The following is not directed at any one church in particular. It is an open letter to the worldwide church, tailored towards a particular expression thereof. I am starting off with an open letter to large gatherings.
Dear Large Gathering,
I’m grateful for your passion for Jesus. I think it’s fantastic that you want to all get together to show God that you love him and to demonstrate this to others as well. I think it’s really good that you meet, worship alongside one another and are inspired by those leading your gathering.
It grieves me however that you meet this way so often. I myself attend large gatherings from time to time and find them valuable. But my local community is of significantly more value to me. Yours should be to you, as well. Who do you know better – your next door neighbour or the person you sit by at the large gathering? Who do you pray for more? Who do you interact with more? Who do you call more?
Is your local parish church struggling? Are other congregations near to your house finding life difficult? Could you inject some life in to one of those meetings, rather than travelling for miles each week to simply be with others like yourself, instead of facing the scarier, risky and yet more Christ-like option of coming alongside those around you and showing them God’s love?
I ask those questions not to make you feel bad, or feel guilty, but because I want you to think about all of those people. All of the people who don’t live near large church gatherings. The people who you don’t have time to spend time with because you’re busy running alpha courses, busy practicing or preparing for your upcoming slot on a church rota. Don’t forget that whilst Jesus preached at the local synagogue, he was spoken more often of in the gospels at parties, weddings, meals and so on.
Don’t forget the call of God to associate with the lowly. Don’t forget that He has a plan for your life and has put you where you live for a reason. That reason is not to ignore the world around you but to engage with it! Large Gathering, make sure that when you do meet it is to inspire, account and encourage one another to be living missionally. When you meet, meet less often than you do now. When you are not meeting, spend time with those who are your neighbours, lest they be forgotten in the ever growing trend of people away from the streets and into church buildings.
Remember Christ’s call to love your neighbour and remember that sometimes it really does need to be taken literally. Remember that when you gather with those around you also following the way, you can ignore denominations. You can relate to one anothers daily lives. You can share in prayer your common neighbours and friends. You can hold one another to account and equip and inspire one another to live a geographically-aware, missional lifestyle.
Large Gathering, you would do well to disperse more often! It is good to meet, but even better to know and love your neighbour. That way, you can see lives transformed without the need for courses or events. You will find Christ where perhaps you least expect it, but it will be worth it.
Yours in the love of Jesus the Messiah,