Finally found some language for this quest I have been on while reading Dallas Willard's "The Great Omission":
"Now, some might be shocked to hear that what the "church" -- the disciples gathered -- really needs is not more people, more money, better buildings or programs, more education, or more prestige. Christ's gathered people, the church, has always been at its best when it had little or none of these. All it needs to fulfill Christ's purposes on earth is the quality of life He makes real in the life of His disciples. Given that quality, the church will prosper from everything that comes its way as it makes clear and available on earth the "life that is life indeed...
So the greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as "Christians" will become disciples -- students, apprentices, practitioners -- of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from Him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence. Will they break out of the churches to be His Church -- to be, without human force or violence, His mighty force for good on earth, drawing the churches after them toward the eternal purposes of God?"
The Great Omission, Introduction, pps.xiv, xv
This is the thing I can't shake, the call that keeps drawing me forward, the quest that has gripped me -- to rediscover the stripped-down, simple reality of following Jesus into the everyday places as His disciple and to make Him known in environments that are not defined by "church" in the outwardly churchy sense. And I can report that after nearly a year and a half this quest is getting both easier AND more difficult. Easier, because I have been cut loose from so many distractions that used to occupy my attention and complicate my Christian walk and more difficult because it feels, at times, lonely and counter-(church)cultural. And also because I have less excuses.
I'll be 54 next week and I can tell you that ever since I was 15 this is the core of what I really wanted from life -- the opportunity to follow Jesus in a "really real" way. After all these years, I still feel like a beginner but "where else will (I) go? You alone have the words of eternal life!"