In recent months I’ve had several conversations and noticed numerous posts on social media in which someone expressed discouragement about the state of the Torah movement and a general sense of being disconnected from other believers. I’ve felt it too.
Geographical isolation. Ideological conflict. Conspiracy theories and conspiracy facts. Scandals in leadership. Apathy in the ranks. Congregations rise up, split, and fade away. Many are sick or have lost loved ones. Some are drifting back into celebrating the pagan days and seasons they had once left behind.
Worldwide, it seems that we are under spiritual attack as a community. I want you to know that it’s not just you. It’s everyone. Most especially, it’s each one of us separately.
Remember that “Satan is like a prowling lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Lions don’t attack the herd; they attack the weak and alone. So, while we are united as a single Body, there’s not a lot he can do to us spiritually. Instead, he beats us down with distractions, physical assaults, financial troubles, and interpersonal drama. He tries to separate us from the herd to make us vulnerable.
There’s a concept that Nassim Taleb calls “antifragility”. If you haven’t read his book Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, I recommend it. The basic idea is that some things become stronger when subjected to stress and chaos. Silver and gold are purified by fire. Muscles are built by progressively greater strain. Genetic weakness is culled from packs and herds by droughts and harsh winters, making the whole group stronger.
This was part of God’s purpose in the ten tests of Abraham. By threatening his family with abandonment, war, kidnapping, etc., God was molding Abram into Abraham, the “Great Father” into “Father of a Great Multitude”. It was also part of the point of the tests of Job, but note that Job was tested by Satan, not by God directly. Satan is just another tool of God’s plan, after all. He wanted Job to fail, but God knew that Job would prevail and become stronger than ever if he persevered and maintained his faith in God.
That’s what’s happening to us right now.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
I believe most of us are convinced that there are greater trials coming for all believers in Yeshua. The world hates us and that hatred is becoming more open all the time. (Would the Grammys have featured a worship service to Satan thirty years ago?) Nearly every time we get together, the question of “how do we prepare for persecution” comes up. Well, here is the first and most important thing we can do: Count our current trials as joy and persevere in our faith and unity. In other words…
Become antifragile in faith and community.
When Satan pushes us down, we need to reach up to God and out to each other. When we’re sick or hurting or unemployed or stressed out, pray, ask for prayer, and ask for assistance. Make it a habit to resist Satan by closing ranks against him, not melting away. When the lion tries to drive one of us from the herd, we circle around that one.
We are no longer strictly individuals. We are the body of Messiah. When whoever hosts your local home fellowship is temporarily overwhelmed, is your living room free, even if its just for a single week? If a family in your community is sick, do you or someone else have a vehicle and a couple of free hours to make shopping runs, cook meals, etc.? When one person is hurt, your community probably has numerous shoulders to lean on, yours included.
If you’re not sure what needs to happen, don’t be afraid to ask. If asking the person who needs help isn’t an option for whatever reason, ask someone else. Don’t assume that nothing is wrong nor that there is nothing you can do. I frequently rely on my wife and a few others to help me understand what people need.
I have a few recommendations to help you and your community become more antifragile. Please understand that I am primarily addressing home fellowships, partly because that’s how our local community works. However, there’s a bigger reason: I am convinced that the standard church model is a dead end.
First, take ownership.
We are supposed to be the body of Christ, but most churches can never be more than a paraplegic because 10% of the body does all the work, while the other 90% is mostly just “present”. Your congregation might not be that bad–I’m sure many aren’t–but if 100% of your people aren’t taking an active role in the community, then there’s still work to be done.
The body of Christ is not an entertainment venue to which we can arrive at the scheduled time, watch the show, and go home, expecting someone else to make everything happen and clean up the mess afterwards. The body of Christ is you and the person next to you. It is a collection of relationships between active, functional members.
If we want things to happen, we each need to be prepared to make them happen. That doesn’t mean that any one person has to do everything. Rather, it means that nobody should have to do everything.
If nobody is available to host fellowship and you have a clean, peaceful home with sufficient space, then consider making it available. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just needs to be safe and sufficient for the purpose. If you want to enjoy the meal at fellowship, then bring something to share. Again, it doesn’t have to be fancy, just something appropriate.
Do your gatherings need paper plates, utensils, napkins, etc.? Chairs and tables? If you are able to provide any of those things, do it. Same for music, teaching, prayer, etc. Is there a worship song you’d like to teach everyone? Is something weighing on your heart? If you aren’t willing to make some things happen, don’t expect anyone else to either.
If your community has leadership, whether recognized or de facto, make sure that they know that your resources are available and that you want to help. If it either doesn’t have leadership or the leaders aren’t leading, you might need to make that offer to the community at large. You don’t need anyone’s permission to host a Bible study or holiday event at your home. Just be careful that you aren’t causing more of a problem than you’re trying to solve. Which brings me to my next recommendation…
Second, cultivate relationships.
We’re mostly facing “First World” problems right now, but that will change eventually. If we want to be able to survive real persecution, we’re going to need relationships and community, not a pastoral leadership team who manages everything from a central office. Those relationships start in more tranquil times, like right now. It will be too late if we wait until we’re shut out of the grocery stores and hospitals. If you haven’t heard from someone in a while, reach out. Invite each other over to share a meal and play some games. Go to the park and throw a frisbee around. Share your hobbies.
We are under assault and we are scattered, sometimes with hundreds of miles between, but the proper response is not to wait for someone else to act and let entropy have its way in the meantime. Whatever your biggest problem is right now, someone you know might have a way to help, and vice versa. At the very least, we can commiserate together instead of drifting apart.
As a body, we need to be looking for ways to respond to the attacks of Satan by becoming stronger in each other, because we will never be stronger by ourselves. We need each other. We need to cultivate love and commitment for each other before those things are put to the fire.
Above all, remember who we serve and why, and that each individual organ’s primary calling is to be part of the body of Messiah. (Some things are part of a body, while other things just pass through. Be the former, not the latter.) All we do is for the Kingdom of God, not the fiefdom of me. Kingdoms are necessarily communal, and we can’t survive this current season, let alone any future persecutions, if we are not disciplined and intentional about maintaining that community.