Friday, February 05, 2010


It would have to be called a.. "not for the faint of heart".. group. The make up of the group would be people who have been redeemed and know to whom they really belong but who are tired of trying to measure up to the standards of religion which have nothing to do with the reality of Christ in life. The membership would also consist of people who are tired of failing relationally, even as Christians, and are willing to honestly assess their own failures before the group so REAL growth can happen with ONE ANOTHER.

This would be possible ONLY after building a "safe" atmosphere for all in the group by agreeing with one another to a few guidelines like.. 1) No shaming or condemning anyone who has guts enough to share where they REALLY are in life.. 2) No trying to correct or fix someone who actually does honestly share where they are unless they request help with it all.. 3)No speaking for another [if a spouse is present for example) or trying to explain what someone is saying or means by what they are saying.. 4) No speaking of what is talked about in the group with specificity outside the group without permission to do so.

The agenda would be set ONLY after gathering for a meeting and, while a gifted couple would perhaps co-facilitate, they and others who are gifted as well, would lead a time of basic instruction of the scriptures that might apply to any given subject. Such instruction would come at any proper time that presents itself along the way. They might even sing a little before the meeting time is over.. who knows!!

This group would NOT be comfortable with a frustrated preacher want-to-be who talks all the time. Certainly not with a closet Messiah, male or female, who has all the answers for those smart enough, in their opinion, to listen to him/her. They would not be comfortable with a helper who only feels good about themselves if it's obvious he/she has been able to correct someone who misses the mark in his/her opinion. The people of the group might even share that uncomfortableness with the offender in the proper way and the proper time.

But it WOULD be a comfortable place for anyone who's wounded, broken, hurting or just plain honest about struggles in life and wants to experience Jesus in ALL of life and who is ready to get some handles on things that make sense biblically as well as a healthy dose of good old fashion common sense.

The people of this group would then go out to live in a world that has a totally different emphasis and value system than do they, but would, out of real love, be willing to share the message of Christ with other hurting and lost people they meet along the way. Those who are found to be ready, able and willing to hear that message will be loved into the Kingdom.

If the message is rejected the people of the group would continue to live with and love those people in the world regardless BECAUSE their goal is to live out the reality they are learning as a group with all people in or outside the group NOT to make group members.

Were someone to respond in faith and become a believer, the people of the group would then share and care enough to get them connected to the gathered group where they too may grow and learn about what it means to REALLY belong to the Lord Jesus and live relationally with all kinds of people both in the group and outside the group.

Wait a minute..I think I've just described the gathered church of the New Testament.

Paul B.

UPDATE--February 6

A cool quote that may relate to the above post...

“Twentieth century Christians must re-learn the language of Scripture with respect to church. For the original meaning of countless Biblical terms like “church, “minister,” “pastor,” “house of God,” “ ministry,” and “fellowship” have been largely lost, thus eroding the landscape of the New Testament assembly. What is more, these words have been invested with institutional power – a power that was foreign to those who originally penned them in the Bible. Consequently, a pressing need in the church today is the rediscovery of Biblical language.”

Frank A. Viola from “Rethinking the Wineskin.”


Strider said...

Can I bring the fried chicken? I make really excellent fried chicken.

We have a group that is close here by the way. You are welcome to come and join us sometime. Seriously, some excellent thoughts here.

Chris Ryan said...

The goal isn't making group members?! But what will we say to the poor masses if we can't make them feel guilty for not meeting their weekly quota of converts?

Wonderful thoughts! Glad that you're back and in good form.

Paul Burleson said...


Hey, the difference would be worth the distance.

BTW, believe it or not, and I'm a little embarassed to admit it, I just saw the movie from which came, I'm assuming, your blog name and comment name. EXCELLENT MOVIE.

Rex Ray said...

Paul said: “Wait a minute…I think I’ve described the gathered church of the New Testament.”

Which “gathered church” event are you referring to? Maybe the one:

1. Where there was fussing over the amount of food being distributed among them?

2. Where a husband and wife was carried out dead?

3. “When there had been much disputing…” (Acts 15:7)

4. “Those preachers of yours…don’t have true and honest hearts.”

5. “I am amazed that you are turning away so soon from God…you are being fooled by those who twist and change the truth concerning Christ.”

6. Concerned the church might stone Paul.

Sorry, Paul, the devil made me do it. :)

Rex Ray said...

On the serious side, the group I’d love to be in is one where I assume everyone is a perfect Christian.

The negative side of everyone knowing the sins of others is like one woman said of someone who had ‘confessed of years of pornography’:

“When I shake his hand, I’m wondering if he’s undressing me with his eyes.”

Paul Burleson said...


I would say you've chosen events that would best describe the occasions mentioned here...."The people of the group might even share that uncomfortableness with the offender in the proper way and the proper time."

Paul Burleson said...

The good times gathered I'm refering to are seen here is Gal. 6:2 "Bear ye one another's burdens."

My assumption is there would have been a sharing of burdens for them to be known and carried by others.

Or there is that verse in 1 Corinthians 14:2 "When you come together everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, or a revelation,...all must be done for the building up of the gathered group."

My assumption is that some have shared their weaknesses so others can help since building up implies some had been torn down to start with and there certainly would be more than a Sunday sermon with people silent. Just sayin...

As to the lady at the door...I suppose had she shared in the meeting her struggle with a gossiping tongue I COULD have thought to myself when I shook her hand at the door..."Will she gossip about me tomrrow at her work-place?"

But were I to think that I believe the Spirit would deal with me about my own attitude of thinking the worst about her or my refusing to forgive her as I've been forgiven. [ie failing to love] But that's just me.

Paul Burleson said...


I know. I'm really throwing away my tool for creating guilt by making people see their short-comings in weekly meeting attendance.

On top of that I can't even use their breaking the ten commandments.

This since I've come to see a higher law written on their hearts is their guide. Such as every day is a Sabbath for believers. This means they might choose to buy gas on the Lord's day or even take in a movie Sunday evening since Sunday isn't the biblical Sabbath.

The truth of the scriptures really messes with the way I used to do things doesn't it. I guess I'll have to leave the revelation and conviction of guilt to the Holy Spirit. Rats.

What's a preacher to do these days. :)

Rex Ray said...

I see I misjudged your statement on the “early church” as a lot of Christians look back on the early church as being perfect. I stand corrected.

I agree with “Bear ye one another’s burdens”. Reminds me of the song “Lean on me if you’re not strong…”

I also agree: “When you come together everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, or a revelation…all must be done for the building up of the gathered group.”

I disagree with your assumption that sharing weaknesses (sin) builds the person or the group. How would sharing sins from ‘breaking the speed limit to rape and murder’ build anyone up?

In 1826, William Morgan published secrets of Masons. His murder caused 2,000 Lodges to disband and 45,000 Masons to quit.

I say that to say people don’t like bad news.

Our small church service starts by shaking hands with everyone. I believe you misjudge my statement by assuming the lady was shaking hands “at the door”.

If you judge her as a “gossip” for confiding with one close friend, I predict the group of confessing weakness would turn into something worse than Harper Valley’s PTA.

Thanks for the reply.

Paul Burleson said...


With regards to the woman, whatever her proximity to the door, I think the statement I made here.."I suppose had she shared in the meeting her struggle with a gossiping tongue I COULD have thought to myself"..presupposes she judged herself as a gossip and shared it with the group. So you've misjudged me having judged her obviously. But easily done with a misreading of what I said.

As to this.."I disagree with your assumption that sharing weaknesses (sin) builds the person or the group"..We'll just have to agree to disagree and leave it at that. Although I don't believe the sharing of failures in a group, [sins] as you put it is necessarily [sins].

The illustrations you use of what you fear could be shared and would be damaging leave me with no desire to address that absurdity. We're just from different planets and that's ok.

Aussie John said...


I empathize with your words, 100%!
How God would be glorified if more were to understand what you obviously do!

Being a disciple of Jesus is radically different to being a disciple of Moses, as I can see you clearly know.

I am convinced that many who read the words God spoke to Peter, James, and John on the mount, read them quite differently to you, and I.

God said, "This is my beloved Son; listen to HIM.”

It seems to me that many of our brethren today have built a tent for Moses, and left Jesus with Elijah, without a tent.

The result? Moses voice is heard, loud and clear.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I know you know how ludicrous the charge is by those who call you and me "antinomian" [without law for those who don't know] since we, in fact, follow the greatest lawgiver ever.

This is good.."It seems to me that many of our brethren today have built a tent for Moses, and left Jesus with Elijah, without a tent."

Since Jesus has become the Lawgiver AND the Prophet for the New Covenant He has superceded both Moses AND Elijah. Just one tent needed. What a Savior!!

Christiane said...

Yes Paul, I think, if you quoted Galatians very famous verse 'bear ye one another's burdens', then you understand the heart of the law of Christ that governed the first century Christians.

I never thought to see Protestants come to understand that it is OKAY to live out the Law of Love in action, and that it is not a mark against any believer who treasures that Christ alone gives Salvation to mankind.
I never thought to see how beautifully the idea of 'community' could be embraced by Protestants as a healing sanctuary for adminiestering Christ's love.
I am so thrilled by this. It is like something that was lost has been found again, after a long, long time. When did this awakening happen ?
People seem more ready to care now for one another, and oh my Goodness, are there so many who need that Christian compassion.

So wonderful to learn of this. I needed the hopefulness this knowledge brings.

Peace in Christ,

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks for stopping by. I REALLY enjoy your comments at other places and am honored you came by here.

I seldom read a comment of yours without being reminded of one of my early "Kingdom" moments of the past. [Because your Catholic.]

Years ago in a little place below one of the stations of the Via-Dolasosa a Catholic Sister was speaking of the suffering of Christ as He carried His Cross only eventually to fall under it's burden.

With tears and s soft broken voice she told us of it's ultimate end at the crucifixion. Afterwards I walked to her and hugged her and said "You really know Him don't you!!" She said "yes" and I said "no, I mean you REALLY know Him." Her reply was "Oh yes, He is my Lord and My Savior." I hugged her again.

Christiane said...

Paul, thank you for sharing that story. I think I know why that nun was weeping. If you put a Catholic nun on the Via Dolorosa to pray the stations of 'Way of the Cross', then she may feel that time has melted away, and she is present there with Him in her spirit, as He suffered.
In Judaism and in Catholicism, this experience is described as 'to make present again'. I imagine she felt very, very close to Our Lord in that place. And your spirit felt it, too. I'm not surprised at all. That is the bond between Christians that no denominational differences can ever break apart, as it is a bond formed by the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ. Truly, a 'Kingdom' experience.
Be peaceful.

Junkster said...

Excellent post, Paul. I have experienced such gatherings at times in my life, and consider them the most genuine expressions of what the church was and is intended to be. Unfortunately, I've rarely experienced anything like it in a church building on a Sunday morning.

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks for stopping by. Do so often if possible.

Rex Ray said...

Have you heard the story of three friends that decided to share there most secret sin?

One said his was gambling.
Another said his was drinking.
The last said his was gossip and he was dying to leave.

Which brings up the fourth rule of the GROUP: “No speaking of what is talked about in the group with specificity outside the group without permission to do so.”

The question arises: Is everyone required as Masons with an oath: “…binding myself under no less a penalty than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by its roots…”

What happens if the fourth rule is broken?

About the woman being a gossip:

If I said, “I suppose Paul Burleson is a gossip”, I believe my words would indicate that you were a gossip.

Therefore I will not stand corrected by your explanation of “I suppose had she shared in the meeting her struggle with a gossiping tongue…”

Once your son said to the effect that Jesus was a Southern Baptist. As much as I like Wade, he would not admit his words were wrong but that “Sometimes words do not convey the real meaning.”

I’ll admit your explanation was better than his.

Paul Burleson said...


"What happens if the fourth rule is broken?"

Everyone would be disappointed.

Aussie John said...


It has been my experience that genuine relationships require trust and the willingness to risk oneself and one's reputation.

That is true of ALL humankind, in ALL relationships, bar none!

The unwillingness of many to go the distance, as you describe in your article, causes great concern to me, because I know what it is to be a closed book. I was one.

If I, and my brethren in Christ cannot be transparent about their being children of Adam, truthfully relating the inevitable consequences for them and those around them, they negate their ability to make disciples (I don't mean converts. A good salesman can do that).

One of the results of the closed book attitude is that we become liars by default, hiding reality.

We fool ourselves if we think that 1 John 1:8 doesn't apply to this behavior.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Just read this in "Life Together" by Bonhoeffer.

"Confess your sins one to another"(James 5:16). He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians despite corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners.
The pious community permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship…

In confession the break-through to community takes place. Sin demands to have a man to himself. It withdraws him from community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of the unexpressed, it poisons the whole being of a person… This happens even in the midst of a pious community.

In confession the light of the Gospel breaks into the darkness and the seclusion of the heart. The sin must be brought into the light. The unexpressed must be openly spoken and acknowledged... This is a hard struggle until the sin is openly admitted.

Since the confession is made in the presence of a Christian brother, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned. The sinner surrenders; he gives up his evil…

The expressed, acknowledged sin has lost all of its power. It has been revealed and judged as sin. Now the fellowship bears the sin of the brother. He is no longer alone with his evil for he has cast of his sin in confession and handed it over to God. Now he stands in the fellowship of sinners who live by the grace of God in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Now he can be a sinner and still enjoy the grace of God. He can confess his sins and in this very act find fellowship for the first time. The sin concealed separated him from fellowship, made all apparent fellowship a sham; the sin confessed has helped him find true fellowship with the brethren in Jesus.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

All you say is good. But this borders on the profound IMHO...."If I, and my brethren in Christ cannot be transparent about their being children of Adam, truthfully relating the inevitable consequences for them and those around them, they negate their ability to make disciples (I don't mean converts. A good salesman can do that)."


Thanks for the quotes. It may be that Bonhoeffer said is best of all.

Rex Ray said...

You said, “Everyone would be disappointed.”

Would that mean the success of the group would be shattered if one person told? If trust was shattered, I’d predict the group would have a short life.

Which of two groups do you think would have the longest life?

First group.
At the end of the meeting, each person is given what the others suggest how to improve.

Second group.
At the end of the meeting, each person is given what the others suggest is their best qualities.

Paul Burleson said...


"Would that mean the success of the group would be shattered if one person told?"

I would say disappointment never shatters anything that is real. It is simply a human emotion.

I would also say that if success is shattered by disappointment it wasn't real success at all.

I would say if the people of the first group have lived their lives trying to measure up so they can be acceptable, in their mind, to God, others suggesting how to improve themselves would NEVER help. It would ONLY bring greater condemnation.

I would say if the people of the second group were those who have battled failure and rejection all their lives, for people to suggest what their personal qualities are would fall on deaf ears. They would need to know what God thinks of them.

I would finally say Rex that I think we have reached a point of ad nauseam in this game of twenty questions about this particular issue. As I said earlier let's just agree to disagree.

Rex Ray said...

Ok, Paul,
On this subject as Jack would say, “No more talky-talky. :)

Christiane said...


Paul wrote this: "I would say disappointment never shatters anything that is real."

I so much agree.
And what Paul wrote reminded me of a classic children's book called
'The Velveteen Rabbit'. I quote from it here:

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Rex Ray said...

Dear Christiane,
I say dear to very few, but in your case, you’re an exception for when even a person’s wrong you try to straighten them out by lifting them up.

Sorry for not replying sooner but I’ve just noticed your comment.

Your toy story reminds me of the ‘Love Chapter’ in the Living Translation (1 Corinthians 13:5) “It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong.”

Some of my family has complained a few times that my brother has done me wrong when I’d never noticed and would even argue with them.

You see – he’s my twin and we were never apart over three days until we were 21. He decided to finish college in Alaska and we have seen each other very seldom.

I’m surprised and glad when I meet his friends and they know all about me. And if I’d been the brother of Jesus, the Bible would be a foot thick. James mentions God 77 times and Jesus 9. Those nine:

1-2. James says he is a servant of Jesus and Jesus has a noble name.
3-7 The name of Jesus is used in connection with laws.
8-9 Jesus is coming back.

Christians need the book of James because he was an expert on how we should keep the law, but when it comes to salvation, I agree with Martin Luther.