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What can we do without?

I reconnected with a friend from college this past Monday. He, his wife, and four children are now missionaries in Beirut, Lebanon. Their ministry is to lead Muslim Arabs into becoming followers of Jesus. They are sponsored by a missions organization but they are not part of any local church. They live in a predominantly Muslim area. And until this summer, their children didn't even know what a church building looked like.

I asked him what he sees as the biggest challenge American Christians face. He replied that its amazing what believers can do without. Many of the programs churches offer aren't as necessary as one might think. Ultimately, a life of faith is not complex and doesn't require activities dedicated to extensive training, Bible study, men's groups, fellowship time, accountability, choir practice, outreach, prayer meetings, discipleship, etc. In his context, the gospel is seamlessly integrated into everything he does. Their family does "church" every Sunday - he'll play a few songs on his guitar and lead a devotional. But the spiritual power of their lives doesn't come from scheduled religious meeting time but from the teachable moments that arise from everyday activities like a car bomb going off or a visit from a friend or a member of their family getting sick.

Recently, we had to cancel our English worship service due to our annual youth retreat and some other circumstances. At first I felt bad because people weren't going to have a place to worship and this might kill them. I came to my senses and realized how tempting it is take our programs and structures so seriously. There are so many opportunities for fellowship and community among believers and perhaps cancelling service was a blessing. Perhaps it freed people to spend their time connecting with others they ordinarily wouldn't have been able to in an authentic and natural way. In this culture, perhaps less is better.

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