The church plant

Many stories have been shared about Jesus’ time among his disciples. In John’s book he mentioned that many were never recorded. The following was not recorded and almost certainly never happened.

Jesus invited the disciples to his house for a meal. It was the weekend and he said that it was important we ‘did life’ together. Andrew pointed out we ‘did life’ quite a lot already but Jesus said that wasn’t authentic enough. He said, “we must do more life”. I didn’t really get what that meant, but then it wasn’t unusual for Jesus to say random things.

So, on the Sunday night we all piled in to Jesus’ living room. Peter said he’d be along later because he had to get the kids to bed. But everyone else was there apart from Judas who was watching the end of the football.

‘Jesus had made his speciality, spaghetti bolognese. ‘Speciality’ might be stretching it a little, the sauce was from a jar and the pasta was soggy. I always thought it strange that a man who could create bread and fish from thin air, couldn’t cook pasta.

After dinner Jesus spoke. “So guys, I’ve got this new idea and I wondered if you’d be interested?” We all leaned in a little. “I’m in” said Peter, and scanned the room expecting others to follow. “You’ll need to give us a little more than that Lord” I replied. “Always a cynic Thomas, but I’m glad you asked” said Jesus smiling at me.

“As you know, we’ve all become fed up with the synagogue. It’s getting harder to persuade some of you to get out of bed on Sabbath mornings. So I’ve been doing a little research and some people online are suggesting that we start our own service. It wouldn’t have to be on the Sabbath; we could have it any day we like. And we wouldn’t have to sing Psalms.” We all looked round nodding in agreement. “They call it a Fresh Expression! It’s a bit like synagogue plant, but you don’t have to talk about God or sing, in fact it’s kind of frowned upon, at least, in the first few months.”

“Brilliant!” shouted Andrew. Although John looked a little sad that there might not be music. He’d been practicing guitar loads since becoming the praise band leader at the Capernaum synagogue. “When do we start?” said Peter. “Well most people do a community audit and work out the needs of local people. I don’t know if you’ve noticed there are a lot of sick and hungry people around. Not to mention the leppers. But personally I think we should focus on Millennials like us.”

“And we could apply to the Temple for funding. They’re offering funding for work with 20-40’s and there’s also separate Sanhedrin funding for rural areas like Galilee.

“So Lord, where do we start?” Asked one of the twelve.

“Well, we probably need to do a course.”

“What kind of course Jesus?”

“I was thinking about the miracles course at Galilee Bible Synagogue. It seems a good mix of practical and spiritual. And you can study part-time. That’s important because it said online that we need to be bi-vocational church planters. We can’t expect other people to fund us, and getting jobs will help us stay grounded.”

“Aw, but you said we had to leave the fishing”, said Andrew. “We’ve already sold the boat!”

Keller’s dichotomy?

Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves,

“What is he saying? This is blasphemy”

They murmured together. “How dare he!”

“Jesus should have healed the man”.

“If he could move, then he could work and then he could escape poverty.”

“He’s ignoring structural sin, and denying the Kingdom’s concern with this man’s exclusion from employment.”

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them,

“Gosh, you’re right. I didn’t mean to suggest that the forgiveness of sins is more important. Or, that one day this man might die and find himself excluded from an actual eternal reality.”

He turned to the man on the mat,

“Can we pretend that never happened? I should have said, get up and walk!”

The man looked dazed. He stood up, and seemed momentarily pleased. But then he hesitated looking concerned.

“Lord, thanks for letting me walk. But am I forgiven or not? I mean, I don’t want to find myself one day outside the Kingdom.”

“Oh don’t worry about abstract things like that” replied Jesus. “Just go and enjoy your new mobility. You need to focus on the here and now!”

For the real text see: Mark 2

The Bus from Emmaus

Many people will know the story of the road to Emmaus, where the risen Jesus surprised some woebegone followers. But few know the story of Jesus’ return to Jerusalem*

After breaking bread, Jesus vanished. Cleopas and his friend quickly washed the dishes and set off to tell the others what had happened.

Jesus also wanted to head back to Jerusalem. But it had been a long day, and rather than walking back, he decided to take the bus.

Calling it a bus is an exaggeration. It was more a cart pulled by donkeys.

Jesus climbed on board, and sat on the bench next to a young woman. She grumpily shifted along, lifting her bag onto her lap. And proceeded to ignore him as the cart jolted on.

But later in the journey he caught her glancing at him. “Sorry,” she said, “but has anyone told you, you look like that prophet from Galilee. You know, the one they just crucified.”

Jesus smiled; “really” he replied.

“What a shame that was”, she said. “He was clearly a little crazy, but it was still a shame.”

Jesus was still smiling.

She went on “I don’t believe in religion myself.”

“Are you some kind of evangelical?” said Jesus. “What do you have against smells and bells?”

“Oh no”, she replied, looking a little disgusted. “I’m not ‘evangelical’. I’m just not into organised religion. I don’t need some priest or religious council telling me what to do.”

“I’m not religious, I’m more…”

“Spiritual?” said Jesus.

“Spiritual”, exactly, she said. “I’m spiritual. I don’t need organised, intolerant religion. I don’t need ancient, irrational traditions to help me live my life. I prefer to do my own thing.”

“So, I practice yoga, and I’m into new age.”

“Interesting” said Jesus.

“Ah, this is my stop.”

*This story of course is entirely fictional, but for the story of Emmaus see: Luke 24

Two men went to pray

Jesus once told a story something like this…

Two men went to pray.

The first walked to the front of church and glanced back at the other man, saying to God, “thank you that I am not like other people – charismatics, those who do ‘alpha’, or ordain women. I go to two services on Sundays, and attend the prayer meeting. I only listen to expository preaching and of no less than forty minutes duration.”

The second man stood at the back. He did not raise his head, but awkwardly looked at his feet. “God have mercy on me a sinner” he said.

 

For the real story: Luke 18.10-14

Jesus and the mission to tax collectors

Jesus entered Jericho and met a man named Zacchaeus. When I say met; Zacchaeus nearly fell out of a tree in an effort to see Jesus. Having made introductions Jesus invited himself to eat at Zacchaeus’ home. This was no small undertaking, as Jesus never traveled without his entourage of apostles, disciples and supporters. Thankfully Zacchaeus was rich.

As Jesus, Zacchaeus and the rest of the crowd reached Zacchaeus’ house, they came across a group of John the Baptist’s followers. They had set up a table with a large banner across the front. It read, ‘Tax Collectors welcome!’ They were serving tea and coffee and offering advice on how to make amends by giving back ill-gotten gains. Zacchaeus pointed over, “look Jesus, that’s where I got the idea to give back to everyone I’d stolen from.”

“Very good! Why don’t we invite them to join us too?” said Jesus. “Great idea!” said Zacchaeus. Jesus approached the table. “Coffee?” asked one of John’s disciples. “No thanks, I’m trying to cut down,” said Jesus. “But would you like to join us for dinner? We’re going to Zacchaeus’ house.”

John’s disciples looked at their feet and shuffled. “Thanks for the offer” said one. “But we’d better stay here. We’ve got a few more hours to go and…there might be alcohol and…we eat quite a restricted diet and…” Another of John’s disciples butted in, “What he’s trying to say Jesus is that we’d rather not, if you don’t mind. We don’t actually eat with tax collectors, we prefer to stay out here and serve them coffee and offer advice.”

“I see” said Jesus, waving, then walking through the gates with Zacchaeus.

Philip and the Ethiopian

An Angel said to Philip, go to the Gaza road. So he did just that.

On the way he met an Ethiopian man, who looked important and wealthy. The man was on his way home from worshiping at the Temple in Jerusalem. He was reading the Scriptures from the book of Isaiah.

Philip heard what the Ethiopian was reading, because the man, thinking no one else was listening, was reading aloud.

“Do you understand what you’re reading?” asked Philip. And soon the men were talking about Jesus and everything that had happened in Jerusalem.

As they continued along the road, they passed a small stream. The Ethiopian turned to Philip, “listen, why don’t I just get baptised right now?” he said.

Philip replied, “Um, well, I’m afraid, I eh, I can’t do that. I’ve not done the right training. And I’ve not been ordained to do that, I’m just ordained to catering.”

The Ethiopian continued on his way disillusioned with early church structures.

 

For the real story see: Acts 8:26-40

Jesus and the away-day.

Jesus was resting at home in Capernaum. There was a knock at the door and in walked Peter, James and John.

“Jesus, we’ve been thinking” Peter said. “We think it’s time for us to have an away-day”. Jesus turned, raising his eyebrow.

“It will be good for team morale”, Peter continued. “And it will help us with our vision building too,” James chimed in. He carried on, “some of the rest of the disciples; of course not us three, think that we need more clarity about what we’re doing. Just the other day, Judas was saying that if we want to attract more funding, we’ll need to have a vision statement.”

“I see”, said Jesus still with that raised eyebrow.

Peter was getting enthusiastic now, “John’s disciples do it! Last year they went to the Galilee Marriot. They had flip charts, coffee breaks and stuck post-its all over the walls.”

“Did they now” said Jesus, starting to smile.

“What’s wrong with what we’ve already being talking about? You know, what I said the other day. ‘Love God and love your neighbour’.”

John spoke hesitantly, “Well Jesus, we just don’t think that works. For a start it’s got to be achievable, and love is not easy to measure. Also does it capture our key message in a catchy way? I’m not so sure.”