It has been a season of learning for me, which I hope means having an additional dose of learning rather than having seasons of stupidity. I have had the incredible privilege to attend a few conferences, most of which came at zero, or very little, financial expense. I could easily be a conference junkie, and I have enjoyed the variety of ways I have been taught through these conference experiences. Both, through these experiences as well as just the daily exercise of what I have learned. I am finding that the depth of life is found in the exhaling of what I have inhaled. In simple terms, living what I am learning. James 1:22 puts it this way, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
This not only challenges me each day, but it has also been the echo of my faith community, Ecclesia, which invites people to become the hands and feet of Jesus. The church is nearly two years old and we have had upwards of 200+ people gather with us on a given Sunday, and in the beginning there was four of us sitting in a garage wondering what the church will look like. recently we have 80-100 folks on a given Sunday. The days of over two hundred folks was actually the most difficult. Difficult in that so many people wanted to sit in church and be taught new things, little nuggets of feel good spirituality. I don't say this to be negative, but to bring to light what Ed Stetzer recently highlighted as "the biggest problem with the western, American church today." The church is full of pew sitters, those who make Christianity a Sunday event, and they live the other six days as a test of whether or not they have the strength to make it to next Sunday when they can get their spiritual bucket refilled. So what was the most common request, and exit excuse, we heard as a staff during those days? "We really want to go deeper, specifically in the teaching, we need to be better fed."
What is deeper than doing what the Word says? Believe me, I am someone who enjoys reading and carving away at the beauty that is found in historical and exegetical study. I can also say that nothing I have ever read has trumped the actual experience of doing what the Word says.
The adventure lived has far surpassed the dreams only imagined.
The greatest depth I have ever experienced has come from people I have laughed with, cried with, and served along side of. I am an introvert, which can be disguised by the gift for acting, storytelling, and the ability to laugh and be laughed at in all it's glory from the platform. Yet I get re-energized from solitude, reading, and the whisper of silence. It can be incredibly difficult to look out and see the least of these, step into their shoes, and love with the otherness of Christ.
It has to happen otherwise the body of Jesus will atrophy. I'm sure Jesus would rather experience arthritis and leg cramps from the service in which we do, rather than the headache we would be if only thinking big thoughts. My friend Rob, who happens to be our lead pastor, has experienced this within his love for cycling over these past two years. When I met him I learned he loved biking and I saw his pro-style bikes... sitting in his garage, not unused, but used little. Over the last 8 months he has shaken the dust off his bikes, as well as over 60 pounds from his body due to action. He moved affection and intention into action. He has never felt better and each ride grows his appetite for the next one. Reading cycling magazines can be helpful, encouraging, and motivating, but they don't substitute for the ride itself.
That our exercise of God's Word would be the depth by which we experience church. May our appetite never quite be quenched, but let it grow with each bite of God's Word. As the church, let's give Jesus some leg cramps!
With Grace & Peace