After being married for a couple of years, I’ve finally been working some things out.? Maybe it happens quicker for other people, but I’m finally aware just how much I’ve been ?learning to re-discover life in a whole new way; from my surroundings to myself, my ideas and? values. Knowing that your best friend is completely behind you and completely for you is an?incredible support. And it’s a great picture of Christ’s love: a relationship that changes our perspective.
Something similar happened to me when I went to Hong Kong last year. It was there that we met people who are part of the underground church in China. They’re desperate to release worship from deep within the church, and they were some of the most passionate worshippers that I’ve ever seen. It was a privilege to spend time with them and witness different expressions of worship. And it changed how I saw things.
It sparked a sense of us being part of a bigger church – but I’m not talking about about numbers or building dimensions here. What I mean is that what goes on in a house church in a remote part of China – their suffering, their serving, how they worship and how they follow Jesus – it matters to all of us. Despite the difficulties they faced they remained passionate, excited and dedicated to faithfully serve what God was doing through them.
We need to be like that. In the west we have become so consumed by stats and numbers – as if they alone can best tell the story of what God is doing. But there’s so much more to following God than that. Nothing shows that God is at work quite as well as a life devoted to living for Him, to breaking down walls and risking what we have in service of God.
It was a privilege to see this kind of thing in action last year when my church joined with others in our city at Pentecost. United across racial and theological barriers, we gathered for the sake of Christ, getting a bigger picture of what Godly unity looks like.
Seeing Christians inspired to serve God fully – whether in China or London – reminded me of a book I read about the growth of Starbucks. It explained how they want to make the shop around the corner ‘the third place in people’s lives’ – first is home, second is work third is Starbucks.
For lots of people that’s exactly what they’ve done; created a place where people feel at home and comfortable. But how much more important is it that the church rises to the challenge of being the third place in people’s lives? Shouldn’t our places of worship be the very locations we feel at home, where we feel ourselves, where we feel that we belong, that we are known and that we are accepted and understood?
Writing to the church in Ephesus, Paul explains his prayer for them:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” [Ephesians 3:16-19]
This life we live can be seen in so many different ways – even by the same pair of eyes. But it takes God to change everything about how we see what surrounds us. Even those of us who have been Christians for a while need a refresh – especially those of us who have been around a while. We need to be strengthened by the Spirit, to have Christ alive within us, to have our strongest roots in nothing but the Father’s love. That’s when we’ll learn to see how big the church really is, how much God is at work in people so different from ourselves. That’s when we’ll be overflowing with God’s fullness. That’s when we’ll really learn to see life in colour.