On Friday night, we drove out to the little community where our friends live. They had shared with Mike about their church service they have there and really wanted us to come some time. Michael called one of the guys and informed him we would be coming and he asked for directions. Everton told Mike to call when we reached the small town and he'd talk us in "so to speak" over the cell phone since it's a really really small community.
When we got to the edge of town (the part where the road turns into sand) Mike called Everton and he literally waved us down after talking us past the first two landmarks. When we got there we were late. Getting out of the city had taken us about 45 minutes rather than the normal 15 because of traffic being extremely awful.
As we started up to this little building we noticed all these people sitting outside. At first I was thinking that they either hadn't started yet or it was already over because so many people were sitting around the building but then as I looked up ahead I realized that these were some of the people from their community hanging out. There were at least 50 people spread into different groups of tens and they were staring at us with the utmost interest.
We were hoping to slip in or stand towards the back but of course there were 5 empty white plastic chairs right on the front row waiting for us. UGGGH!!! I hate that. So much for not being rude and disrupting. Since we were on the front row and there was only a handful of people there it felt awkward not to turn around and at least try and make eye contact with the women and smile as big as possible. They seemed to like that. As a couple of guys shared, I couldn't help but be distracted a bit. Why are they set up like this? Why, when there are only a few people in this room, do they feel the need to put the chairs in a row facing forward? Why are they trying to be so formal when there are a million ants under my chair eating a dead fly?
It all goes back to what they've been taught. Someone along the way came and shared Christ with them and I am so glad they did because that is obviously the most important thing but then something else happened. Someone also told them that they needed a building. Someone clearly informed them they needed their chairs lined up just so. They would need to sing about 3 to 4 songs and then someone will need to share a message. It was kinda funny to see someone's hand prints all over this place. I guess why I'm saying this is because it didn't fit them. It didn't fit at all. It felt awkward. Out in the streets, in people's homes, in the barraca down the street, no one was sitting or acting like this. Why here? Why change the culture when we put God into the mixture? After all, is God not out in the streets, in people's homes, or in the barraca with the people.
What if instead of sitting inside this building on this beautiful night, we took these chairs outside. Remember how many people I said were right outside. Some just by chance but I guarantee others are trying to hear what's being said. Granted some probably came to see the gringos but regardless, imagine the audacity of packing those chairs outside and maybe even forming them in a circle or some other crazy shape like that where we can see each others faces. Imagine instead of the typical ORDER of service, someone shares what God did in their life that week or even crazier someone has a question. Can you even imagine! Why do we put things like the body of Christ in such a box? I just don't get it. And then, God forgive us, why do we teach others to do the same thing!
Forgive me for getting on a soapbox for a moment but where in the Bible are these things taught?!? What was interesting is that this church is struggling right now because they don't have an "official" pastor. "Official" pastor being defined as someone that has been to seminary. This causes them to not feel like they are a true church. The irony is that they are doing so much on their own. The group, made up mostly of men, is very unusual for this culture. Most churches in Brazil or Latin America have many women and children that come without the men. Instead, in this group, there are about 10 really strong Christian men that are considered leaders in the community and they want to make a difference. WOW!
Obviously, there is a lot more to learn and Mike hopes to be able to help in any way he can but please join us in praying for this small group of believers. Pray that churches will let go of the traditions and rules that are gripping them and search for TRUTH as new churches are being planted and existing churches continue to grow. My heart aches for the burden that is on each of these churches as they try to fit a mold that simply isn't necessary!!