The other day I stumbled on a quote by well known church consultant Reggie McNeal, in which he said, “A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith.” What an amazing thing—believers leaving church in order to protect their faith. What is that all about? In the Book of Acts the believers gathered in community, where the life they shared and experienced was so infectious people couldn’t stay away.
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47
Frequently, teaching on this portion of scripture highlights the activity, geography and consistency of their gathering, but little has been said about the “spirit” of their times together. “Gladness and simplicity of heart” typified the gathering of Christ-followers. Institutional church, on the other hand, often brings dispassionate complexity! With complexity comes a spirit of disillusionment, duty and debt. With simplicity comes the preservation of faith through devotion, life and freedom … a return to pure, non-institutional, non-religious, glad-hearted joy!
It is this kind of simplicity from the book of Acts I desire to pass on to the next generation. I want them to view my faith as desirably contagious and my faith community as an invitation for them to share in the joy. My six-year-old grandson, Aidan, made a comment that forced me to examine the “spirit” of faith I was communicating. When asked by his “nana” if he was going to become a pastor like his “papas” (both grandfathers are Foursquare ministers), he simply said, “A pastor? That’s just crazy work!”
Where would he have gotten such a notion? Probably from the countless times this Papa has been heading off to a meeting, service or a conference while speaking the words, “I am so busy!” Complicated lives are not that appealing—not even to a six-year-old.
Just reading the words “gladness” and “simplicity” (much less living them) lowers my blood pressure. If we expect believers to grow in faith, we may just have to give up a bit of the complexity we’ve come to call church, in favor of a less-crazy, back-to-basics approach that exudes a spirit of faith easily assimilated and emulated by others. Simple fellowship, simple food … the lost simply getting saved … it sounds like a great way to preserve an infectious Foursquare faith.
Larry Spousta, supervisor of the North Pacific District of Foursquare Churches