Guerilla Church

Have you ever felt small?

A veteran writer challenged a bunch of us to dig deep to answer the question of why we write.

I have many answers. One is that when I was a little girl, my father, now a changed man, never seemed to hear me – ever. Growing up ignored by the most important man in my life left me feeling invisible, non-existent. I suppose, then, that I write to prove I exist.

Like Walt Whitman, “I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world” by writing words I earnestly hope others will hear. Like the mayor of Whoville, it’s my way of proving to the great and awesome Horton that he should protect me on my speck of dust. Like carving my initials on the tree of life, I write to make my mark on this planet. Like a desperate child, I write to get my father to notice me.

While a sense of our smallness in the universe can be overwhelming, it’s an important scale to grasp. As valuable as each one of us is, we are still just one. One brief life lived out against an eternal tableau without a sense of place in God’s story can appear insignificant. It’s only natural, then, for humans to band with others to build a Tower of Unified Babel thinking we’ll find meaning and significance in great numbers.

Christians aren’t immune to the temptation of this strategy. Lately I’ve wondered if some of our own structures, our faith-based “-isms,” aren’t just sanctified Towers of Babel as we join, using human means, to build the kingdom of God. Which is why I think we should rejoice when God tears apart our towers.

We like to think big. We worship big ideas, big plans, big dreams. We seek great accomplishments, great power, great-ness. God laughed at our grandiose schemes by sending the biggest and the greatest in the tiny package of a baby to a small place, to unimportant people, in a time before mass media, global connection, and satellite.

Jesus is the Word and the Word from God is that He will build His Kingdom His way, by His methods, through His people – not through our institutions, our machinations, or our –isms.

As small as each of us is, we are of infinite value and, empowered by God, we will participate in building His kingdom if we listen to Him, if we learn to work well where we are. When we’re working small, we focus on the people and God’s work in them. When we grow huge, we start to focus on maintaining the numbers, appealing to the majority, and keeping up the face of the institution.

In smallness, there is freedom. In traveling light, there is effective work. In operating locally, there is authenticity, humility, and impact. Vast armies are impressive but then, someone just gathers a greater army. If you play on the field of numbers, you lose by the numbers game. Guerrilla warfare is effective because it’s small, mobile, and smart. Hard to detect and harder to defeat. Take down one unit, another appears.

I believe God is moving us in the direction from whence we came – guerrilla church.

One mega-church is dismantling itself. Evangelicalism is on the decline. The giants of Christian publishing stumble and fall. Some decry this as the demise of God’s work in the world. I see a retelling of an old, old story.

We came together in these places. We agreed on a common language. We set ourselves a plan to build a tower so high we would reach God on our own. It started well but then, He noticed we had lost our way. Maybe it’s the thinness of the air at those heights. Either way, with a single breath, He toppled our tower, sending shards of stained glass flying in every direction.

In. Every. Direction.

It was a good thing when it happened at Babel. It was a good thing when it happened in Jerusalem. It’s a good thing now:

“And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” Acts 8:1b-4

Do you dream big dreams of doing something great for God? Do you long to build His kingdom on earth? Start small. Stay small. When you grow- divide. Fine, tell the story of Christ on billboards if that’s your calling but if you are really honored, you’ll be assigned to tap it out in code on a prison wall so that the captive in the next cell will have a chance to enter into glory with you.

Okay, maybe God works big sometimes – some ministries are like meteor showers, comets, and super moons. But, those are events with limited long-term influence – God’s shooting stars.

His amazing work, the sun, we see so often, we take for granted our reliance on it, it’s constant influence, it’s power to affect change and produce life.

The sun rises every Sunday in a million boring pulpits across the land. If you’re standing in one, reignite the fire that once burned in your words. Don’t be boring one minute longer.

The sun rises every morning in Christian homes where by stoking the boring home fires of marriage and doing the boring everyday things that raise children, we testify to the truth of Christ and His love for the church. Do it with passion and zeal.

The sun rises every time a small-time blogger writes the truth and if thirty people read that truth, the sun rises in them. The sun rises over coffee between women offering counsel through affliction, in pickup basketball games between men fumbling their way through discipleship, in small groups, small churches, and small missions. The sun rises in every act of forgiveness, mercy, service, and grace wherever it occurs no matter how small, how limited, how unnoticed.

See, God’s idea isn’t that we come together and build something great to get to Him. His idea is that we come to Him and He acts through us so we can see His greatness.

Are the big things we’ve created and on which we’ve come to rely falling down? We should celebrate every time God topples our towers. It’s proof He loves us and still wants us to participate – each small soul – in His plan.

Guerrilla church, baby. Trust me. It’s the wave we ride all the way to the end


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8 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. As usual, your words cut deep into my heart. When I was in Europe, I toured some of the great cathedrals, most of them built in the Middle Ages. Everything covered in gold plate, jewels on the pulpits…the decadence went on and on. I stood and wondered what God felt about these when they were built. He would have preferred that the gold be used to feed the thousands who were starving. It made a lasting impression on me.

    I haven’t seen any churches like that in our country but I’m sure there are some. We build monuments to show how great our faith is, how proud we are of our worship God. Do I even do it when I dress for church, showing off myself and my faithfulness to the church?
    Much to ponder.

  2. Mark Landon says:

    Lori, once again I think you strike deep into the essence of the truth of the gospel- the still small voice that we are called to respond to in faith and obedience.

    I haven’t read his writing in its entirety on the subject, but I wonder here if this “smallness” is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer was getting at when he suggested a “religionless Christianity”.

    I have long marveled that God does His best work in the very smallest ways- the “cup of cold water” to the soul of those who yet thirst for salvation.

    You have blessed me this morning, Lori….
    Mark Landon

  3. Melanye Wrighton says:

    Your voice is strong, loving and prophetic, Lori. I love to read your words more and more…and more! Thank you for the devotional and your new book!

  4. Bruce Cunningham says:

    Right on Lori-
    I sent this to everyone in my small Church to encourage them. Our pulpit is far from boring, and it is important that we all understand that we are often right where God wants us in His plan. Our Church is a refreshing place where we get challenged, and where we genuinely enjoy each other and all visitors. As we grow, we should branch out.
    As it was with the Tower of Babel, it seems that big movements “make a name for themselves”. Yet in truth, our names are already written in Heaven. Jesus is the only name that is to be exalted.
    Thx!