This is an excerpt from some recent correspondence describing my own experience as I learned to teach the freedom of Christ in real-life settings.
I had been teaching a Wednesday evening group in Fort Lauderdale for over a year. It actually started out that I was allowed to take over the already-established men’s support group, but it became infiltrated by a female here or there. After this infiltration became more of a habit, I decided to let my wife come; and the gender distinction faded away (though I did encounter some grief over the fact that I let it happen).
It was there, after many years of not teaching anywhere, that I really came to count on the life of Christ within me to simply go with whatever God would stir up in me to share. I made no preparations; I just went there with the knowledge that I would share only the life of Christ. I remember being hit with the reality that I might simply stumble and falter with nothing to say … but I so much wanted only to share real life that I refused to go with an already-prepared study or lesson. I just knew that Christ in me — and in those present — was much more than going through the motions of a proper Bible study. I found myself heading down during the 45 minute trip wondering what I might say and if I might not be wasting everybody’s time. The only reality that overcame all that came in the form of a simple answer to a simple question. The question that popped up so many times: What do I have to share that is worth hearing? The obvious one and only answer: Christ. So, I headed down with only the determination that I would share the reality of Christ, no matter what context was presented me.
It is absolutely amazing what you might hear when you’re listening for the very real need for very real life in the normal everyday sort of chit-chat people engage in while they think they are waiting for the real stuff to happen. I found myself in a place where I just listened. The listening part that often sprung into the sharing of our incredible life in Christ was nothing new for me, but only one-on-one or in small and very informal gatherings where nobody expected me to teach anything. But designated as the leader it was made more than obvious that all in attendance came with the expectation that I should be leading. It was interesting, and quite enlightening, to observe the reactions and even the confusion within those who wondered when it was going to happen … only to discover that it had been happening the whole time!
Talk about breaking that supposed barrier between Christian teaching and real life! We’ve been taught for so many years that there is an obvious distinction, and that we can know when this is supposed to happen. The very concept we hold as to what church is has been built upon a sense of the official. It is very easily recognized either by the structure, the denomination, the form of its service, the scheduling of its timing, etc. But the truth of Christ doesn’t begin or end with the formality of a class or church service. If he is in us then it has been happening the whole time, which makes any reality found in a gathering based solely on the witnessing of this ongoing reality!
It was also during the course of this former Wednesday evening Men’s Meeting that what I now call Shovelation came together. As I often found myself referring to something Paul wrote in Galatians I began to realize how appropriate his ancient message was to the very real stuff of those who stopped by. I had read portions of Galatians over so many times and had made so many notes here and there that I could only recognize the life behind what so many have turned into doctrine. And so week after week I would relate this reality in the context of what we were all going through in our every day lives. It would even surprise me as to how real it all was.