Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Purposefully Unchurched Part II

In the very wee days of my blogging, I wrote a post regarding my personal testimony and decision to remove myself from the vast arena of church selections we have at our own choosing. Purposefully Unchurched I've decided to expound on what I wrote in that post and delve into further details as to why I've decided to remove myself from the churching frenzy.

My decision was a personal one. A decision that was led of the Spirit, for my own edification and not necessarily anyone else's. I do not promote "church leaving" as some new found doctrine for righteousness or faith. I am not a "religious fanatic". As a matter of fact, I abhor the term "religious", and the connotation that comes with it. I'm not trying to convey my own righteousness, or prove myself "better than" by withdrawing in this fashion. Quite simply, I am a nonconformist as the Spirit of the Lord calls me to be one.

Designated for nonconformity

As you might imagine, many Christians are simply offended my decision. They insist that I need church...the "right" church. I simply should not give up on finding a good bible based church. I've been quoted Hebrews 10:25 as a reason for church attendance, more times than I can remember. Does this mean I pick over scripture at my leisure? I pray to the Lord that my human nature, pride and vanity, would never succeed in this fashion. What is continually ignored, the very basis of my decision is that church at the beginning (Paul's time) and now are vastly different, to the point where "the now" no longer resembles "the first". Maybe, you will continue to insist that there are a few good churches out there, and I will not be so ignorant as to say that they don't exist. For the Lord that I worship and follow is a LORD that cannot be confined to human wisdom and reasoning, and He has "laborers" in the field.

What is clear to me, the foundation that establishes THE Church, which is the Holy Spirit that was promised by Christ before his ascension (John 16:7-16; Acts 1:4-8,) is not the foundation where many churches today are laid. Never mind that churches are more likely to be dictated by church "policies" and church "politics", but what I find in comparison to the Word and my first-hand experiences, is that Christianity has evolved from a Faith to a culture. It has become a culture of traditions that I am hard-pressed to find scripture. And it is from this mind-set, I am designated to nonconformity.

the assembling of ourselves together

Generally, the culture of Christianity today, involves consistent Sunday services attendance where one brings their Bible, to sit and intently listen to a pastor/preacher teach about the Word of God. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that scenario, but the problem lies, not in the "intent" for support of one another, but in the mind-set that has evolved from such intents, and the consequences we suffer as a whole because of it.

The Word is clear on two things:

  1. The sacrifice of His life was so that all can have equal access to God by Faith in Christ Jesus. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ: By whom we also have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" - Romans 5:1-2
  2. The Spirit of the Lord, Holy Spirit, is our only teacher. "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him" -- 1 John 2:27

We currently live in a culture, where each church has a "pastor" or a leader by some sort of title. This leader is responsible for teaching scripture, as well as personal, individual, counseling. Generally, this leader will have been certified in some capacity by a course(s) of learning and deemed qualified to pastor by that capacity. This leader is typically labeled a "Man/Woman of God" by their congregation as a whole and is typically viewed/honored as persons with vast spiritual knowledge above and beyond those congregants. These leaders will typically teach from a bible translation of their choice in subjects.

The problems I have with this scene is the mind-set behind it:

  1. Leaders are generally hailed above and beyond what scripture calls for.
  2. Leaders are generally deemed "qualified" by the wisdom of man and not by the power of the Spirit.
  3. Leaders are generally seen as the only "teacher" of the Word.
  4. Leaders are generally seen as the only "go to" representative of God.
  5. Leaders generally teach in "subjects" that can/is influenced by personal conceptions. Most likely taking scripture out of context of its original content.

The consequences I've seen with this mind-set is:

  1. Congregants are more likely to defend their pastor/church, than they are to defend the gospel/Christ.
  2. Courses/curriculum deemed acceptable by man, i.e. religious/theological educational institutions, are prone to flawed/unsound doctrine teaching.
  3. Congregants are prone to live vicariously through their leader for a personal relationship with God, as congregants feel "unqualified" to "learn" of God and His Son by the Holy Spirit.
  4. Congregants generally do not learn principles of the gospel in whole, as intended by scripture.
  5. As a whole, congregants replace a personal relationship with God with church attendance. Making it mandatory for righteousness or righteous living or in some cases (as I've been told) the only means of salvation.

What is obvious to me is the attitudes or should I say character of so many leaders that are hailed as men/women of God, pales in comparison to the example we have in Saint Paul.

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. " -- 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Quite honestly, there are times when I cannot differentiate between a nonbeliever, and one that calls themselves Christian, for they can speak and behave the same way. Don't think that my focus on this pervasive mind-set is completely on "leaders" of churches. There cannot be a "supply" if there is not first a "demand".

"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." -- 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Can anyone stand in the midst of a buffet of churches, of varying flavors and tell me, this time, that Paul refers to is not now?? It is from this atmosphere I am not conformed.

every word of god

What does this mean for you? I cannot tell you, as everyone is accountable to the Lord for their Faith in Him. So how DO I live? Freely, peacefully and joyfully.

In liberty:

"But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.

"But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.

Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. "-- 2 Corinthians 3:13-17

In peace:

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." -- John 14:27

In joy (not happiness which is dependent upon circumstances):

"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." John 15:10-11

The Church I belong to is not a physical one, but a spiritual one, for I AM part of the body of Christ. I AM a temple in which He resides. Today's society of churches cannot offer me anything more than what I already have. I am dedicated, not to live on bread alone, but by every word of God.

"But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. "-- Matthew 4:4

laborer for Christ

I am a laborer for Christ, called to labor for the gospel, in ministry of my family, in edification of fellow laborers. This I do freely, unhindered from the "commandments of men". If I am led to minister in a physical church, this I will also do. As of today, I am not compelled in such a fashion, nor am I compelled to search for a church for my own personal attendance, for my need and desire for fellowship, accountability and growth rests solely on my Savior and King, and He has richly blessed me in His provision.

"Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ"



4 comments:

  1. What you say makes excellent sense and is certainly biblical and obviously Spirit-led. The only scripture passage that I would like to add to the ones you have is this one: As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (Proverbs 27:17) There are many ways in which we are "sharpened" by interaction with fellow believers. Church is only one. One other thing to consider, which you probably already have, is starting or joining a "home church" of the type that Paul himself visited. There is also the type of congregation I attended right after I was saved. It was loosely based on the Plymouth Brethren set-up, where there are elders, but no pastor. The first service on Sunday, which included weekly breaking of bread, was unstructured. When someone had something to share, they stood up and shared it. Then there was a 1/2 hour of food and fellowship. Then there was a second service, which included hymns and a message by one of the elders (or sometimes a guest speaker). Some people attended both services and some only one. It avoided a lot of what you object to about "regular" churches.

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  2. SoulandSubstance,

    Thank you for your comment and scripture. That scripture is certainly one of my favorites. The Lord has been wonderful in His provision to me in fellow-shipping with my own family members, namely my husband. He is my iron on which mine is sharpened.

    I should clarify that it's not that I am "forsaking" or not interested in fellowship with others, but that I have found none on which my iron can sharpened. The mindset that I described in this post is indeed widespread.

    It's been a long journey to this discovery, but I have learned to be content with His provision and to what He has given me for my spiritual, emotional and physical needs. I've come to understand, after many difficult experiences, (more like consequences) is that waiting on the Lord means just that and nothing else.

    It has been said by a lot of Christians that there is nothing wrong with being "proactive", but one needs to be sure that we are not being "proactive" in our own desires as opposed to HIS will.

    With that said, yes, you are right I have attempted to start a home church in my home a year ago. It wasn't successful. I believe the Lord finds us (my husband and I) more useful when we are not confined by "structure". Whomever, He brings across our path, we (do our best to) demonstrate the power of God via our testimony, hospitality and sharing of the Gospel. The concept of "ministry" has been limited to being within a church function, by a "ordained" minister. Anyone can minister via humility, testimony, hospitality, service etc. etc.

    This doesn't mean I stand on a street corner somewhere :) My PRIMARY ministry is confined to my husband and children and then whomever I cross paths with. Does that mean I immediately start preaching upon a person I meet? No, unless I am led, I try to demonstrate Christ and not "talk" Christ.

    The sad thing is the name of Christ IS associated with modern day Christianity and all the negatives along with it. I found that is to my (HIS) advantage that I am a non church member. Nonbelievers are more inclined to receive our testimony, hospitality etc. etc. because I don't fit the typical stereotype of a Christian that turns away so many potentials.

    Your testimony of your home church is certainly interesting! I'm not sure what the "Plymouth Brethren set-up" is, but it seems to work well for you and your "church". Once again, I'm glad you stumbled upon my blog!

    Grace and Peace be multiplied :)

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  3. I forgot to check the box for Emailing follow-up comments, so I fell out of the loop for a few days. Your comments did get me thinking. There really is no reason to think that going to a structured meeting place is the only way to fellowship with other believers. It's the interaction and the "sharpening" that is important. For me, at least, it would be really easy to go about my life and my job, surrounded by unbelievers, and simply start "down the slippery slope" of forgetting about God. Even as a Christian couple, it's easy to do this in a marriage. If "you are what you eat" and you don't make a concerted effort to be spiritually "fed," then it's easy to fall away. Your comments have made me appreciate the blessing of being led to a good church. I can also see that your participation in ministries such as this blog keep you, probably, as "sharp" as you can stand! :)

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  4. Yes. Exactly. I do have to bring this up since so many church-goers, insist on my being in a modern church environment, for the sake of spiritual growth"own good". In other words, I simply cannot "walk" without interaction from "like-minded" believers, whether single or married.

    As I mentioned it's been a long journey prior to the arrival of my "peace with God, by the justification of my Faith" Romans 5:1, what I have discovered during this journey was that my faith was tentatively placed with God, and wholly placed in "gatherings of ourselves". I simply had to have "church". As someone who grew up in a (unloving) family environment, I desired the physical/spiritual support of a "real" family. I was extremely disappointed and let down by many attitudes I encountered in various churches. I wasn't being fed as I needed to be. So, I took my questions, that ministers found such discomfort with, upon the Lord.

    Boy, did I discover something precious! My point in sharing this with you is that my food comes from the Spirit, not through fellowship. I had to ask myself some hard questions...when IS God enough? Why should He not be?? The Word is full of repetitious scripture of the principle that God is our Source for ALL things. Yet in this church society we build our belief around the physical aspects as opposed to the grounding spiritual principle of "walking" with God. A vast majority of church organizations who insist one cannot "walk" without some sort of gathering of like-minded persons, "strain at a gnat and swallow a camel". Matthew 23:24

    I'm here to tell all, that I CAN, because, God IS able to make me stand. Being orphaned by the age of 17 and a very young parent, it is truly an eye-opening experience when those who claim to have the love of Christ, judge you and/or place parameters around the conditions of their "love/giving". While hurtful, I truly had to look upon my own heart and desires and ask myself some tough questions. Where DOES my faith lie?

    I have replaced my sole source of Spiritual feeding with the right Source, I AM able to walk this earth without "physical interaction" in a structured or nonstructural setting AND still be grounded in His Word.

    When it slowly, but surely dawned upon me that this Christian society no longer reflects the days of Paul through. I began to ask "Where is that "Paul" spirit?" Where is the spirit of the Thessalonians Church?

    "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

    For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews "--1 Thessalonians 2:13-14

    How is it that we have morphed from a Faith boldly preaching Christ and suffering for it, to sitting quietly in pews ministering to "personal issues" relating to the very base things of faith? Is it any wonder apostasy is so widespread? For the very HEART of the Gospel rests upon the understanding that with Christ we are not alone.

    With this understanding, I was left with a choice. To recognize the knowledge I was given of Him, or to continue in pursuit of my own desires of seeking out "family". If we choose to recognize that in this day and age of Christianity IS indeed different from the Scriptures, we claim to believe are inerrant, then we MUST reevaluate everything we know to be Christian, in comparison to the Word, under the guidance of the Spirit.

    Personally speaking now, I've come to a recognition that many who insist that I am in error because I am not in physical fellowship, judge my walk based on their faith. If I am right in any capacity it then becomes a question of loyalty to their church. Only they and God can know where their heart/Faith lies. But Christ makes this very clear:

    "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

    And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple."

    -- Luke 14:26-27

    In full recognition of where we are in modern society, my commitment is to Christ alone. My commitment is to truth. The truth is we (church/Christian society) are NOT effective in the Spirit in which He has freely given to us for HIS glory, as we SHOULD be since we ALL claim the to be the same. There is no getting around that, no matter how many "If's And's Or's and But's" we spit out. I remove myself from the variety of physical fellowship offered by today's Christian society for this base reason:

    "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" -- 2 Corinthians 6:14

    Sound harsh? Yes, maybe...but if there is no unity of Spirit, then there can be no likeness of mind. You'd be very surprised how many "unbelievers" have been faithfully in church attendance over years.

    Hannah

    P.S. I posted this comment, if you haven't already noticed :) "A Comment to Share" I thought it would be good to share my testimony further, not for the purpose of "singling" you out. Hope that is okay with you. :)

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