Fully Alive 6

The glory of God is a human fully alive,” so said Irenaeus, and this line is both quoted and a theme for Trevor Hudson’s new book, Discovering Our Spiritual Identity: Practices for God’s Beloved.

Signpost #5: We discover ourselves in a new family, the family of God. We cannot be followers of Jesus all alone. Spiritual friendship is the theme.

“Saying yes to Jesus, I discovered, involved saying yes to his family, both visible and invisible.”

The Jesus-yes, Church-no slogan … yes, there are problems with and in the church. But the kingdom is not a private banquet between you/me and God. There is a relational reality about kingdom.

Trevor observes how little language there is in the NT about individual spiritual formation — why? Because it is focused on the People of God.

Here these words of his: “Within community,
God is known,
Christ takes shape,
and the Spirit burns with transforming power.”How often do we consider the connection with have the Saints who have departed? (Communion of saints, not just living saints.) He ponders the Desert saints and with our church tradition’s “cloud of witnesses.”

But this community is also local and now: fellowship is the right word. Trevor thinks small group involvement is foundational, more foundational than church attendance.

And he speaks of faithful friendships. One to one friendships. Routine and regular meetings with another person. This is about doing life together in an open, trusting, loving manner.

Trevor: “There can be no I without you.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Peter

    This is terrific; more and more convinced that small group involvement fulfills much more of the NT understanding of fellowship that church attendance (not that one can’t have both). This seems to be going through this book too fast; I wonder if in the future consideration could be given to weekly posts when covering a book like this? Trevor mentions that for some chapters or ‘signposts’ more than one week will be required for individuals or groups going through the material.

  • Susan N.

    Long ago I read a book by Dr. Paul Brand, co-authored by Philip Yancey, titled ‘In His Image’ (a sequel to ‘Fearfully and Wonderfully Made’). I’ll never forget this observation, on the unfortunate dynamic often found occurring within the historical Church (universal) and churches (local orgs): They shoot their wounded! The issue of church has been a sore subject for me, as recently as last year, I will admit. We avoided church for about a year, which I think ultimately was needed and good for us to work through a lot of junk. I missed corporate worship during that time, which is something my contemplative heart takes very seriously.

    Thankfully, one of the constants for me in terms of fellowship has come from among the most unlikely group–a dozen or so elderly nursing home residents with whom I have facilitated a weekly Bible study for about 4 years now. Time and time again, I have witnessed and FELT God’s amazing love in and through that group. I truly feel at home among them and have grown spiritually among them… My husband, meanwhile, has found BSF, which for him (a newer Christian) has provided the structure he needed to begin reading and thinking deeply about the Bible. And, not the least of my profound ‘fellowship’ experiences has been with my children. We’re together A LOT, read/study/ memorize/discuss the Bible and life together, pray together, and serve together; and I can’t tell you how many times God has spoken to me through these times and taught me through my children.

    Peter, I think the efficacy of small groups is, second to the presence of and fellowship with Christ, simply time spent with one another. You get real, learn to care about those people, and provide mutual support and encouragement. That kind of relationship takes time. In our fast-paced society, the one thing that most people don’t have! I do agree that the best-lived life for Christ includes church on Sundays, but intentional fellowship with other believers the rest of the week is key. Sometimes this fellowship arises in the most likely of places (at home w/family), but other times people draw together in surprising places (nursing home). I liked Scot’s description in ‘Jesus Creed’ of a typical day commuting to and from work, and all the places he recognizes kinship and interacts with other believers.

    And this is much too long–sorry!

  • Cathy

    Within community…”the Spirit burns with transforming power.” This seems to be an important key for knowing if the local community you are part of is actually on track or not. If it’s seemingly dead to this transforming power, do you stay with it or boldly go outside that group to find real fellowship? I have found that you can be surrounded by “Christians” and be alone in seeking Jesus Christ in the here and now. Susan, what bible study do you use at the nursing home? How did you go about starting up such a wonderful idea?

  • Susan N.

    Cathy @ #3 — I have enjoyed reading your contributions to these discussions and have felt a kinship with you in terms of what you’ve shared about where you’ve been (spiritually) and where you’re going. Your joy of renewal and discovery is encouraging and contagious!

    You make a good point about signs, or the absence of them, pointing to a healthy community. It certainly has not been easy for me to discern a right response at times to what you describe.

    Cathy, the nursing home thing was an amazing journey of faith for me. The desire to begin a volunteer Bible study fellowship in our local county home arose after 10 years spent “in training” when my mom and grandma lived in a nursing home. God opened my eyes to the need for Christ’s love and spiritual encouragement among the elderly in these facilities, and really shaped my heart to be drawn to reach out to these folks. It’s been some kind of wonderful, supernatural love that has flowed round and round in a circle (God-me-my elderly friends). Everyone should “know” Jesus in this way; it has expanded my faith in a whole new dimension! As far as Bible study materials, I’ve used a variety of “study aids” — some from the Internet (CRI Voice Institute is a favorite), others based on books (i.e., Phillip Keller’s ‘A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23′, ‘A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer’). Sometimes we do a theme, or a chapter or whole book of the Bible. Can you believe we studied Acts and Romans last year, chapter-by-chapter, week-by-week?!! Romans about did me in; and those dear souls hung right in there, even my sweet Catholic friend persevered through it. I’ve really approached this prayerfully, one step at a time, and simply asked the group what they want to study. Not being a Bible scholar, the responsibility to be diligent and speak of God rightly has motivated me to study and pray for help. I believe God has been faithful in answering that need. Our unofficial creed is that we all love God, confess Jesus as Lord, love each other, and love the Word. That is the common ground that we stand on which has kept us glued together, in spite of much diversity in most other ways :-)

  • http://jeffkclarke.com Jeff

    Another great signpost from Trevor’s book.

    He is so right on this point. Saying ‘yes’ to God in Christ and ‘no’ to the church is a contradiction. Maybe we all need to promote this idea to others (and ourselves) on a more consistent basis. In Evangelical circles at least, the time of decision to follow Christ is an almost exclusive endeavor, and the commitment to simultaneously follow Christ in community is largely ignored. In such a climate of individualism (in culture as well), there is little wonder why people can draw the conclusion that salvation is an entirely personal journey, thereby leaving little to know room for the role of community in spiritual formation.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com Jeff

    Just wanted to share a link to one of my earlier posts on the subject – I forgot to include it in my post :)

    http://jeffkclarke.com/2010/10/05/im-spiritual-but-not-into-organized-religion/

  • Cathy

    Thanks Susan @#4 for your very helpful response! The “unofficial creed” you mentioned seems so realistic for a place to start when it comes to fellowship. In Scot’s book, One.Life, he gives suggestions to those wondering how to “live out your One.Life for the Kingdom.Life.” One of those suggestions is to “commit to kingdom work locally” by “entering into fellowship with others who follow Jesus in the same Spirit.” So, the local community I worship with may not be the same people whom I fellowship with…and yet all will be encompassed in the Love…and that means action…which is at the center of following Jesus. This really involves listening to the “roar of the Lamb-Who-Is Lion.”
    Jeff @#5, I agree with your statement that we can’t say “yes” to Jesus and “no” to church, but I think much of the dilemma we face is because “church” has been interpreted to mean the same thing as organized religion.

  • Susan N.

    Cathy @ #7 — You are a few steps ahead of me in your reading. You go, girl! I’m savoring ‘Jesus Creed’ and have been pondering in the back of my mind how I might incorporate the book’s teaching into my Bible study small group. You encourage me to look at One.Life in the same way. I’m reading ‘Jesus Creed’ first; then plan to dig into ‘One.Life’. I have had the impression as I read references to ‘One.Life’ on this discussion community that it might be a valuable resource to work through with my teen daughter. I know she’d like ‘Jesus Creed’ also. ‘Discovering Our Spiritual Identity’ will make it onto my reading list this year, I hope! Good affirmations, just from this discussion series alone, to renew and refresh faith practices.

  • Cathy

    Susan @#8, It’s so encouraging having this discussion, and knowing we are reading the same books…making some of the same discoveries. Thank you!
    I am recommending One.Life to just about everybody I know, especially those young people seeking answers to vocation,etc.and within my own family. I’m sure your teen daughter will glean much from the book. How wonderful to have the opportunity to share this powerful message with her!

  • http://www.wendymccaig.wordpress.com Wendy McCaig

    My husband and I both grew up unchurched. I really don’t think we would have made a lasting connection to a church family if we had not gotten involved in a small group. Since then I have started, built up and unintentionally killed dozens of small groups with all kinds of emphasis. I think the future of the church lies in creating missionally shaped small groups where those who are connected to an “institutional” church and those who are not are equally welcome. I know many people who will take part in a small group who will likely never attend a church. For me where two are three are gathered…that is the church. We have to stop defining church as a “place of worship” and start worshiping in spirit and truth every time we gather. Refreshing to see others accept the centrality of relational gatherings to the mission of the church.

  • Cathy

    Thanks Wendy @#10 for the reminder about worshiping in spirit and in truth. Pondering all this results in peeling away a lifetime of ultra traditional “religiousness” for me, in order to get to the radical truth!


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