When I started following Jesus I was 15 or 16. A bunch of us around the same age had this realization of Jesus at the same time, so did Leslie and Matt, parents to two of our group of friends (and part of the group of friends also!). We all got into a church that soon split up. The pastor had a nervous breakdown. As a result, we were basically thrown into having to be church before it had become the post-modern mantra.
We didn’t know what the hell we were doing and it was great! We were getting together to pray and it would last all night. We were talking to people all the time about what we believed and it didn’t matter if they believed the same thing. We were learning to love them. Learning to love each other. We had some fantastic discussions with people from different faiths who we went to school with. We were showing up early to high school to stand outside the classrooms and pray and take ground. We were having communion in our homes with bagels and white wine in paper cups. If some of our friends were there (and they often were) who didn’t want to follow Jesus they could have communion too. We were all getting together every week at Matt & Les’s house. They would cook up a bunch of food, then we took it down to the park where all the homeless people hung out and they had food to eat that day. We brought garbage bags full of clothes for them to go through too. We sat and had a meal with them, got to know them. I still remember Paul and Sandbox to this day. I have thought of them often and my heart still loves them and wonders where they are and how they’re doing.
That is the Christianity I was introduced to. We made a lot of mistakes. We fought with each other and I’m sure we were overzealous many times BUT DANG!!! WE HAD LOVE. It burned in our hearts. At times, we were overcome more by emotions than by the Holy Spirit, but the older people around us supported us, counseled us wisely, journeyed right alongside with us. We had conversations, not sermons. I once had pneumonia. I remember it was terrible. I could feel the fluid making my lungs heavy. We were all at Pat and T.Y.’s house and we were praying and stuff. God told me to ask Leslie to put her hand on my chest and pray for me to be healed. She did and I was, instantly.
We took on more than we could handle one night when about 10 of us got together to pray. Someone started manifesting demonic stuff and it scared the shit out of us!! Ha! We had to run up the road to a guy who was an elder at the church. He came in and prayed with authority and it was done. He stayed and counseled us and taught us. We were shaken, and kept on praying until dawn. It was fantastic.
That is what I started with. I believe it may be different than what many people started with. That’s what I’ve known as following Jesus and I’ve never wanted less. I know there is WAY more than what we had, but I never started out with the lie that it’s “Us vs. Them”, “Christians vs. the World”. Maybe that’s why I feel a scream rise up inside me when I go to most church services. Maybe that’s why I hate hearing teaching over and over again about how to be saved. Maybe that’s why I feel frustrated when we hang out with Christians but Jesus rarely enters the conversation… it just seems so weird to me.
When we began, it was never about works. It was always about friendship with Jesus and with each other.
Since then, I have had little glimpses of relationships like that on this journey of being Church. I hope that God carries me into deep relationships like that again with people who aren’t satisfied with having stuff and keeping to themselves. I miss it.
So, there is the beginning of my story.