“I read a title of an article called ‘Reasons why people leave church,'” I began my conversation with Jomie as we eat our late supper. “I didn’t pursue reading to find it out why because for me it’s a shallow type of article. Surely there are good and bad reasons and even biblical reasons. But here’s another thought that came in to mind.
“What do you think are the reasons why people are so in-loved with the church in the New Testament? Jomie, why you’re still here with us when in fact your family needs you than we do?” Jomie didn’t expect me to personally ask him and have to ask him twice, “Why you don’t want to leave us here?”
You must read Jomie’s story that is found in his site entitled “I did it My Way.” It’s his story of leaving us twice and ended up staying with us. I was once told him when we ride on a bike to baptize someone in the ocean that he is ready to leave whenever he want and will help him with everything that he needs: house, bike, things, money etc. And his answer is “No, I won’t.” I was shock of his answer. He is really that ready to go out on his own and start an apostolic hub somewhere. So I ask why.
“You said we need to follow the early church way right? So I won’t.” He replied.
“Because you disqualified yourself Jomie, that’s the very reason that you are qualified.” I said without another word.
See, Jomie’s answer shows how he is a good-follower of Jesus. Not only following Jesus’ command to become His follower but also he is following ‘God’s ways.’
The psalmist says “show me your ways, O Lord.” “My way is higher than your way.”
Many of us knows God’s heart to save people from their sin but we do it ‘our way.’ Many of us knows God’s desire to build His Church but then we do it ‘our way.’ And we are just so good at it. We want our own dirty hands to be all over His body. Mark with our fingerprints.
Following apostolic patterns such as found in Acts 2 and 4 is not easy. I will let Jomie’s answer amazes you as it amazes me. For 25 years now since I became a Christian I’ve never heard a ‘Christian’ person answer like Jomie’s. So here it is.
“Why you don’t want to leave us?”
“I want to live the life of the kingdom.” He answered straight without thinking.
“And what is that life?” I ask for a detail.
I wasn’t expecting a bulls eye answer!
“Why a life of denial is the way of the kingdom?” It’s always a joy to have a conversation like these with him really.
“Because that’s the requirement to enter into His kingdom. It is how to become a disciple of Jesus. Deny yourself.” He said quietly. Jomie’s has three brothers and two sisters. Honestly, very poor family. Lived in rented land for years, their house is filled with old grandma, moms and dad’s and kids – his sisters and brothers with their wives and husbands live with them in a small tiny house. Whenever we pay a visit we always bring food for everyone. Too poor. Just too poor. Yet, Jomie left them to be with us for five years now.
In the middle of our eating-conversations Albert came in and ate his late supper also. Jomie and I had a coffee in our hands. We continue our conversation this time with Albert asking the same question. It goes this way.
“Albert, do we ‘intentionally’ ask disciples to ‘leave’ their families and live with us?” Did we do that?’
“It’s not ‘us’ who ask them to leave their families.” Albert also answered straight to me as he look into my eye. “I think it’s the Lord.”
“Good point Albert.” I said. “But have we as an ecclesia in Cebu ‘positioned’ ourselves like when there are people watching us they can say ‘I want to be with these people. They are family,’ is it?
“Kristian, (a 3rd generation disciple who has just baptized Diego recently), just said to me he wants to leave work and family and just be with us.” I shared, “and I ask why, and he said that ‘oh, my family is not family. My dad is just a dad and me as his son by name. But we’re not family like here.’
“And Diego also, is the same. The reason why he wants to become one of us is because of how he sees you and Jomie’s life living differently.”
“That’s what we’ve read in the bible last night until 2 in the morning with Diego,” Albert answered back. “We were stuck when we read about Jesus’ statement that ‘unless you hate your father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.’ And also ‘he who left fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters shall have hundreds of them.’ Did Jesus really meant this?’ He ask.
“Well, one of Jesus’ statement harsh statement is ‘Do you think I have come to bring peace? No. But I have come to bring a sword to bring division. A father against son, a son against daughter. A daughter against mother.” I said. “Looks like Jesus is into something and you know what? Creating His own family on earth. By dividing families? I think not.
If your parents is just ignorant of God, don’t leave them. If they’re aware of your new found faith and reject you then leave. But be aware of your ‘new’ family. And living with them as close as you can can enjoy some benefits of it. Just as ‘bad company corrupts good character’ the vise versa is true also. That’s why the question for a new disciples after baptism is “where are they living their new-life in Jesus-together with who?” It ask a location. That’s why ‘seeking first His kingdom’ becomes the priority of a new-disciple. To seek out those people who are living the kingdom life. And if you find them go and join with them. Live the Life-of-Jesus that you have with them, don’t live it alone. This is our kingdom mandate as disciples of Jesus. Our apostolic pattern.
“See, many Christians and leaders try to apply New Testament principles of church yet fail to follow their way of life. And so it doesn’t make sense. Paul says, ‘follow my way of life’ he didn’t say ‘follow my principle.’ We, as disciples follow a Life, the life of Jesus and how He lived. The kingdom is about life, not creeds, either you live or you don’t.
“No wonder it ask us to deny ourselves if we want to live the life of the kingdom. Unless we do that we cannot live in His domain. God cannot simply allow such person who is very opinionated about Him. He can allow you to start your own little kingdom and celebrate you yourself as its human founder. But at the end of the day, you end up alone and no ‘hundreds of mothers, brothers and sisters’ with you simply because you didn’t deny yourself and follow Jesus’ Way of Life.”
This is our eating-conversation.