“If I could define the Christian faith in one word, it’d be ‘relationship.’”
Tonight was Beir Stein night. It’s a night where a group of Christian guys get together at the Beir Stein over on 11th and just talk about life. I’ve been only a handful of times before, so I’m by no means a regular. But I’m very grateful I went tonight.
It was a very small group of guys compared to the dozen or so that I was used to seeing; just me, Reid Harrison, Andrew Maphet, Winston Arblaster, and Peter Fones. The first two are former roommates; Winston is a friend from CCF; and Peter is an Episcopalian priest who I met tonight. We talked a little bit about Rob Bell, a little bit about bag pipes, and a lot about what it means to follow Jesus.
Maphet and I are kind of in a similar boat; glad that God has given us jobs that provide, but would prefer a job that we actually love instead of dread. So when Andrew asked Rev. Peter a question about what to do when you’re trying to figure out God’s plan, I couldn’t help but listen to his response. It’s the same question that has been rattling around my mind for a little while, like I talked about last time. Tonight’s direction, however, added something to it all.
He asked Andrew if he had a job that provided for him, that paid rent and yet allowed him to do the things he wanted to do in his spare time. I thought of the $324 paycheck I just deposited this morning from working at Putters. Andrew said yes, that’s exactly what he has and Peter replied, “Well, what’s the problem?”
He went on to explain that while Jesus did in fact call the 12 Apostles to an entirely different vocation than they were previously working before, He didn’t ask too many others to completely change their jobs, but rather, in some ways, to redefine those jobs that they already had. As quoted above, Peter said it’s really all about relationship; getting together like we were at Beir Stein and building a community, a fellowship of relationships that talks about God, faith, prayer, and life together. Understanding that it was groups like our table of five that propelled much of the early church forward, I suddenly felt very relaxed about where I am.
Two main things that I gleaned from tonight’s mini-sermon were: 1. Church isn’t about a building but rather a group of people and 2. Our life’s purpose is based off of the relationships we build with others. As I walked back to my car after shaking hands with Peter, I realized that our faith, our movement of following Jesus, is truly built on relationships. And I realized that if I want to know what tomorrow holds, I need only to look to the people around me and how I relate to them.
Last week I was talking with a Starbucks friend who told me that she was done with church. I asked her why and the answer I received was that mostly, it made her feel very uncomfortable. We didn’t spend much time talking about it, but afterward I tried to understand how someone new to the whole deal of Christianity might handle Sunday mornings and sitting through a service. Would they feel accepted? Would they feel as though they were being treated like a regular human being with thoughts, emotions, and beliefs of their own? Or would it be something cheesy – something so casual that it was lacking substance?
Sadly, I’d have to say that it has become or is becoming a place where people feel disconnected. With our trendy songs, trendy books, and trendy clothes, we indirectly communicate to newer people that in order to be accepted into the group you have to conform to every last detail that’s already present in the church. You have to clap when we clap, stand when we stand, pray when we pray, etc., etc., etc. Sure, it may not be exactly like this for every church on Sunday morning or in this exact pattern, but to someone who is seeking substance, someone who longs for transparency, it might be hard not to see it this way.
What I asked Peter later in the conversation, after the other guys had left, was about ministry and how one becomes a pastor. Granted, it’s different for Episcopalians, he admitted, but to some degree there’s a period of discernment – a season of testing various options and really sifting through all the noise that is America to decide what works for our own lives. I asked him this question because it’s been on my heart to enter into ministry – to possibly become a pastor. He told me that instead of asking the question, live it out for a while. See what’s there within that question and see where God takes it.
If the one word that describes the Christian faith is relationship, then that means community is crucial. If becoming a pastor means being on the leadership end of these relationships, then fellowship is even more crucial. The bottom line from tonight is that in order to find out what tomorrow holds I ought to invest my time in getting to know the people around me today. And no, it’s not merely showing up every Sunday morning to follow along with the synchronized clapping and the matching clothes. It’s about being real with people, letting them get to know me, and trying to get to know them.
Not everyone is going to like church, but maybe they’ll like families. Many of the earliest churches were house churches that didn’t have the stadium seating or the stage lights like the bigger ones we have now. Granted, they didn’t even have electricity back then, but you see my point: It’s not about how a church looks; it’s about how a church relates.
If this post seems scattered, it’s because it is. So many things flooded my mind tonight on my drive home from the Stein that it’s difficult to piece it all together. But I think I got down the main points: that the people around me are central to my life because they help challenge, strengthen, and deepen my faith and yet they’re central to my life when I want to figure out my life’s purpose. Community, fellowship, and what God has planned for each of us are all intertwined, I think. If we can’t figure out what we’re supposed to do with our lives, then maybe we ought to fellowship (worship, pray, read Scripture, teach, learn, etc.) with each other. It takes one thing: you.