If you were to ask me what I understand about the purpose of church and the Sunday service, I would say it is to meet together to remember and ingest our shared brokenness in Christ, to remember the pouring out. We meet for communion. We meet like hungry kids at a table. We meet to confess that all our desires are filled in the life of Christ, broken and resurrected for us
But church is not only Sunday morning; the kingdom is not for a mere day of the week. We know this with our brains. Church is not the sign out front or the people on our elder boards. Church is not made up of followers of Pastor so-and-so or active through successful committee meetings. You are church, you together with all who believe on this living rock.
It is so beautifully simple. We are a priesthood. Your whole self (body, mind, and soul) is a temple, and Holy Spirit God indwells you. He is a complete and whole God within you. He is every fruit and every gift, every single thing you need for life and godliness. Life is an exciting and mysterious unveiling of his goodness within us. He is the satisfaction of all our desires.
So often we aren’t open to such goodness because we are distracted. We’re distracted as consumers of church. We want the exact satisfactions that tempted Jesus on his walk in the wilderness, but he resisted the kingdoms of the world and showed us a life that is completely satisfied in his Father. If we resist chasing every wind of desire, we get to walk the same relationship with the same Father as Jesus. We are church, and the gospel makes us so. There is no believing and leaving church. We are the church, satisfied in God alone.
I do not care if you’re in a bar, a ditch, a hospital bed, or behind a podium on stage. I don’t care if you were born mute or blind or with Down syndrome. I don’t care if you’re rolling in cash or looking on the sidewalk for change. Are you the man who changes lightbulbs or picks up trash in the stadium? Are you the one who prays exquisite prayers? It does not matter where you are, who you are, or how educated you are. In Christ, you are the church.
Are you a woman allowed no role other than to keep nursery? That does not bind you. Nothing can bind you. There is no physical, spiritual, or scientific law against what Jesus calls fruit. If we are in him, and satisfied by him, then we bear it, and we will be known by these invisible qualities and the actions born thereof. These are what it means to be complete in Christ.
These are the building blocks of a revolution from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of God: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” There is not a soul on this planet who wouldn’t be drawn in and changed by such a good and free fruit. There’s not a church that wouldn’t be brought to help. There’s not a nation that wouldn’t begin to bend toward the image of Jesus.
Think of the man of peace, how he heaped coals of kindness. Think of his goodness, how he multiplied the little, his faithfulness, his love that stayed through rooster crows. He bucked social trends to heal, to bring completeness. He healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath. He told her to get up and walk. That is the very spirit who makes us. Do we believe him? Do we believe that the Spirit’s embodying brings completeness? Do we know that completeness isn’t in an organization, conference, or program that serves up “church” to be consumed like a business or other product? We are branches meant to live (abide) only in our Jesus, the social rule breaker, our Jesus, the water walker and lawful filler. He fulfills every jot and tittle, every reason for law by being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He himself is love.
There’s not a place he doesn’t belong. He fills every space. Revolution doesn’t start in pulpits or with elder boards, though support from those places would sure be nice. The kind of revolution needed in the North American church and in the world is going to start in the lowest places. It starts in the manger. It starts on bathroom floors. It starts in the lonely and in those crushed by shame. It starts in those in the rubble, and the needy poor in spirit.
Those who see the lack of satisfaction in the church feel like they’re dying for it. Some of us give up because all we see is the brokenness, but it’s a blind and hurt soul who refuses to be loved right where she is. Hope propels us. Even in the midst of corruption, Jesus has given us a Spirit, not of fear but of power, of love, and of a sound mind. Jesus has given us the Spirit of completeness.
If our churches are sick, that’s perfect, because he came for the sick. Yes, the church is full of those who feel incredibly righteous, but we shouldn’t start there and get distracted by the ones claiming that nothing ails them. The Holy Spirit within us is a despiser of shame, so start there instead. Jesus came to bring the kingdom to the poor in spirit. Let’s go to the poor in spirit, to the suffering; let’s go, despising their shame. Go to the whore. Go to the one who stole from the plate. Go to the ones who know they will never add up. Go like he came to us. Go to the one who thinks he’ll never know love. Go like the Great Commission is the truth of the matter. Go to the lonely. Go to the pothead kid and the woman who has starved herself for years. Revolution starts low, with the outsiders, even with the despised ones (Samaritans), women and cripples and whores and thieves and children. Go to the ones with special needs.
Are we not all needy? If we want to see the gospel happen in our churches, we must see from a thousand miles above the little building, which is to say, we need to see the small. We need to see the things thrown to the side. Who is on the floor, without a place?
We’ve all been the empty ones. The real leader is the servant to all. The leader is the one who washes feet, the one who makes herself equal to the least person in the room. You say you want a revolution? Then be like the good revolutionary. Work from right desire fulfilled; work from an intimate abiding in a love that propels.
Keep watch. Watch Jesus start with the hungry. Be hungry. Take the bread and give thanks like a child. Serve the bread and give thanks for that too. Being a child with your brothers and your sisters. Live the gospel and be a healing agent in your local church by being intimately aware of the Spirit within you. Don’t you dare run from pain, from the poor in spirit. Through the poor in spirit, through us, may the kingdom come on earth, in the name of Jesus; may it come in our own bodies and broken hearts, as it is in heaven. Be poor in spirit and seek his kingdom first, and all those other things will be added to you.
Amber and her husband Seth join James and Betty this Monday on LIFE TODAY. This is an excerpt from Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines. Copyright ©2015 by Amber C. Haines. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.