Sometimes I just don't know. When I read the New Testament, it really isn't that great a testimony to the strength and vitality of the early church. I mean, look at Jesus' church, which started with 12. And at the pinnacle of his career they all pretty much abandoned him. Then there's Paul's record. Not very impressive. I mean he did get lots of churches off the ground, but I think most eventually disintegrated. John's churches too. Read the gospel of John, The Revelation and the three epistles and you pretty much witness the erosion of church communities. I don't think because they didn't have church growth or maintenance skills, but because there's a gene present in any biblical community that prevents it from growing into some kind of tower of Babel. I think the healthiest communities do not have the guarantee of permanence. So, here are some questions that have been floating around in my brain all day while I was painting:
- Is it possible to not put expectations on people and to grow as a church?
- Is it possible to not require people to tithe and increase the church budget?
- Is it possible to love unconditionally and have a church free of sin?
- Is it possible to allow dissent and to not divide as a community?
- Is it possible to emphasize relationship and remain authoritative as a pastor?
- Is it possible to allow authenticity in people and not have a chaotic community?
- Is it possible for non-drinkers and drinkers to fellowship genuinely?
- Is it possible to not have ambition as a church and be attractive to others?
- Is it possible to not expect people to work and also have others served?
- Is it possible to appear a dismal failure and even be on the same page as Jesus?
The fine art photograph is the creation of my friend Mark Hemmings