we have the luxury of time to sit and criticize and pick at and gossip about each other, which only breeds suspicion and distrust and distancing. Fussing and fighting abound. Members flit and hop from one local assembly to another, usually trying to run from unsettled relational issues they are unwilling to attempt to solve, not realizing that in their immaturity they will more than likely encounter these same types of problems in the next church. Many congregations divide, fragment, and split. Evangelism and ministry suffer. The church's reputation in the community sours.

The Apostle John has the prescription for these ailing groups: turn on the light!

In a "well lighted" congregation hidden agendas will not survive. Political moves and crafty manipulation will be out of place. Prideful posturing will not stand. Secrets will not long endure, whether secret meetings, secret backstabbings, secret power grabs, or secret sins.

It's kinda like flipping on the light switch in a long abandoned old house. Suddenly mice and cockroaches scurry, and dust and dirt become clearly visible. Light just does that. It exposes. It shows what needs to be swept or painted or moved or fixed. In a church where believers are "walking in the light" truth and purity will take center stage. Members will feel more free to share their long undisclosed burdens, which will have the effect of reminding the whole assembly that we need to be patient with one another because we're all struggling with something. Believers will have a little greater openness to confessing their sins to godly accountability partners(James 5:16) which will result in an expanded congregational awareness that none of us is perfect or better than others or has any kind of reason to boast or brag or grasp for preeminence.

The bottomline is that we will become more and more known to each other. Honesty and transparency will replace deception and lying. We're all on equal footing at the cross of Christ. We're all sinners saved by grace. We need to lavish grace and mercy and understanding and forgiveness on one another. If the Holy Spirit is truly at work in a church, He will be pouring out love(Romans 5:5) and dispensing light, the 2 great foundation stones of spiritual fellowship. If the Holy Spirit is not at work in an assembly it is nothing more than another civic organization or country club. The church is supposed to be a living, Spirit-inspired organism, not just one more organization, however well-oiled and smoothly functioning.

Devious schemes and ugly actions cannot coexist with real fellowship. Questioning everyone's motives or slamming the ideas of others if we don't agree or verbally attacking brothers and sisters in Christ or stomping our feet and running away if we don't get what we want or living in longstanding dread that some past sin of ours is going to be revealed to the whispers and condemnation of other church members are patterns not indicative of Christlike behavior. Instead, they are fellowship destroyers. Trying to "get rid" of a pastor who, like all the rest of us, is flawed and imperfect or constantly feeling like we've got to give someone else a piece of our mind or elevating our preferences on non-essential matters to the level of convictions and then passing judgement on everyone who doesn't view it our way all contribute to the breakdown of warm, close ties between Christians.

Let's "light up the rooms" of our local assemblies! Then Matthew 5:16 will become a powerful reality and the unsaved around us will want what we have.