A lot of folks in our group are doing the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan this year. This plan takes you through the majority of the Old Testament once, and twice through the New Testament and Psalms. It works out to about four chapters per day.
So anyway, life happens. You get off track. Fall off the bandwagon. I want to motivate you to catch up with a little math. I can almost promise you it isn’t as overwhelming as you think it might be. We’re going to answer the question:
“If I up my reading from 4 to N chapters per day, how long will it take for me to become completely caught up?”
I created the graph below to answer this question. To use it, you need to figure out two things: (a) Count how many days behind you are, and (b) think about how much you could push yourself for a limited time in terms of total chapters read per day. The goal here isn’t in-depth study of each chapter, just reading it. At this clip, reading 10 chapters in a day should easily take less than an hour. (Note: in the legend, these are TOTAL number of chapters to read per day, not additional above the standard 4 chapters per day.)
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
In other words, give us what we need to sustain us until tomorrow. The point of teaching and exhortation in the Body of Christ is not to tickle our ears, blow our minds with new insights, and forge new connections through masterful re-translation. There is a place for that, and I love a Spirit-melting revelation as much as the next guy.
BUT … the higher goal of ministry is to equip believers to wake up tomorrow loving and obeying God more than they are today.
That may come through skilled and insightful teaching, but more often than not, the teachings and exhortations that actually help me the most (when it comes to actually obeying God and securing my affections in Him) are ones that are the most foundational, most genuine, most rooted in the Gospel. Sometimes what I need the most is someone to remind us that Jesus is Lord. Sometimes I just need to hear the Gospel again. Sometimes I just need to hear that if I fight through and set my heart on God and resolve to obey Him in everything, it will be worth it. That those who trust in Him are never put to shame.
A common trap in the church is a growing expectation that each teaching needs to be outdone by a more insightful or interesting one, almost like an addiction. This sets up a house of cards and actually discourages people from giving out of what God has given them. The barrier to entry creeps higher and higher. It’s especially dangerous in organic church because it’s even more likely than in small traditional churches that there won’t be someone in the group with a teaching gift to rival A.W. Tozer or Francis Chan (pick your poison).
The good news is that you don’t need Tozer in your local fellowship. You need exactly who God has put around you. You need normal church gatherings. You don’t lack any good thing. God equips the Body of Christ masterfully. And if you do have an itch for something deeper than what you hear in your church meetings, you’ll find no shortage of what you’re looking for via the Kindle store and podcasts.
And by the way, you might just end up in an organic church like ours that has multiple people with incredible teaching gifts that will pull out the mind-blowing treasures every now and again for you to feast on.
There will be a time when you will leave one fellowship you have been connected with and then be connected to another. The reasons vary, whether a change in geography or convictions or a different leading from the Lord, but almost every believer will experience this at one time or another.
One of the strengths of our particular group is that we try to encourage people to leave well, as much as it depends upon them. The original “members” of our church came mostly from another local Baptist fellowship to start doing house church exclusively. This was a process, but it was also a positive experience in that the pastors at the Baptist church blessed them and they all still have healthy relationships to this day.
This is rare.
It is sad that it is rare in the universal Church, but many people’s experience is very different.
Leaving one church to begin living among another is an awkward thing. It is easy for the former church to feel rejected. What do they lack that the new church has? And of course no church is perfect, so often there have been conflicts and contentions along the way if there’s been any real relationship at the former church at all.
The first piece of advice is that you should never leave one church and to go another while there is still unresolved conflict, bitterness, and contention between you. The reason to move on to another fellowship is simply that God is leading you to another church and another family of believers to walk with for a season. Be sure of His leading from a pure heart before making any decisions.
To move on with unresolved conflict and bitterness leaves a root that the enemy can, and will, use to cause more bitterness and contention in the new church, usually in the form of criticism and judgment on your part. As awesome as they may be, the new church won’t be perfect, either.
This is an issue that first must be dealt with in your heart. And the answer is to look upon those people, that former fellowship, with a thankful heart and love. See the gifts in the people and how God loves them. Be thankful for them. There may be valid issues, but God is among them to some degree, too.
If you have left with bitterness and unresolved conflict, it is almost never too late to go back and have phone conversations or meetings with people and come to peace with others in the Body of Christ.
The second major piece of advice is to bless them as you leave. They have been a blessing to you. Don’t use the leaving as an opportunity to say all the negative things you never had the guts to say before. I don’t believe in parting shots. Bless and give thanks for them to their face, whether that is leadership or others you have been close to. Take the time to have those conversations and affirm who they are in the Lord. If you’ve truly been in fellowship with others, that should be an easy thing to do. If not, God can show you. 99% of the time you will leave as brothers and sisters in peace and hard feelings will have been avoided.
From that place, you are able to dive into the lives of others with a free and pure heart.