Resemble don’t just re-assemble!

I was prompted to think about this because of the name given to a recent gathering of Christian young people in our denomination called ‘Re-Assemble’. We are at the point in time when what it means to gather again is a real live issue in the UK right now and in the church. We are now in a position to consider whether we can physically gather together and want to hug and be hugged again – who would have thought it! A whole new challenge ahead (especially for us introverts!)

As I thought about what it means to re-assemble, I began to feel that God was also laying another word on my heart; ‘resemble’. So I share it here with you now. Is it possible that we can plan, decide, act, organise and re-assemble as the church with all good intentions but find that we do not resemble Jesus Christ in any deeper and more resilient and daily whole-life way than we did before?

Don’t get me wrong, those of our Church leaders involved in advising and supporting and leading our church in the next few months as we re-assemble most definitely need our prayers in terms of discernment and decision. They need our support and love and care as they may also be leading out of place of exhaustion and emptiness both locally and as a church as whole. Perhaps we need to rush less and listen and pray more at this moment in time.

The need to go deeper in our whole-life discipleship was urgent before the pandemic and remains so right now, I believe. A central component of that is to become more like Jesus in our own lives – to be a people who resemble!

Perhaps there has been a moment when someone tells you that you look like someone else and you can’t see it. I used to offer my family a choice for myself – was I Bruce Willis or Paddy from Emmerdale? I also remember many years ago, on our honeymoon in Jersey Ali, my wife and I went off to do our own thing for a bit and said we would meet up in the centre of a town. As I waited on a bench two policeman stood behind me and said “yes we are looking for him he’s got black hair, a black shirt, black trousers” (yes that was me then!). As I listened to them, I turned around and said to them ‘are you looking for me?’ where upon they said yes and led me not thirty metres round the corner to reunite me with my new wife!

There are times when I feel that as a worldwide church and also closer to home, we far from resemble the One who calls, saves and leads us and we have so far to go in a journey with Jesus don’t we? I am reminded of the challenge of the letter of James to be doers of the word and not just hearers of it as if we could look at ourselves in a mirror and then forget what we look like. Then I get to asking what other people see when they look at me, when they look at us? I am so thankful for the recent examples I have seen of people and groups resembling Jesus in word and deed and character in their locality.

The hard graft of resembling begins and continues more often in the spiritual quarry rather than the Temple (1 Kings 6.7), the private place of prayer and time alone with God of ‘Cell’ rather than the gathered worship of ‘Chapel’ (George Lings). We neglect this at our peril and at the worlds peril for shortcuts often lead to consumer Christianity. Cheap grace rather than costly, whole life and authentic Christian discipleship. Perhaps we have found ourselves in this private place with God quite a lot recently when other things have been stripped away and we have dealt with our false self and rediscovered our true self in Christ. Let’s not abandon this place now when perhaps we need it even more than ever.

Finally, we would probably be embarrassed to be told by others that we resemble Jesus in some way but maybe we need to rediscover that language. Perhaps when you see God at work in and through someone else you could encourage them by telling them they are being Christ-like. When you start doing this you play a small but significant part in making disciples, which is after all what we have been told to do.

So be a ‘chip off the old block’, each day intentionally seeking to resemble Jesus and encouraging others to do likewise and I reckon it will make our re-assembly as a church more authentic, more meaningful, and more powerful in transforming the world around us in Jesus’ name.

Photo by Fares Hamouche on Unsplash

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