Authors have this thing about seeing their books “in the wild,” which means anywhere beyond their control, like a bookstore, in a backpack, on a bus, etc. Books were meant to be read – out there, in the wild.
In Cheryl Strayed's book titled "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," she wrote about what she thought the founders of the trail had in mind when they created it. She believed, "It had only to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way."
I've been thinking a lot about the wild, in a broader sense, for some time now. I don't think it's as aimless as Strayed portrays it, at least for the Christian, although I do believe she's on to something regarding how powerful and fundamental that the experience can feel.
In the twenty-first century, we've grown accustomed to indoor life. Before the pandemic, we got up and went to work in buildings. We sent our kids to school buildings. We attended worship services and classes in church buildings. We shopped in buildings. We attended movies, plays and sporting events in buildings. And we worked out in buildings.
This isn't a knock against buildings. I love staying out of the elements too. But it tends to kill our sense of wonder. I heard an interview on a podcast recently in which the interviewee said that the average human (who lives to the age of 70) will get two billion heartbeats, which led the person to say, "Why use them on a treadmill when you can be out on a ridge somewhere?"
We have to plan camping and fishing trips, hiking excursions, hunting trips, and long walks on trails. But every time we get back from such a trip in the wild, we feel invigorated, alive and ready to take on our next challenge.
It makes me wonder if we shouldn't be more intentional about spending time in the wild. I don't just mean spending time outdoors as much as I mean spending more time out and about among people, seeking ways to minister.
First-century Christianity was wild.
Jesus preached on the sea from a boat. He cast demons into pigs, sending them running down a hill and into a pond. He turned water into wine at a wedding feast. And he appointed 72 people to proclaim the kingdom, sending them out without a money bag, belt or sandals.
Paul preached in someone's house (or maybe it was barn) where a young man fell asleep and plunged to his death from the rafters of an upper room, only to have Paul raise him from the dead.
Believers met house to house, breaking bread and praising God together.
Philip met an Ethiopian eunuch along a road who was reading the book of Isaiah, preached Jesus to him, then baptized him in a nearby river.
Peter walked on water, briefly, when Jesus called him forth from a boat.
Like I said, first-century Christianity was wild.
Church buildings didn't exist when Jesus walked the earth. And while the temple was still standing, ministry often happened in the streets, next to pools, on hills, in barns, in homes and in or near rivers. Christianity was wild and organic – the opposite of programmatic.
Is twenty-first century Christianity supposed to be as wild? I tend to think so. Church buildings are fine and useful for worship and the equipping of the saints. But they aren't meant to be the central hub for ministry to the unconverted. Jesus called us to go, teach, and baptize. I don't think it gets any wilder than that.