Three years walking talking and healing. Miracles, preaching, teaching, healing, touching, guiding, making disciples. Loadsa stuff!
Two times. The recorded instances where Jesus uses the word church (not “Church”). One hundred and twelve further recorded instances of that word in the New Testament (and none specific to bricks and mortar), all specific to people gathered together. The Great Commission. Not one recorded instance of that phrase ever being uttered. Only added afterwards along with verse numbers, chapters and little sub-headers to make life easy.
My confusion is this: if we all seem to argue with a passion about what Jesus did say … how come we all happily overlook the two things He did not: “Church” (as we know and love it) and The Great Commission (as we know and love it)? How come we place such great emphasis on those two “concepts” – and make them a reality in equal measure to the greatest commandment of all?
(is this word-play on my part? yes – in part)
But is this a serious question? Yes.
Because when those two concepts are taken as a command – “we” have to fill in the blanks. And isn’t that simply “putting into the bible” what the bible does not? I see so many arguments about what was actually written in the bible. Who said what, what a word or a phrase means. Two times: church. Not once: The Great Commission. Seventy times: love, loving, loved, love. Across the whole bible? Six hundred and eighty times.
Jesus was an active lover. God is an active lover. The Holy Spirit is an active lover. Love changes. Love heals. Love accepts. Love frees. Not “me” only. But me and you. Me you and him. Me you him and her. Me you him her and all. Love connects. Not “me” only. Love is relationship. Active relationship actively loving. Me you him her all.
I have been reading a book called “Evangelism Explosion” the fourth edition. It is a wonderful book. It is full of Church. It is full of The Great Commission. It is a training manual. It is speed dating for God. It is bringing “prospects” to God. It is bums on seats and how to. It is “Church”. It is powerful. It is The Great Commission. It is life changing. I keep looking for the word love. I keep looking for love driving this book, this training. I keep finding The Great Commission is the engine. I keep finding sales pitches are the strategies. I keep reading how to overcome objections. I keep reading about closing the sale. I keep reading about “signing them up”. I keep reading about reeling them in. I keep reading about how to lock in the prospect. I keep reading those two “diagnostic questions” – refined and honed over time – all the niggles and common objections ironed out. They are not bad questions. They are not hateful questions. But they are transaction questions. And they are fear based questions.
Fear … that is what drives Evangelism Explosion, EE. Fear. Wrapped in sweetness and love. And as I write these words, I realise only now … that is what has been itching away at me all this time as I have been reading (now over halfway through). That is why something repels me from this book no matter how wonderful, how full of Church, how full of The Great Commission it is. It is driven by fear wrapped up as love.
(except where there is fear – love cannot)
So I am back to Jesus’ “training manual” across four gospels, across the new testament, across the old testament. Because I don’t see fear driving that book, that training manual … I don’t see “The Great Commission” – I don’t see “Church” – I don’t see another set of 600+ commandments and rules about dress code, church attendance, sacrifice of tithing, keep your gobs shut and don’t ask questions, do what we tell you and you will get to heaven … all the current day “rules” stuff that grown up and “mature Christians” seem to love so much – all that “fear wrapped in love”.
Evangelism Explosion does not have exclusive rights to fear wrapped in love. The whole bloody “Church” seems to have that exclusivity – continues to wrap it in the justification, the imperative of, “The Great Commission”. The one place that preaches “relationship with God” is the one place where talking about relationship – same sex relationship, suicide relationship, drugs relationship, divorce relationship, depression relationship, all those “uncomfortable squirmy not us” relationships – all the “not up to our standard relationships” – is muted and suppressed. Left to committees and doctrines of faith. Wrapped up in legalese wrapped up as “unifying rather than divisive” wrapped up as “keep the ones who tithe happy” wrapped up in fear of all of that “we might not survive” fear – all wrapped up as “love”.
The very place that preaches “relationship” also fears relationships.
(and church is us – each one “gathered together” wherever we gather and fellowship – however we gather and fellowship – that is church not “Church”)
So I am back to Jesus’ “training manual” because I don’t see fear driving that book, that training manual. I see only Active Love. I see only freedom. I see Jesus embracing all relationships – and most frequently the “squirmy ones”. I see Simplicity. I see Relationship. I see Surrender. Surrender to Love that loves to surrender without any fear at all.
Now that is life changing!