(If you are looking for House Church Basics, scroll down two posts).
I feel like a fish out of water!
When my traditional church world began to rock I became aware of many parts of that culture that were no longer working for me: the leadership set-up, the non-participatory performance-type services, the consumer mentality, etc. But nothing stood out in greater relief than the reality that true, honest, nitty-gritty, heart-engaged relationships are not a priority.
I see in Scripture just the opposite with over 50 "one another" verses describing a church that seemed to be built on people-to-people dynamics: love one another, accept one another, bear one another's burdens, etc. The type of church culture described in Scripture seems to place all of the elements of church life (worship, discipleship, learning, growing, giving to others) within the context of relationship. For example, you will never find a discipleship program or conference in Scripture, but you will see exhortations for older saints to teach and mentor the younger ones. In other words, within the church family, faith was passed on from one to another in a relational/modeling context.
My own experience has also caused me to value relationships as necessary soil for real spiritual formation as well as growth in all areas of my faith. When I experience vulnerable, real, committed, life-giving relationships, I am in good soil. Even when these relationships cause discomfort because of conflicts and misunderstandings, I am still in good soil. This seems to be, for me, the place where I am able to grow, change, and experience God's work of grace like nowhere else. This has become so obvious to me that I can barely comprehend a Christian life or culture that is not seeking, as a priority, to live out of deepening, growing relationships.
Sadly, as I meander through the Body of Christ at large, I not only see little of this, I see few that are even remotely interested in it. That's what I meant by feeling like a fish out of water.
I actually find myself questioning myself on this issue: "Why am I so different? Why are so many content to run here and there for their spiritual life and maintain mostly superficial Christian relationships? Why are there so few people 'like me?'"
I mean, I really don't get it. I see Christians who will change churches and, in the process, completely change their friendships. Church affinity is more important than our long-term, life-time process of developing relationships? If we are able to do this, are we learning, really, what it is to love people, or is that just some surface concept?
There are many people in my life, people whom I love, who clearly had no desire to reciprocate any level of relationship with me once I changed roles from "their pastor" to "just another believer in the community." I find it sad. Not just for myself (though it does hurt), but also for them as I realize that they care more about having some superficial roles and structure in their life than having real relationships.
Instead of pursuing the relational intimacy that, I believe, we really need, we substitute many things: constant activity, spiritual hype, taking on an "honored" role within our church, "ministering" to others, going to conferences, gaining knowledge, etc., etc.
Ah, me! Is it just me? Am I the only fish out of water?