"The CHURCH and the CHAINSAW" (-Fairlie, New Zealand)
-by Wayne Jacobsen.
Sara and I just got back from two weeks in new Zealand where we
met with scores of believers living in relational ways outside of
organized religion. It was great to see so many people thriving
outside the box.
Fairlie is a small farming village in the center of New Zealand¹s
South Island. For the last two years I had heard about some
believers whom God led to give up the religious structure they had
become part of to live as the body of Christ together in this region
of the world. It was 1986 and some of its leaders felt like God was
asking them to give up the structures that constrained their life
together, which included not only the institution but also the
building where they met. After weeks of praying together and
considering this leading, the people unanimously agreed that this
is what God was saying to them.
They agreed to lay it all down and let God lead them. The building
they used was quite old and after donating all the furnishings that
were worth anything to the denomination¹s district they were leaving,
they offered the building to the fire brigade to burn as a training
exercise. (I told you this was an incredible story!)
The neighbors objected, however, to torching the large structure so
close to their homes, so in the end they had to dismantle it. They
took some of the remaining furnishings, like the offering bags, out
to the country and burnt them. Then one day some of the brothers
descended on the building with chainsaws. As they walked in that
day to the main meeting room they asked where they should begin.
They all looked at each other and in the same moment said the,
"The pulpit!" With relish the sawed it in half, kept going across the
stage and eventually dismantled the entire building and hauled it
away to the trash heap.
Sara and I laughed and shook our heads in awe as we heard that
story on Tuesday night while meeting with about two dozen or more
of these people. They had not done these things frivolously or in
rage at "the system." They had simply felt those things were an
offense to God and he wanted them to destroy them. They never
said anyone else should do the same, they simply went on and
learned how to be the body of Christ without all the trappings of
In the nearly twenty years since, they have thrived in God¹s life
together as his people in this community. It has not been easy, nor
has it been without challenge, but many of them talked of how their
relationship with God really began to grow when they removed the
crutch the institution had become. Not having everything planned out
for them anymore, they had to listen to God and do the things he put
on their heart. Now they are people who live at peace with God, in
fellowship with each other and available to unbelievers in ways they
never had when they were so busy maintaining their structure. Even
the children from those days have continued on with the simplicity
of living in God and loving each other in the process. What joyful
simplicity and what an incredible life they¹ve gone on to share together!
They are also affectionately known in these parts as "that lot." The
whole community knows about the congregation that dismantled its
building and stopped meeting every week on a regular basis. They
also know they have lived on as passionate believers. Without all the
machinery to maintain, they have been more available to help care for
the families and neighbors. They even saw some amazing doors open
in the community. One man from the village was talking to one of the
former leaders and said, "I feel like I can really talk to you now." By
removing the baggage from the gospel that had alienated so many
people they found a new openness to share the Gospel with others.
Is it no wonder that Jesus didn¹t build anything to join, require any
religious activities, or load people down with burdens? Instead he
took heavy burdens off people and simply invited them into a
relationship with his incredible Father.
"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground
and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces
many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man
who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." John 12:24-25.
As long as we hold tightly to the things we think we must preserve,
we¹ll miss the incredible doors God would put before us every day as
we simply live in him and follow his ways. True life is found in giving
up, not in holding on, as we follow wherever God leads us.
Oxnard, CA, USA.