Who You Gonna Call?
Margaret Johnson was an impressive, imposing figure in my youth to my twenties. She was a former pastor, a widow by the time I had met her in Southern California, after she and her husband had pioneered (Started from scratch) several churches in Colorado and Kansas, and had been overseeing bishops for a seven state area for a decade or so. In one of the churches they planted, they were so poor and the people unable to tithe, that they lived off of the discard from the local potato chip factory for over two years. In their ministry life, they had seen hundreds come to Christ, healed, delivered and may sent into ministry as a full time calling, no-holds barred, mountain style!
When I met her she used a cane due to the horrible car accident which took the life of her dear husband. She led the mid-morning prayer meeting during the week and was functionally an elder in the church, pastoring the elder saints (such a rude shock, I am one!). When she prayed, you didn't know if heaven came to earth or you moved to heaven! I remember one time, she began praying. When she started, I was in a phase where I thought that if you ministered, that you would look the part - three-piece suit, cuff links, tie bar, all gold plated at the very least! Those of you only know me now, wouldn't have recognized me then. Well, by the time she got done with the prayer, I had removed all the gold from my person and never wore a suit again with the exception of weddings and funerals. I remember the substance of that prayer. It was a simple one in which she prayed that we would come with humility to the Lord, with hearts open and cleansed by His blood, and serving with a heart for Him and then people. She had a way of praying that made God near and you fear in all the right ways.
One day I had the pleasure of interviewing her for a class assignment in Bible College. Now you know me, I love history and I had a woman in front of me who had made history, had lived it and was one of the people who had been in LIFE Bible College when Aimee Semple McPherson was still alive. I struggled to translate my vernacular to hers, to try to understand that even though we spoke English, our meanings were quite different. I asked her about the big C Church and our local church. We conversed at length about ministry and ministry training, we also spoke about technological advances. It was here that I want to open an insight that she said back then that the principle still is in play today.
During the interview, I asked her what she thought Aimee Semple McPherson would think of the then burgeoning and maturing television ministries that we becoming ubiquitous on the landscape. After assuring me that "Sister", as many of that generation referred to Mrs. McPherson, would have used it for the gospel, she leaned forward in a way that wasn't intimidating, but was meant for emphasis and said, "But I see a downfall, as more and more people stay home to watch "Church" on the television. They think they have a family and support, but wait till something hard comes and they try to call the tele-evangelist to come to their homes. That will be a sad day." In some famous words from Ghostbusters, "Who you gonna call?"
In essence, what she was talking about was community, of real family. We can glean wonderful things from T.V., You Tube, subscription services, and even on Prime, but they will never replace real community.
So let me talk real plainly.
Our church was founded in and bolstered by events: conferences in the early days, special speakers, periods of prayer and fasting, even seasons of revival, but the truth is, they will never replace the glue that God has built into the body of Christ, that is relationships of varying types with one another. These relationships have to be transformational and not just transactional, they must flow from "agape" love to affection and brotherly love. They must be multi -faceted and rich in said affection and love. They also take time and intention to build.
We can glean wonderful things from T.V., You Tube, subscription services, and even on Prime, but they will never replace real community.
A church that is beginning like ours, doesn't necessarily have these in place. People come for all sorts of reasons in the beginning of a work - they find Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or they like you more than the other place they left. Sometimes, they like the idea of what they think they are a part of compared to what they left. As I said, because of these and many, many other reasons people come, but they stay for one: relationships. It must be said that the primary one is the augmentation of their relationship with Jesus, but people in our circles must be included. Life is shallow and difficult without relationships.
So, how do you start, well, relating?
Care for others - Romans 15:1-3 - "1 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification." In other words, give ourselves to one another to serve them.
Comfort one another and build each other up - 1 Thessalonians 5:11 "Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing."
Pray for, worship and confess your sins, one to another - James 5:13-16 "13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
Here is Romans 12:9-13 talking about an entire host of things we can do to enhance agape community and healthy, spiritual family - "9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality."
Here in Galatians 5:22- , it speaks of how the fruit of the Spirit affects our community, "22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."
And finally, here is a call to truly love one another in everything, including the employment of our spiritual gifts: "7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Hebrews 4:7-9
Now, there are many, many more passages that speak to how we are to live out our faith with one another and this list is by no means exhaustive. But the gist of it is, we really, really need each other. After Him, the person that you are in spiritual family with in covenant, are the most precious things in this life. For how can we love others if we don't have love for ourselves?
Why did you bring this up?
For those of you who might be inclined to wonder if we are falling short, the answer is yes and no. Yes, in that we can always improve, deepen and move forward in our practical application of His kind of family. Also, no, because we are at that point where we should be and much of our expressions are not formal, i.e., a program, but natural expressions of a people that love one another. We just want to be obedient to the Lord in His call and try to avoid people slipping through the cracks. So, get ready for more on community, as Janice, myself, Pietze and many of our other speakers will be plowing through this in the near future.
With agape, storge, phileo for each one - Doug
Fun Stuff for More:
Agape (Ancient Greek ἀγάπη, agapē) is a Greco-Christian term referring to unconditional love, "the highest form of love, charity" and "the love of God for man and of man for God". The word is not to be confused with philia, brotherly love, or philautia, self-love, as it embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance. It goes beyond just the emotions to the extent of seeking the best for others.
Philia (/ˈfɪliə/; Ancient Greek: φιλία), often translated "brotherly love", is one of the four ancient Greek words for love: philia, storge, agape and eros. In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, philia is usually translated as "friendship" or affection. The complete opposite is called a phobia.
For myself and Janice, it was a fun thing to discover that we ended up pastoring a Foursquare Church that Fred and Margaret Johnson had wonderfully pastored years earlier. Here is a link to a video on a church that thrived for 90 years and after almost losing it because of an offense in their family came roaring back in the last 13 years. Listen and look close and you might see some people you recognize. (Scroll down for "Our 90 Year History Video")