Following the Spirit
Recently, I read an article posted online that sought to appeal graciously to non-churchgoers with an attempt to woo them back into the fold. You can read the article yourself if you’re interested by clicking here. The following is my personal response to the post, which I also shared on the author’s website. Feel free to add your own comments or, better yet, visit this author’s website and share your heart there as well. I believe the author’s intention was positive, although it’s apparent that he is positively influenced by churchianic mindsets (as so many of us have been). My desire to share my thoughts with him and his readers was not to offend anyone but rather to provoke study of God’s Word and encourage a thirst for genuine Gospel liberty and deeper relationship with Christ. I sincerely would love it if this brother discovered what so many of us have also been discovering over the last several months and years concerning this wonderful life in Jesus Christ, unfettered by the chains of religion. So now, without further adieu-dieu, here is the response I shared with the author of the “Letter To A Non-Churchgoer”…
Wow, where to begin with this one… I guess let me start by saying, I was a deeply-involved church boy for 30+ years of my life. I’ve now been out of that environment for over 15. I am still a follower of Jesus and a member of the Family of God (which, in truth, is the only “church” referenced in Scripture). I appreciate the humble tones of this letter and it appears the author is manifesting good intentions; however, he fundamentally misunderstands the non-church goer on so many levels. I’m not sure I can blame his ignorance entirely. I’ve walked in those shoes too. I meant well when I did. The author’s understanding of church has likely been drilled into him by his environment… not by the Holy Spirit, unfortunately.
To his comment:
“But, except possibly for a wedding or a funeral, we never share in the enterprise I call church.”
The author may not even realize how accurately he indirectly described the reason why what he calls church is not what the Bible calls Church when he says, “the enterprise I call church.” The Church of Scripture is NOT an enterprise. It’s not a business. It’s not even a social club. Yet that is everything that today’s church program is… but, if someone cares about what the Bible presents, then “enterprise” is NOT it. According to Scripture, the Church is the body of Christ (the Family of God, the Spiritual nation of the Kingdom of God, the very PEOPLE who are born again and who live in Christ – regardless of whether or not they attend some man-made program we label as “church”).
Just a few weeks ago I visited a church organization with my mother one Sunday morning (a rare occurrence for me these days). In case you’re curious, my mother doesn’t quite hold the same conviction about church world that I do. She sees glimpses of what I have expressed to her and she listens to my heart and often nods in approval concerning the things I’ve shared from my personal experiences, but church remains an important activity she enjoys participating in (and it’s often been important to her to experience it along with family). Recently, mom relocated from her home across the miles to move in with my wife and myself due to some health issues. You can imagine the challenge here as we are not “church-going folks” these days and here we are with mom who is and she wants to find a place to attend and we’re just not in that mode or mindset at all. I’ve suddenly found myself in a position where I’m taking my mom to church because this is important to her, though I (quite honestly) detest it myself. I share this because I know many of you have found yourselves in similar predicaments and I want you to know that I understand and I hope I can encourage you with something today.
I know the feeling of thinking that if you happen to sit in a pew after which the Lord has opened your understanding about the errors of churchianity, that there might be a concern that you’re somehow endorsing it and compromising by being there. If any of you are anything like me, it’s no longer an enjoyable environment for you, but there may be times when (for whatever reason) you find yourself back in that environment and it’s unsettling. Perhaps some of you have felt a conviction that churchianity is full of error and you’ve wanted to distance yourself from it, but (in the honesty of your heart) you still enjoy and crave the experience of fellowship with other believers, or singing the songs, and sometimes just being in an environment that (for the most part) seems to at least intend to encourage people to seek the Lord and you’re a little torn by these contrasting feelings about involvement with it. You’re not alone. Lots of folks have struggled with these same concerns, including myself over the years. These days the kinds of things I struggle with concerning it have transitioned a bit (quite a bit actually), but I still relate to the many letters I’ve received about this because I really have walked through this as well and my heart goes out to those who are working through this.
The whole thing reminds me a bit of the movie the Matrix; and the thought of the “Matrix” as being “church world”. Those of you who have seen the movie might know what I’m talking about. Church world (“the Matrix”) isn’t real Christianity, but for those still inside it, they don’t seem to know otherwise. Yet some are awaking and others will find themselves “plugging” back into it from time to time (though they are no longer a part of it). It can pose a real mind trip for some of us.
NOTE: This article first appeared on the original TruthForFree.com site June 20th, 2005.
It was the proverbial Christian catch phrase of the 90’s and it’s still going strong. You see it practically everywhere you look: On bumper stickers, fish emblems for automobiles, t-shirts, banners, hats, bracelets, necklaces, Christian television and virtually everywhere else imaginable in church world. It is sounded over the loudspeakers of rock concerts, conferences, radio and printed in the religious educational materials of many churches and youth ministries. It is the question that almost literally fuels Institutional Christianity itself.
- NOTE: For those who may be unfamiliar with my verbiage here, what I mean by “Institutional Christianity” is, essentially, the modern day church system (which is largely identified by its buildings, denominational and clergy designations, programs, static routines and Sunday services – and the mission to advance the building of such organizations and structures as frequently and in as many places as possible). In other words, it is “Christianity” as most of the world recognizes it – a religious institution or a system comprised of religious institutions. Real, biblical Christianity (in this author’s perspective) is something far more simplistic and organic; it is a global, spiritual community of believers in Jesus who find their identity in HIM (not in meeting places, programs, denominational titles, and religious rituals). This is not to say it is wrong for Christians to meet in a building, but buildings and programs should never be the focus for they do not define, embody or validate true Christianity as the Scripture teaches it.
The reason I say that WWJD is the question that almost literally fuels institutional Christianity is because anyone who observes the institutional church system can easily and quickly recognize its flagrant fascination with titles, catch phrases, and externally imposed methods to invoke a religious response or action. Rather than the simple, inward motivation of the Holy Spirit and actions that flow purely and spontaneously from sincere love and faith, catch phrases like WWJD invoke people to take action based on the presumption that their identity and acceptance by God is wrapped up in religious activity. WWJD also leaves Christians to determine on their own what they presume Jesus might do, rather than recognizing that a living relationship with God reciprocates communication and activity based on love, faith and obedience to a living Lord. All in all, WWJD is something that involves an external regulation of conscience and does not require any influence by a living Lord.
Equally surprising is the fact that the Institutional Church’s thriving on the question of what Jesus would do, demonstrates as reality what so many who walk with the Lord on the outside of the four walls of institutional Christianity (i.e. traditional church attendance) have been saying for years; THE INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH SYSTEM CONCEPTUALLY SERVES A DEAD JESUS!
“What?” you say… “How can you dare say such a thing? WWJD is such a good, positive, righteous statement! Surely all Christians should intend to pattern their lives according to a consideration of how Jesus would do things… isn’t that what Christianity is all about?” Well… in a word… NO! That’s not what Christianity is all about. NOT EVEN CLOSE!
NOTE: The following article is taken from Chapter 11 of Peter Whyte’s book “The King and His Kingdom”, written in 1979.
The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). The name “Christian” means an adherent of Christ.
Today we have such muddled terminology that we apply the term to any church member, regardless of whether he or she is a dedicated follower, a disciple, of Christ.
We need to become disciples of the King and His Kingdom, and church membership can sometimes be a hindrance rather than a help. Loyalty to a man-made church will usually prevent total loyalty to the Kingdom of God. The claims of the organization usually take priority over the claims of the Kingdom when any conflict of interest arises. You cannot serve two masters.
- Becoming a disciple involves first AN ACT OF MY WILL.
I WILL TO DO THE WILL OF GOD.
I WILL to be a disciple of King Jesus and His Kingdom.
Becoming a disciple means I STOP TALKING AND START DOING.
It may not be difficult for us to see the truth of the Gospel of the Kingdom, but we are an unholy nation of scribes and Pharisees. Our normal reaction, if we accept the truth, is to agree with it Then we study it for ourselves in the Bible, read books and hear teachings on the King and His Kingdom.
We then make the fatal error of talking about it, and NEVER become TOTALLY COMMITTED TO DOING IT PERSONALLY.
NOTE: The following article is taken from Chapter 17 of Peter Whyte’s book “The King and His Kingdom”, written in 1979.
The gates of a city in Bible days were the seat of authority. The elders and rulers of the city sat in the gates, and the people came there to hear the reading of the law. The judges gave out judgments and the king’s place of audience was in the gates.
The word Hades means “not to be seen.”
The term “the gates of Hades” therefore denotes the rulers, the powers of the “not to be seen;” the spiritual powers of darkness.
Jesus was saying, “I will build My people that I have called out (My Church), and the ruling powers of the kingdom of darkness from the unseen realm (the gates of Hades) will not overpower them.”
A while back I was having a conversation with a business associate when the subject of relationship with God came up. While it was apparent that she considered herself a Christian, I wasn’t entirely sure what her perspective was on things like religion, church, and so on, so I just began to offer some of my own perspectives and the ball started rolling.
My friend from work quickly told me why she could no longer stomach church in general and why she was not a regular attender by any means. It wasn’t because of false teachings. It wasn’t because of abusive leadership. It wasn’t because of judgmental Christians. It wasn’t because she didn’t like the music or the pastor or tithing or some program. What she said to me was simply that she gets enough “organization” at work. This was a simple yet quite impressive statement to me, especially coming from a non-church-goer that isn’t likely even aware of an “out of church movement”. I could tell this wasn’t her trying to wax eloquent by expressing observant contradictions between the Ecclesia and man-made church, or even with any intention to complain in general. There was no attitude of complaint in her voice whatsoever. It was just a simple response… “I do all that stuff at work, all day long, day after day… why would I want to do that at church too?” It struck me that, while most of us have realized this problem with churchianity (the incessant infatuation with organization and all the legalism that comes along with it), I don’t often think of this as a response people normally give for why they don’t go to church. Some express exhaustion with the lifeless routines. Some talk about false teachings, abuse by leaders, arrogant or hypocritical people, boring sermons, etc… but few simply point out the obvious reality that church today looks almost exactly like the corporate world.
There was no attitude of complaint in her voice whatsoever. It was just a simple response… “I do all that stuff at work, all day long, day after day… why would I want to do that at church too?”
This was a statement I certainly related to, since my job involves plenty of organization (since I work at an organization). One of the most refreshing things about my relationship with Jesus is that it bears no semblance of some kind of corporate structure at all. It is, after all, a RELATIONSHIP! Generally, people who attempt to approach their friends with the same attitude as their job, don’t usually have those friends for too long. Certainly God is much more than a close friend. Why on earth would someone presume He can be organized into a clever little program (as though He were a product to be packaged and marketed)? This is GOD we are talking about!
When I first made my exodus from organized religion, I remember talking with someone online about aspects of the Christian faith and the term “orthodoxy” came up. Now, up until that time I had always presumed I held to orthodox Christianity, because my understanding of orthodoxy was with regard to the doctrine established by Jesus Christ and His apostles in the first century. I still hold to that ideal; However, as I began to re-examine the actual definition of the term orthodox, I found that embracing this concept was not as simplistic as I once presumed.
Here is this literal definition of orthodox from Webster’s Dictionary:
1. accepted as true or correct by most people : supporting or believing what most people think is true.
2. accepting and closely following the traditional beliefs and customs of a religion.
This is the dictionary definition of “orthodox” and was a bit of a shocker to re-read… “Accepted as true or correct by most people…” What? I could care less about what “most people” think with regard to the Christian life. What the Lord Jesus says is true is the only truth I desire to accept! Orthodox refers to “supporting or believing what most people think is true…” What they THINK is true? Since when has the Lord Jesus called anyone to support and accept what most people THINK is true? If you don’t mind me saying, that’s likely one of the major reasons why we have so many church organizations today that are all over the place with doctrine. It’s not that there is a problem with doctrine; The problem is that they are basing their doctrine on orthodoxy – what most people think is true… rather that drawing the truth from out of the Scriptures as plainly as Jesus spoke. We have pastors and teachers everywhere, giving their twist on doctrine and these become divisions apart from the sound doctrine once delivered to the saints, as we read about in Scripture.
by Devon Leesley
In my christian experience of many years, you have to look long and hard to find another believer you can really connect with in the Spirit. Even with those who have escaped Christendom, many of them still hold to pride and jealousy, even as in the church system they escaped. Thinking they have improved on their walk with Christ by leaving organized religion, they have taken on a new form of arrogance; that of seeing all things “church” as being hopelessly inundated by paganism… and rightly so, but their sin of pride is disgusting.
I’ve tried connecting with certain brothers on the matter of all the falsehoods only to be snubbed and rejected still. Sounds off topic but I don’t think so. It all goes back to the same old sin… the pride of life. Esteeming oneself above others. I believe in order to be part of the “remnant”, truth and true humility must go hand in hand. So easy to gain an insight and miss the ooze of self importance seeping in to your spirit.
What a battle! God has ways of keeping us small. That should be a constant prayer… if you want to belong to that remnant.
Jesus was called a friend of sinners because; He was! It was not meant as a compliment but as a slur. Who would say such a thing? The religious folks of His day.
Galatians 4:30-31 – There is a Scripture that tells us what to do: “Expel the slave mother with her son, for the slave son will not inherit with the free son.” Isn’t that conclusive? We are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
Galatians 5:6 – For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
Matthew 24:1-2 – And Jesus went out of the Temple, and on the way his disciples came to him, pointing out the buildings of the Temple. But he, answering, said to them, “See you not all these things? truly I say to you that here there will not be one stone resting on another, which will not be pulled down.” (In other words… “Not impressed boys!”)
Acts 7:48-51 – “However, the Most High doesn’t live in a house built by humans, as the prophet says: ‘The Lord says, “Heaven is my throne. The earth is my footstool. What kind of house are you going to build for me? Where will I rest? Didn’t I make all these things?”‘ “How stubborn can you be? How can you be so heartless and disobedient? You’re just like your ancestors. They always opposed the Holy Spirit, and so do you!”
Okay folks, so I’m not especially brilliant with the titles I come up for blog posts sometimes (haha)… I’m even worse with book titles. I would never make it as a pastor (thank God)… Well, except for the long sermon part. By-the-way, someone asked me if this post could be made available as a PDF eBook, so here you go – just CLICK THIS LINK. I might add that this will be a bit of a lengthy rant (and everyone who knows me said, “as usual” – ha), hopefully not too redundant – although I admit I tend to reiterate things a lot when I am impassioned about something and really want people to sense the intensity of the conviction I believe the Lord has given me. I NEED AN EDITOR! That might have to wait until I get Truth-For-A-Small-Fee.com published. Hey, I’m kidding you! Hopefully some will find this affirming and also encouraging. May God highlight the truth and whatever may be more of me than Him, I pray it will not be a distraction from His truth.
I’ve also got my helmet on today in case of flying bricks (grin)…
To me this is a subject (i.e. “church” & “religion”) that is so “settled” now for me (because of my own journey that I have traveled), yet I continue to get emails about it and occasionally run into discussions with Christians who take great offense at some of my conclusions (or at least are disturbed by them and want to argue). The subject regards whether or not Christians need to (or whether or not they should) attend church. Most of you who frequent this site already know my thoughts on this for the most part. I have heard arguments on both sides of the issue; however, in my personal life, I refuse to let it be an issue at all anymore, since I truly believe that Scripture is so very clear on the matter and God truly has set me free. Nevertheless I will share (or rather I should say “reiterate”) some of my personal convictions on this matter.
As always, I invite each reader to consider these things in the light of prayer, your own study of the Bible, and to lean assuredly on the voice of the Holy Spirit who is the One that guides you into all Truth (John 16:13-15). I would not wish to presume God’s will for any person, but these are my sincere thoughts. To some this will sound like I’m “preaching to the choir”. But since, most of the time, the choir resides in a church service, perhaps that’s exactly who needs to hear this. Absolutely, lean on God and follow His instruction for your life according to the path He sets before you, day by day. With that introduction I offer this as food for consideration for those who have ears to hear. If you would like to respond (whether in agreement or total disagreement), please feel free to do so at the close of this posting.
So let’s get right into this…