Meet Bob. Bob is my fictional guy. Over the years Bob has fought dragons, used the force, and been dropped into a host of examples. By now he has a vast breadth of experiences. Right now, Bob has taken an interest in Christianity. He doesn’t really know what that means. In his mind he has pictures of old guys with beards and white robes waving incense about and being generally out of touch with modern society. But he’s interested and wants to know what people do at church anyway.
So right on 10am he rocks in to my church – Manningham Christian Centre. He didn’t want to get there too early. Just wanted to slip in, sit up the back, and then slip out at the end. But there’s no escape for Bob, as soon as he walks in the door there’s a couple of people who welcome him in and ask if he’s doing ok. They seemed genuinely interested in who he was. Although he’d rather not talk to anyone he had to admit it was nice someone welcomed him. He asked if he should sit anywhere in particular and they said it was totally up to him.
So 2nd row from the back it was. Music was playing over the PA system and there was about as wide a spread of age groups as you could get. They all seemed happy to see each other and chatted about what they’d been up to during the week. Seemed like friends just catching up. Over in the corner wafted a very nice coffee smell. Mmmmmm.
All the chairs faced a stage which had a few lights and quite a few musical instruments. Keyboard, acoustic guitar, bass, electric guitar, and….. is that a drum kit? Well that’s different. There were overhead projectors and screens. On each screen a media presentation was playing a countdown. There was 30seconds left to go. He could see a group of five people off to the side of the stage. They all put there hands in a circle and yelled a word. Bob thinks they said “Jesus”, or “glory”, or something. They all took to the stage and grabbed an instrument. Ah ok, it’s the band, thought Bob. So we’re getting some music first up. The guy with the acoustic guitar wished everyone a good morning. He asked everyone to stand up. The drummer counted in and off they went. It was fast and a little rock and roll. The words to the song came up on the screen and everyone seemed to enjoy singing. Bob realised that the song was a type of prayer. The people who sang actually believed what they sang.
There were a few more songs and the last one sort of quieter than the others. Bob took a quick look around and saw a few people with tears in their eyes. Most people had their hands in the air as well. What are they doing? Is this all for my benefit? It became clear that most people weren’t really interested in the songs or the church for their own sake. They were more interested in Jesus. Fair enough, Bob thought, Jesus was a pretty cool guy. As the band kept playing quietly in the background a lady got up from the crowd with a microphone and asked everyone to “stay in this place of worship” and “thank Jesus for who he was”. Bob realised he hadn’t heard anyone use the word “worship” as a positive in his entire life.
The band stopped and the lady asked for the notices to roll. Everyone sat back down. A video came up on the screen and showed what was coming up in the church over the next coming weeks. Pretty slick video. At the end of the video it said there was a free coffee for any visitors. Bob was pretty happy about that part.
Then the lady asked if there were any “testimonies”. What did that mean? A few people got up and talked about answered prayer. Someone said they were healed from a flu. One lady had an unsightly mark on her hand removed. She’d had it her entire life. A few people talked about how they worked up the courage to pray for a stranger that needed help. One guy had a son, whom he was estranged from, suddenly get in touch. A lot of “coincidences” as well. But Bob wondered.
Then it was time for “Tithes and Offerings”. Bob wondered when the whole money thing would rear it’s ugly head. There were small different coloured bags held by some people up at the front. Some people came forward and put money into them. The lady with the microphone said that if anyone was visiting from another church that they should give their tithe to their own church. “Tithe”, what does that mean? Bob resolved to look it up later. After people had sat back down they prayed over the bags. That the money would be used wisely and that God’s Kingdom would be advanced though it.
The band played quietly again in the background as the lady with the microphone asked that the Communion be given out. Bob got a little bit of cracker and a tiny little cup filled with some red cordial. Bob was a little disappointed it wasn’t red wine. The lady with the microphone explained that Communion was meant to remember Jesus. Not just His sacrifice but also who He was – God made flesh. Bob finally realised that these people believed Jesus was God. The cracker had little holes in it and the lady said it represented Jesus broken, whipped, and pierced body. She said Jesus took on all of our sicknesses and infirmities in his body. “Infirmities”? Another one to look up. People ate the cracker and then the lady said that the cup represented Jesus’ blood. That in drinking we remember His sacrifice that cleanses us from sin. Bob didn’t really understand what was going on at this point. He did know it was important though. He drank the cup.
Then the cups were collected and most of the little kids went out to what Bob assumed was Sunday school. The kids all seemed excited to go. The lady with the microphone introduced the senior Pastor of the church who was going to get up and speak. It ended up being the drummer from before!
The Pastor opened in a prayer and started to speak. On the overheads a slide came up with the words “Furious Love”. Apparently it had been a running topic for a few weeks. It was interesting. The Pastor really wanted his people to learn how to love. “Love who?” Bob thought. The Pastor actually asked the same question moments later. There were a few voices in the congregation. All said the same thing – “everybody”. Bob quietly thought it was a great sentiment but a bit of a hard ask. Then the Pastor said that it was really only possible through Jesus. He said that our lives, our identity, and our future belong to Jesus. His love passes all understanding, and the closer we are to Him, the better we can love others. Love others with no agenda to convert them. Nothing expected in return. He said that the spirit of this world had no defence against that kind of love. The congregation agreed.
As the Pastor was making his closing remarks the band took to the stage once more and played quietly. He asked if anyone needed prayer, or needed Jesus, to make their way up front as the meeting closed.
Now I must apologise as I pull you out of my little example. I’d like to say Bob jumped out of his chair and ran up to the front with tears in his eyes wanting this Jesus that has changed the world. But Bob is just an example guy. He wasn’t really there. He doesn’t have a spirit, soul or body. He could never respond that way because he wasn’t in the presence of God. Bob might be able to say yes or no to the Pastor guy up the front. But the Pastor guy isn’t really what Bob was after. You see I don’t drag myself out of bed early on a Sunday because it’s expected of me, or because I think I have to. I haven’t come through sickness, pain and anxiety because of any great strength I possess. I do what I do because I have a living dynamic relationship with Jesus. I can’t explain it in writing. I can’t give you examples enough. I can’t tell you about answered prayer that you can’t dismiss. I can only say that when I cry out in my distress He is there for me. And that’s a God I’ll serve till my dying day. I know it through and through. To my bones.
PS. Bob got his coffee, and it was awesome.