** Editors Note: This article was originally written for the BUV Blog**
The night was warm enough to be outside and cool enough to keep the fire stoked in the fire pit. As we sat around the fire, licking the last of the pavlova off our fingers, listening to the laughs and chatter of our kids as they slowly moved into the house to play indoors, we settled down to ponder the question I had just asked our group.
“We need to consider how we can eat with and bless those in our neighbourhood that don’t know Christ, but we need to consider how we are going to do this together as a community. Mission was never meant to be done alone.”
We remembered the words of Jesus in John 13:34 – By this they will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
“If discipleship is following Jesus in everyday life and teaching others to do the same,” I said, borrowing from Jeff Vanderstelt, “then it goes without saying that we need to be actively involved in one another’s day to day lives in order to make disciples in everyday life.”
We were quiet as we sat around the fire. It could have been that we had a mouth full of hot chocolate but it was more likely that we were all in deep thought about the challenge we had just put before ourselves.
Following Jesus and making disciples who make disciples in every aspect of every day life sure sounds like a bigger, more complex task than most Churches (and even our own in the past) have put forward when talking about what it means to be the Church. As we gazed at the flickering of the flames, we all knew that this is what God was calling us to. In fact, it is what he has been saying to Christians all around the world since the Church first began. But as with a lot of things when it comes to life with God, we seem to drift and be called back, drift and be called back, again and again.
And I think there lies the problem for many Churches across Australia. We regularly talk about “going to Church” as if “Church” is simply “the event on Sunday”. Sure, we know in our heads that we are supposed to “be the Church” and that the Church is more than a weekly gathering, but our language (and therefore many of our attitudes) remain stuck in thinking that “Church” is an isolated set of weekly activities which is otherwise disconnected from everyday life. We know we are supposed to “be the Church” but we can’t help speaking and acting like we simply “go to Church”.
Effective discipleship needs to happen in everyday life. And when it doesn’t, “Church” can become disconnected from what people do for most of their week! We then read statistics and articles about young people leaving the Church, common reasons why people don’t go Church and what we see is this – increasingly, people across the western world don’t find going to Church relevant to their day to day lives.
So then we read more articles and have more meetings about how we can make our Church (read “weekly events, gatherings and activities”) more relevant to day to day life! But that was the problem in the first place. The problem was that we saw the Church predominately as a Sunday gathering or set of weekly events. When people say, “the Church is not relevant,” they are often saying that the weekly gathering is disconnected from day to day life. And for the most part they are probably right.
But discipleship and God’s mission was never meant to be boiled down a series of weekly events and activities. It was supposed to be lived out in daily life. Of course, these Church events and activities then play a part in our daily and weekly rhythm, but the Sunday gathering becomes one part of a week of following Jesus.
Consider the irony here – I spend more time every week going through the “bath and bed” routine with my beautiful daughters than I do at my Sunday gathering. And yet so many of us don’t see the “bath and bed” routine as an opportunity to be a disciple who makes disciples. Some weekends I would spend more time watching footy on TV than I do at my weekly Sunday gatherings, and yet for many of us watching the footy is not considered an activity which makes disciples. By the time I visit the Community Garden in town and tend to my own Urban Farm, there is absolutely no doubt that this would take up more of my time each week than my Sunday gathering. And most of us spend more time eating our twenty-one meals a week then we do at our 2 hour long weekly Sunday service.
So why don’t we see “eating food” or gardening with our community and neighbours as a primary place where discipleship and mission can take place? Why don’t we intentionally seek to make disciples as we watch the footy? Why don’t we intentionally seek to teach our brothers and sisters in Christ, and even those who are yet to know Christ, what it looks like to follow Jesus through the “bath and bed” routine each night?
That’s precisely what the group gathering around the fire on this particular night are attempting to do.
As we sat around the fire we contemplated the rhythm of life we had all committed to living out in community with one another. This rhythm of life, taken from Michael Frost’s book, “Surprise the World”, is known as BELLS (Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn, Sent). It invites us to BLESS 3 people a week, EAT with 3 people a week, LISTEN to the Holy Spirit and our neighbours, LEARN the way of Christ through meditation on the Gospels, and be people who constantly remind ourselves that we are SENT into the world to alert people to the reign and rule of God in Christ.
This rhythm of life is there to help us balance out life with God, life in community and life on mission. It is designed to help us get into everyday life with one another and with our neighbours. It is designed to help us create lives which have become tangled up, and intertwined with one another and with our neighbours – like a beautiful fabric where the threads are woven over and under, around and through each other.
If we are to follow Jesus in all of life and teach others to do the same then we must start being intentional in simple, every day actives. That is where discipleship takes place.