A few weeks ago we discussed how church shouldn't be like a club which we feel included, but which we can also disregard when we aren't quite feeling in the mood. Church should be more like a family, which is such a deep part of who we are that no matter how far away we get or how much time we spend with them, they are still there. Our families are so engrained in our identities that we can hardly describe ourselves without speaking of them. That is what the church should be: a fluid, living presence.
I live near campus, but my family lives nearby. Though I am not always conciously thinking of them, I find that I often make excuses to text my sisters or go visit for bondfire and movie nights, or just because. I miss the baby of the family a great deal. I itch to tell the 13yr old, a young apologist, about something or other I learned in theology class. I wonder what stories or knowledge I can share with them when I do make it home, if my mom needed anything from the grocery store that I can pick up, or how I can suprise them. It's a remarkable, almost dynamic system, the family. My older sister has been married for nearly three years, but when she comes home it's as if she never left. The same stands for any of my relatives, who we often times don't see for four years at a time; who live in a drastically different culture, and who barley even speak english. Somehow we are connected simply because we're relatives.
We have been reading the Gathered and Scattered church lately. More and more I have found myself leaning towards the idea that they are one in the same, not only in mission but also in nature. Go and make disciples--as you are going, make disciples--does not mean tally up the amount of people who you can throw into your suitcase of converts, but to go and cultivate their lives, building them up in the faith and growing along side them. We are only fooling ourselves if we think we can carry out the mission effectively without wanting to meddle in the relationsip side of it, and not just meddle, but jump headlong. I believe it is a misconception, however, to think that we must physically stay in the nest in order to disciple or be discipled. If we see a distinction it is there only by our imposition of it. Some of the most impactful growing moments of my life with respect to my family have been while I was away from them. Had I not moved away from home for a year I don't think I would have ever appreciated those long, head-butting conversations with my mom, nor would they have developed the deep quality they now have. Had I never traveled out of the country I never would have seen the world where my dad works, and never have loved his devotion to it as much as I can now. Not having my older sister there to tell late night stories too makes me speak all the more intently to her when we do hang out, as well as listen all the more attentively.
Those who are out in the field are our family, who we are growing together with. We are one all under the same mission, which requires going to all corners or the world while at the same time gathering together and growing as one body. We must only recognize that and step in to become part of it.