Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Potluck Koinonia

"All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus..." Acts 4:32-33
....Koinonia...Christian fellowship or communion with God, or, more commonly, with fellow Christians....."Koinonia is more than a cup of coffee and small talk; it is the fellowship of the broken sharing brokenness." Ann Voskamp
In the church, we talk a great deal about "having fellowship with one another." There is a great emphasis on being "a community." How do we really define that? Is it closer to being just "coffee and small talk," or is it really "the fellowship of the broken sharing brokenness?" What does "community" look like in your church? What does it look like in you?
I heard Francis Chan speaking recently about this. He referenced his days of pastoring a very "successful" megachurch. Thousands came each week. They listened to him preach, sitting in darkened sanctuaries, then they walked out into the daylight, got in their cars, and went home. To him, this didn't seem at all what church was to be, is to be. Larry Crabb wrote a wonderful book several years ago titled, "Real Church: Does It Exist? Can We Find It?" In it he shared his frustration, and the frustration of many others with how the modern church of the west seemed completely removed from its roots in the first century. For pastors in particular, two characteristics seemed to be in the forefront; burnout and boredom. Even in those who pastored what appeared to be large, successful "fellowships." There was a void in all of it. A void that only the experience of true Koinonia could fill. Koinonia that has as it's center, Christ the King. Chan left his megachurch in order to plant a fellowship that didn't have growing bigger for Him, but growing deeper in Him as it's focus. And in the process, growing closer to Him, and to one another in the journey. Chan, and those who are joining with Him in his house church movement, appear to be finding what Crabb labels the "real church." Are you and I? If we are to, it will mean the tearing down of all the walls we've constructed between each other. It will mean a willingness to be broken, transparent, vulnerable, and yes, available. To Him, and especially to each other. That means personal cost. A "real church" has to be composed of those willing to pay such a price. A price that will not allow them, both pastor and people, to just preach and listen to a sermon, then disconnect, if there was even a connection to begin with, casually walk out the door and go home.
In all the years that I've been "going to church" almost all the "fellowship" I've experienced is of the "coffee and small talk" type that Voskamp mentions. Potlucks, small groups, you name it, most of it never goes beyond the surface. It's seen even in the gathering of pastors, with emphasis on business and the program. Too often we come hungry for more, and leave the same way. It's not often that we are the broken sharing our brokenness. Small talk, broad discussion, a bit of general prayer, and away we go. There are some who've sought to lead the way to that "more", but they are not many. If this is the case for the pastors, what must be the state of the people?
I remember years ago a brother pastor sharing that if he was going through a deep valley, he could share that with his people for a week, maybe two, but he had better have gotten beyond it after that. For all of us, that seems to be about the extent of our wanting "to be real." I recognize that there are many who want to stay in their grief, refusing to let it go. I know too that there are those who seek the attention of others and don't want to lose it. Yet too much of the church just doesn't want to be inconvenienced by having to tend to the wounds and brokenness of others past what they consider a reasonable time. They want them to move on. Could it be because the brokenness of our brother reminds too much of the brokenness of ourselves? So the walls get higher, the hearts get harder.
This has been too long, I know, and there's so much more to say, but I long for, and I think He longs for us to have, something much greater than "potluck koinonia." Real people, coming together as the real church, being one together in and with a real God. We want to emulate the first century church in its explosive growth, but we can't because we know little to nothing of its Holy Spirit centered love of the Father and one another power. Until we do, we'll keep gathering to listen as one talks, a few sing, and then we go home in our cars.....unless of course there's a potluck fellowship after church.
Pastor Gary O'Shell

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Christmas Prayer

A Christmas Prayer by Robbie Iobst

Empty me, Lord, of
the idea of a perfect Christmas.
Fill me with 
accepting life as it comes.
Empty me, Lord, of
the pressure to have my home decorated like a Martha-Stewart-worthy Winter Wonderland,
Fill me with
the peace of simple beauty.
Empty me, Lord, of
the gluttony around Christmas sweets and treats.
Fill me with
glad-hearted moderation.
Empty me, Lord, of
the need to have my calendar full of holiday fun.
Fill me with
the desire to spend extra time with You.
Empty me, Lord, of
the temptation to spend more than I have on gifts.
Fill me with
the kindness of unpretentious thoughtfulness within my budget.
Empty me, Lord, of
the black hole of “gotta-get-It-done” that tries to swallow me in December.
Fill me with
the unending pool of Your peace each moment, each day.
Empty me, Lord, of
the tyranny that Christmas can become.
Fill me with
the wonderful joy of Your birthday party.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Here's a thought: If we have pledged allegiance to Jesus as our King and now serve as ambassadors to His Kingdom, how can we participate in the political processes of another kingdom?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Be the Reason...

It amazes me that sometimes it takes a complete stranger to make you see your work has value and is not for naught. What started as a random conversation in Starbucks about football, moved to my name badge and this: "I'll let you slide for being a Cowboys fan, because that's some super good stuff you do there. Thanks for what you do." I'm not saying this to offer myself a pat on the back, nor do I want some applause. I've done anything but that for myself this week. I've beat myself up. Been disappointed. Jaded. Broken. Wanted to quit. I'm offering this: If a perfect stranger can offer encouragement to someone he doesn't know, then why do we take those so dear to us for granted? If you have a carer, a helper, a supporter in your life-thank them. Encourage them. Don't assume they know you appreciate them. And don't assume everyone else is offering it either. Also most helpers are rarely taking the time to do this for themselves, or taking the time to even take care of themselves. All their time and energy is being put into you or someone else. A simple act of kindness could make a world of difference to their own well being, and could even keep them from quitting altogether. Be the reason someone feels encouraged today.

~ January Marshall

Friday, September 23, 2016

Following God's Direction in Your Life

"If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them." - James 4:17
So how do you know the direction God is guiding you? In James 1:5 it says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Prayer is central to communication with God, but hearing God's answer isn't always easy. Sometimes we struggle with the guidance He's given us, or it seems too challenging. Our human nature often guides us to take the path of least resistance or to doubt the power of God's plan or question it entirely. There is a certain peace in trusting in God and his plan, however. In Philippians 4:7 we read, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Peace is something that we all seek in our lives. In our marriage, work life, and even when we eat or sleep. It's difficult to stay focused in times of turmoil and stress. Believing in God's plan and His will in our lives is often difficult, but when we experience the peace of knowing we're working to serve Him, the storms of life aren't nearly as intimidating. As challenging as life can seem, He is with us through it all, and your labor is not in vain. When we are trusting in the Lord and His direction in our lives, even death will be swallowed up by victory through Jesus Christ.

"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." -1 Corinthians 15:58

~ Matt Croti Maddalena

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Opportunities to Love Jesus and to Love People...

Wise words from the heart of my friend, Avery Moore:

"Today, I dropped off a carload of clothes and things as a donation to the Topeka Rescue Mission and was reminded of something that Jesus said: “You will always have the poor among you…” (Matthew 26:11a) When I first encountered this verse years ago, it made me think, “Well, there you go. He said we’ll always have the poor, so what’s the point in doing anything about it. We’ll never resolve that problem.” Today, I thought of that verse in a different light. In that little phrase, perhaps he wasn’t just saying, “You will always have the poor.” Perhaps he was also saying, “You will always have opportunities to show me how much you love me and how much you love people. You’re welcome.” Well, there you go. That changes everything!"

Monday, August 8, 2016

Liena's Prayer

Powerful video created by Voice of the Martyrs ~ Liena's Prayer. Viewer Discretion Advised. 

Published on Sep 18, 2014

Liena and her family turned down offers of asylum in Western countries after civil war broke out in Syria. They knew the cost that might be required, but they chose to remain as witnesses to their Muslim neighbors and as an encouragement to other Christians.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Christo-centric or Fill-In-The-Blank-Centric: Finding That Which Grounds Us

We can be safe or we can be ambassadors of Jesus Christ. It is unlikely that we can be both at the same time. Jesus wasn't safe but He was good. Fear would have us live protected lives and be safe in a world filled with land mines.

Living safe looks like disciples huddled together behind locked doors after the crucifixion of Christ. The fear was real and the fear was fueled by a legitimate threat because the disciples were likely asking themselves a very legitimate question. Which one of us will be killed next?

We are not called to be controlled by fear. We are called to operate with a sound mind. God did not call us to a life of timidity. Courage may be required as we press into our fear as this culture is rapidly moving toward secularism.

When we recognize the incredible resurrection power available to us and live into all this means, we will no longer fear losing political power or being marginalized as Christians in a culture that may be becoming more hostile to the Christian faith. In a world in which we are living more like exiles in our own land, fear is not going to be life-giving. Fear will kill us much quicker than the outside threat we perceive to exist.

If we find ourselves fighting to be center place in this culture through political means or other forms of structural power, we may be operating out of fear.

I am reminded that Jesus never implemented a new political system. He is the one that said, "And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles."

This was not a a popular message of revolt against an oppressive Roman government. It was a path toward a life of humility. It was a call to something much deeper. In essence, it seems to me Jesus was saying, "Quit clinging to that which you find your identity in. Instead, find your identity in Me. Stop trying to insist on finding places of power from which to wield change. Relax. Realize I AM the change your heart desperately desires. When you recognize who I AM you will stop insisting on finding temporal solutions for eternal desires and needs."

I am reminded that when the disciples came out from behind closed doors, identifying with the Resurrected Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, everything changed. They couldn't be shut up, threatened, or intimidated. They were convinced Jesus was raised from the dead and their Christo-centric hope led to a Christo-centric life. The meaning of life was found ONLY in Jesus Christ. They just couldn't stop talking about Jesus. It was obvious. These disciples had the conviction that their whole life revolved around Jesus.

~ John Comstock