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Where I found connection after I left the church

by Jim Gordon
As published at Backyard Church

Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

The word ‘fellowship’ is just another one of those Christian buzzwords that you almost never heard outside of the church. We hear the word fellowship often and we all have our ideas about what it actually means to fellowship with others.

For me, growing up in the church world taught me about the need for fellowship with other believers. Of course, this fellowship was reserved for the weekly gathering inside a building on Sunday. I remember thinking that real Christian fellowship was sitting there each week, listening and watching others perform for God, then shaking hands with someone while on the way out the door.

For many years while within the institutional church, I never thought about fellowship in any other way than what I had been taught. Fellowship was with people who believed just like me. I always felt it may be dangerous to associate with people who believed differently or did not believe at all. After all, they may cause me to fall or backslide in my faith.

Now That We’ve Left The Church, Where Do We Go?

After many years of an uneasy feeling and not being satisfied with our church life, my wife and I decided to leave the organization and live outside the walls of religion. After leaving the church, my wife and I wondered where would we go for friends and ‘fellowship’

I found an answer in an article my friend, Rocky Glenn wrote entitled ‘Fellowship and Community’ in which he talked about fellowship within the church and leaving that church fellowship. He says:

“Two of the most common questions asked when others learn you have made the conscious decision to live the Christian life outside the walls and confines of a traditional church building are “Who do you fellowship with?” or “Where do you find community?”

These questions show how conditioned we have become in the institutional church to speaking our own language and seeing the world through the lenses of our stained-glass windows. The two terms — fellowship and community — are rarely heard outside the context of church. For example, have you ever invited a coworker to dinner or for a drink by asking them if they wanted to fellowship? When you are sitting in the stands at the high school football game, do you often lean over to the guy sitting next to you and explain how happy you are the two of you can experience community together? While each of these examples, by definition, constitutes the term used, we do not speak in such a manner on a normal basis and to do so would actually be quite silly. To fellowship with another is to have a friendly association over shared interests.

Rocky’s statement shows that fellowship can and does happen outside the church walls. It can happen in a restaurant, a bar, a football game, or on a street corner.

Photo by Kevin Curtis on Unsplash

Once my wife and I began to realize that fellowship happens anywhere, it did not take long for God to bring people across our paths in places and at times we never expected.

We were sitting in a local café one morning relaxing and drinking our morning coffee when we noticed two men at the next table. One was a young long-haired hippy-looking guy talking with an older gentleman. We could not help but hear their conversation at times and we kept noticing that they were talking about God and life in Christ.

After some time of listening, we decided to politely ask about their conversation and found that the younger guy was in a Christian heavy metal band. He had left the traditional church a few years ago and was living outside the walls of religion like us. This was an encouragement to us because it showed us that God can provide people for fellowship at any time and in any place. We just need to be alert and ready.

What Is Fellowship?

Fellowship, according to Merriam-Webster is a company of equals or friends; the quality or state of being in a comradery. Over the years of sitting in a church service, I never saw fellowship take place that matched up to this definition.

For the usually meaningless talk that goes on at a Sunday morning church service, there is no way that meaningful fellowship will happen.

Fellowship is more than listening, more than having similar beliefs or doctrinal views. It is getting to know people for who they are, even if it means they see things differently. It is being yourself and having people accept you for you. It is caring and responding in meaningful, respectful ways.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 states, ‘Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing’. As this verse tells us, fellowship is to encourage each other and build one another up. It is not totally agreeing or seeing things the same way. We are to be a positive help to our fellow human beings.

In our world today, people seem to want to stay separated into like-minded groups. We see it in all the various denominations in church, we see it in all the various interest groups and social groups. Everyone wants to fellowship only with people who are like them.

Finding Fellowship In The Wrong Places

Looking back on it now, I can see that I had more fellowship with my non-Christian friends in the backyard or at school than I did sitting in a religious service each week. I passed up many opportunities in the past to meet with people and in places that had nothing to do with church or any religious activity. Due to my religious upbringing and understanding that fellowship took place in church, I felt a little guilty about enjoying fellowship with others outside of church and with people who were not always so like-minded.

Fortunately, I have found that fellowship can happen anywhere and anytime. It does not have to be within the confines of an organized service in a church. In fact, it normally does not happen there. God brings opportunities each day to talk to people and share love and acceptance. What we need to do is erase the concept that fellowship only happens in a church service. We need to be alert to the leading of the Spirit and ready to greet people with the love of God.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

It seems that people just want to be heard and accepted. Even those who are quiet or a little introverted will open up and talk when they find someone who is genuine, caring, and truly listens. Often, one person listening can bring about the most meaningful times of fellowship.

A Religious Man, A Morman and A Truck Driver

(and no, they did not walk into a bar)

Just the other day, my wife and I heard about a young man who was returning to his military base after leave. Unfortunately, he was involved in a serious car accident and died due to his injuries. Our local town was honoring this young soldier by having residents line the streets as his hearse and small motorcade passed by.

While we were standing on the street corner waiting, we met a few people we never thought about running into. First, there was a man who was obviously religious. It was interesting talking to him knowing we had some commonalities in our faith. Yet at times it was obvious he had some beliefs that were very traditional and strictly religious. The good thing was we were outside the walls of a church and were able to talk and express ourselves without getting into a big debate over doctrine or denominational beliefs.

While we were talking with this gentleman, two young men came walking up and stopped to talk a minute. They were both dressed in white shirts with ties and the same style of pants. It was very obvious they were Mormon missionaries. It would have been easy to ignore them or tell them we were not interested and get them to move on.

Fortunately, we did not do that. We were nice and accepting to them and talked about a variety of topics. I think they were a little surprised that someone would actually carry on a conversation with them without debating or arguing over their beliefs. We actually had a very nice talk for about fifteen minutes and learned a little bit about each other apart from our differences in doctrine.

Not long after the missionaries moved on, an older gentleman walked up and asked what was going on with all the people lining the streets. We told him what was happening and he decided to wait and pay his respects also. He started talking a little about himself and told us he used to be a truck driver. Once he noticed that my wife and I were really listening and paying attention, he suddenly opened up about several personal issues and the pain of losing a child when he was younger. We ended up talking another twenty minutes about his family and his history and hopefully made his day a little brighter.

What Does Real Fellowship Look Like?

The purpose of talking about these encounters is to show that God can bring people into our lives for the purpose of fellowship when we least expect it. Who knew when we stood on the street corner to pay respects to a person we did not know, we would have personal encounters with three separate people and enjoy times of real fellowship with each of them?

Fellowship is no more than listening, responding with kindness, caring, and showing the love of God. We all can do it if we take the time to pay attention to the needs of others and show them we are interested in what they have to say.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Fellowship really is not hard to do. Be yourself and allow other people to do the same. Be respectful, kind, and share the love of God in a way that makes people feel they matter.

The Last Word

Fellowship can happen anytime, anywhere, and more often than not, it does not happen within the confines of a religious service. Fellowship is not just a Christian happening; It is for all people.

There are so many people in our world who are hurting or confused and just need someone to listen to them. Be ready, be alert and follow the leading of the Spirit to show love and accept people for just being themselves. Something so simple can mean so much to someone who needs a little fellowship.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Jim Gordon

Ephesians 1:22,23 — And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

We talk a lot about the body of Christ, and most often describe it as church. Yet we need to know what true church is, which is His body. It is not a building. It is not someplace we go. Christ is the head of all of us who are saved by grace. We the people are the various body parts that make up the church.

I do not see separation in this statement. I do not see denominations, buildings and formal services trying to get people to come to us. I do not see places based on doctrine. I see a living, active group of people going out into the world day by day in the love and strength of God. I see a united effort seeking to show the love of God to all we meet each day. I see people looking to Jesus and the Holy Spirit for truth and guidance. No more looking to a man/woman or a group of elders for teaching and guidance. Christ is our head and the Spirit is our teacher.

1 Corinthians 3:16 states, do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? The Old Covenant days of the temple are over. According to the New Covenant, we are God’s house, His Spirit lives within us. So many people say the organized church is where God lives, but this verse tells us that God is more personal than that. God can no longer be contained within a building. We are His dwelling place.

Each one of us who are saved by grace are now the temple of God. It’s so hard to get away from the thought that God is up there somewhere, or that we have to go to church and wait for God to show up. This kind of thinking is now obsolete. Remember, the Spirit lives within us, we have the mind of Christ, the Kingdom of God is within us.

My thought is that it is time to stop arguing over doctrine and interpretations. It is time to stop looking to other brothers and sisters whom we elevate into a higher position in an organization. It is time we realize we are all kings and priests and able to teach and give a word to uplift one another. The Spirit lives within us and we should allow God to live through us daily as we go out into the world as his body and be the Church, showing His love to all people.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Mike Edwards

Researchers such as John Marriott and Josh Packard have written on why people are leaving the Christian faith or the institutional church but not always God. Believers must stop claiming people are leaving to justify lifestyle choices. Talk to them! Claiming that those that leave never believed in the first place is suspect as well. There are many more reasons than what I suggest, but perhaps some of the main reasons are true below.  Let’s listen rather than judge!

The Bible may be the biggest reason for wanting nothing to do with God

Christians sometimes argue we should trust “biblical truths” about God. The term is misleading because differing biblical interpretations exist for major moral issues. Certain supposed truths, such as the traditional understanding of Hell, may not be true. Also, the truth is we can’t prove God somehow magically controlled the biblical writers’ thoughts and pens. The writers may not have always understood God perfectly. Uncertainty though isn’t always a bad thing. See here.

Many feel compelled to choose science over God because a literal interpretation of Genesis demands God couldn’t have used evolution in the creative process. A fallible Book may actually lead to knowing God better because surely a Creator influences us through our moral intuitions, consciences. Claims about God, other than evolution can’t be true, can lead to rejecting God.

Certain accusations about God can lead to atheism or leaving God

According to the Bible it has been claimed God approves of putting men over women in leaderships roles at home and in the church. This has encouraged historical dominance by men. People condemn gays, despite their moral intuitions, because God supposedly rejects same gender loving relationships according to a Book. But scholars who accept the Bible as authoritative defend the Bible not showing partiality to men over women and that God doesn’t condemn gays. See here. Since we can’t prove our interpretation is the right one, common, moral sense is not the enemy.

Why doesn’t God intervene more with evil in the world? 

A God who can prevent evil but doesn’t is no different than a parent who stands by and watches their child being physically or sexually abused. Answers like “everything happens for a reason” doesn’t suffice for many of us. God’s nature requires their love to be unselfish and uncontrolling. Controlling love is a contradiction in terms. Freedom to love fully may have to include the freedom to hate fully. There may be plausible moral reasons as to why evils exist and God doesn’t intervene. 

When Christians leaders and laypeople act ungodly 

Another obstacle Christians put in the way of others interested in pursuing God is hypocrisy. If you treat people like dirt, I doubt you are being influenced by God. Most folks though understand no one is perfect. But if Christians fail to admit or confess their faults, I doubt others want to discuss your relationship with God. Parents who don’t do as they say should be quiet. 

How to avoid being a hinderance to those seeking God 

Don’t accuse those who have no inclination to include God in their lives being less moral. If we judge others at all, let’s challenge one another to love others as we want to be loved. What can we say to those wanting to talk about God or spirituality? Suffering and a loving God co-existing often makes no sense. Have an open discussion. Discuss worrisome claims made about God that seem unlikely. Our intuitions aren’t the enemy. Finally, if you want others to consider your God because God has made a big difference in your life, walk the talk. Seek forgiveness when wrong.

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

 

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by Jim Gordon

How many of us have passed a church building and saw a sign out front that says ‘Everyone Welcome’?

When I see one, I always wonder if they really mean what they say. I have seen so many congregations over the years get set in their ways and enjoy the people who are “regulars”, but what would happen if everyone did come to their church?

What would the thoughts and feelings be if a gay couple walked in, or a few prostitutes decided to come in for a service. What if a group of homeless people walked in to hear the Sunday morning message? Would everyone be truly welcome? And remember, these are not people who are sinful people, they just wear the wrong label for most church attendees.

We know that Jesus welcomed everyone, literally, and mostly those who the religious folk did not want to have any association. Jesus met with and cared for the people who probably would not go to an organized religious meeting (what we call church), either because they would not be welcome or because they just did not think they would fit in.

Maybe that says something about our organized church of today. Maybe we have become so involved with religion and the proper way of doing things that we have lost our first love. Could we be so caught up in the trends of modern religion that we forget our relationship with the God of the universe? The God who told us to love one another.

Maybe we need to concentrate more on living in fellowship with Christ on a daily basis, loving Him and loving others, and not worry so much about what building we go to on Sunday morning….if we go at all. The true Church is not a building, and it does not matter which day we meet or where we meet. The Church is a community of believers who live for Him each and every day. We should not be focused on a building nor an organization, but on a daily walk with Him.

To love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love others as ourselves fulfills the law. We no longer need to worry about obeying the old covenant law or the rules and regulations the denomination has set up. We now live under a new covenant which went into effect at the death and resurrection of Jesus. We now have the Living Word within us through the Holy Spirit. We no longer need any man to teach us the ways of God, because now the Spirit is our guide.

It is time to put our focus back on our first love, Jesus. It is time to live out our relationship with God on a daily basis, not only on one day. Living as a follower of Christ is a daily way of life. We are to love God, love others, and be prepared to give an answer of the hope that is within us to those who ask us. I pray we are all letting the love of God show through us so that others will be drawn to Him and feel welcome in his presence.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Jim Gordon

It is disappointing that Christianity is divided into so many different groups. We all have a little different interpretation of the bible and a little different understanding on doctrine. Obviously, we are not going to agree on everything, but we certainly should be able to love one another and accept each other even when we differ on such things.

There are many that do not attend a church. There are those who attend a church every time the doors are open. Some attend a mega church and others a very small church, some meet with fellow believers at cafe’s, parks and restaurants, and others meet in their homes over dinner. We should accept these differences and love one another rather than argue over who is right and who is wrong.

There really is not a right or wrong way to assemble together and we need to stop expecting everyone to do things exactly the same way. We should respect others viewpoints and focus on loving them rather than arguing and expecting them to see things our way.

It is hard to understand why this is when God tells us we are to be one, as Jesus and the Father are one. Yet, we understand that we are human and it is easy to lose sight of our first love. If we could only stay focused on loving God, listening for the voice and guidance of the Spirit within us and loving others, we could look past our differences.

Things will not change until we start focusing on what is common in our lives rather than the differences. The common focus should be on Christ, the head of the body. After that, we should focus on loving others rather than arguing about the differences in interpretation.

We also need to keep in mind that we are all constantly changing as God brings new truth to us. We are all learning and changing as we are ready to accept new truths. The views and opinions I had five years ago are completely different from some of the views and opinions I have now. I am sure in another five years they will change again as God leads me into more truth.

When we realize that each of us are necessary and equally important functioning parts of the body and Christ is the head, we can start to change how we feel about those who do not see things exactly the way we do. We can begin to accept our brothers and sisters in Christ as they are, as we come to realize we actually are one with God.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Jim Gordon

As a follower of Christ, I feel a great importance in treating all people kindly, fairly and with respect. We are told that as his followers we will be known by our love, not only for one another but for all people.

Unfortunately, I do not see a lot of this sentiment in our christian world today. So many of us would rather condemn, argue and stand our ground for our particular doctrine, interpretation or denomination.

When reading about the life of Jesus while on earth, I see a person who loved his Father and loved people. He went about treating all people with love and respect. When people were brought to him doing something questionable, he told them to go and sin no more, but he never condemned or made anyone feel like a person of lower degree. He never said because you have done this or that I want nothing to do with you. He loved them no matter what.

As I mentioned in my last article, my chosen profession was firefighting. As I think about this line of work I see it as more like true Christianity should be.

Firefighterpledge

As firefighters we treat all people the same. It makes no difference whether we are treating male or female, rich or poor, white or black, religious or atheist, gay or straight. We do not differentiate between Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Taoism or Christian. It makes no difference if you are American, European, African, Middle Eastern or Asian. All people are treated the same no matter who they are, what they believe or how they live.

To me this is the way we Christian people should live each day. Treating others with equality, respect, kindness and with the love of God. We will not always agree on things but living this way will have more of an impact on others and will show the love of God in action.

I always wonder how the church world can be so mean, how it can separate itself so much from those who see things differently. How can we, who profess to follow a loving God treat people with such disrespect? Why is it that most of the time, christian people are known more for what they are against rather than for the love they are to show to all people.

I feel it is time that we Christian people take on a firefighter mentality in the way we treat others, showing love and respect to all people. Rather than fight and argue it is time we help lift up, encourage and be respectful to everyone we meet along this journey through life.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Jim Gordon

Philippians 2:3-7 – Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

In today’s world, it seems everyone has the ‘I am number one’ attitude. We are all interested in what is best for us, what makes us happy, how to be more comfortable and satisfied in our lives. Seems like we will do anything we can to get ahead in life, and to get all the comforts and ‘things’ that make it easier for us.

These above verses state that as followers of Christ, we should be doing just the opposite. Our thoughts and attitudes should be how we can show the love of God to others. It should be what can we do to encourage and build up those in need, how can we use the money God has blessed us with to help the less fortunate.

God says that as his followers, we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love others as ourselves. While the jobs and ‘things’ we have been given and blessed with by God are not wrong, we need to keep in mind that they are not the important part of our lives. We are to be thinking of others and their need for love, acceptance and help. We should focus on how we can encourage and build up someone else, and how can we help meet a need in their life.

There is nothing wrong with taking thought of our wants, needs and interests. The verse states ‘do not merely look out for your own interests’. Unfortunately, many times our own interests are all that concern us. May we daily ask that God helps us to think of others and be ready to care for them in any way possible that will show them the love of God.

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by Jim Gordon

As Christian people, it seems our most emphasized event is attending church each week. I know my mom and dad took me to church the first time it was safe to take me out after being born.

I continued with regular church attendance for the next 55 years or so, all the time feeling I was doing what was the most important part of being a Christian. I looked to the pastor as my main teacher and guide, and attended all the events at the church that I could.

Even when I talked with others about God, it was more in tune with asking them to come to church. My whole Christian life seemed to be more about church life rather than living the follower of Jesus life.

It started bothering me over the last 15 – 20 years about going to church each week, year after year, sitting there listening to a chosen few participate and the rest of us just sitting, looking at the back of one another’s heads. Where was the fellowship in that?

Today when we talk about church, what we are really talking about is a religious organization that meets in a building, follows particular interpretations and doctrines and is guided by a select few people. It seems to me the biggest part of this system is getting enough people involved to make enough money to pay the bills.

In the organized church today it seems we strive to pay the mortgage, pay the utilities, pay for insurance, salaries and all the items we feel we need to put on a good performance each Sunday. If there is enough left over after all that is paid, we may put in a little to help the homeless or some good cause the leadership feels is worth it.

In more recent time, many churches have become known for participating in political activism. Some churches I have been in had a reserved section for local politicians where they could sit together and be seen. Some even provide time for politicians to speak and many endorse and back certain political parties and candidates.

I personally feel this is wrong, but although they cannot make their members vote in any particular way, many who belong to a specific church take what they hear from their pastor as gospel truth. Due to this, I believe the churches today should be taxed and pay their fair share like any other business.

I remember reading in the bible that when you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. I read that Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to live within us and that we are now the temple of God. I also read that the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands, and that we have the Spirit within us and we no longer need anyone to teach us because the Spirit is now our leader and guide. It certainly raised questions about church attendance as I knew it.

Yet when I read forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, I often wondered if we were being told to participate in an organized religious service. What I determined was that the assembling together does not necessarily mean in an organized service on a set day under the guidance of other human beings. It means that we need one another. We need fellowship, encouragement and being able to express our thoughts and feelings with others. That does not need to be in a building, or in an organized service, or under the control of a specific leader. I have found it actually works better outside the walls of church. It comes about as the Spirit leads us to one another throughout our normal day to day lives.

Is it wrong to gather? No, there are plenty of good Christian clubs and organizations where people can get together. The organized church is just another one of those organizations meant to provide support and encouragement for one another.

The church as a religious organization, based on its particular beliefs and doctrines, is not what Jesus was talking about when he said he would build his Church. I believe he was talking about building his followers into a living organism that would spread his love and good works to other people they met along the journey of life. And doing so would mean living life out in the open, day by day where we are in contact with others. I do not believe we are meant to be shut up within four walls of a building expecting people to come to us.

So for my wife and I, we left doing the day to day business of the church…attending the organized meetings, paying to keep the building and system running along with following the pastor, the doctrines and the rules of the church. Yet we did not leave our love for God and for people. We left the organization, we left man led religion, but we still follow Jesus. We, like many others, are doing the day to day business of the ‘Church’ that Jesus is building. Those who are his followers are the Church whether they meet in a building or never walk through the doors of what we know as church today.

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by Jim Gordon

Have you noticed how so many of us christian people seem to only include our preferred group. People who think like us and have faith like us. If you think differently, we feel you should stay in your own group with like-minded people, but leave us alone. Sorry to say I used to feel that way, but have thankfully changed my mind.

We seem to find this attitude in every walk of life, but within organized religion or institutional church seems even worse. We all should be accepting of people in general in our daily lives. Yet, we see this so often within Christianity with the wide variety of denominations and interpretations of the bible.

When it comes to including people who we see as completely different from us, African-American, White, LGBT, Atheist, Muslim, Jew and so on, we tend to want to keep each group separate. We think as believers in God we need to separate ourselves and not associate with those who see things differently. Why is it the word inclusion seems to make so many christian people cringe?

Really, behind all the labels we put on people we are all basically the same, so why not associate and get to know people who we feel are different from us? We can learn from one another and get to know one another and find that we really are not all that different.

We see Jesus do this all the time when reading the gospels in the bible. He did not differentiate people based on their religion, belief, lifestyle or nationality. He did not separate himself from those who thought, believed and lived differently. He loved and accepted all people and showed them the love of God.

Obviously loving and accepting people does not mean agreement nor are we going to always get along in life and live happily ever after together. Yet I believe it does mean treating others the same, with respect, kindness, acceptance and with the love of God through the power of the Spirit within.

Inclusion is not a bad word. It is not a bad or unholy way to live. Inclusion is about ALL of us. Inclusion is about living full lives – about learning to live together. It makes the world our classroom for a full life. Inclusion treasures diversity and builds community. It is about our abilities – our gifts and how to share them. Inclusion is the way of God and the way of showing the love of God to all we meet.

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by Jordan Hathcock

Without order nothing can exist-without chaos nothing can evolve. Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. – Oscar Wilde

It is a hard thing to grasp when one comes to the threshold of an unknown road. Do we panic? Do we push back? What do we grab on to when experiencing this unfamiliar and turbulent route? I don’t know for sure, but it does seem like the more we experience the chaos, the more we scramble for answers. Maybe instead of demanding answers, we start asking questions that are more relevant with the path in front of us? Specifically, within the American Christian landscape, we cannot deny that we are at a critical crossroad. Are we going to listen to the petitions that are being proposed or are we just going to seek the more familiar and accessible remedies?

The “answers” might seem finite and foundational–but in the end–the order we want will end up being of no value. This “abyss” seems unpleasant (maybe unbearable at times), but what if we can learn to abide through it, to better heal and liberate as a community? What are the questions and answers I am referring to? Well, if I had all the prevalent questions with the damaging responses in this blog, it would be a million-page novel. But I did come up with four main ideas which seem to shed some light regarding the current church vs the world problem we are experiencing. Look, the “church” is supposed to be leading in example on how healthy community is done. Unfortunately, it seems to be doing the opposite. I believe these ideas play a huge role in why this is the case.

1. Culture Irrelevance

Wait, hold the phones?! As Jesus-followers, aren’t we supposed to be the called-out ones that are “not of this world”? How can I say culture irrelevance is part of the problem of the current state of American Christianity? Easy. Throughout the Abrahamic faiths and Jesus tradition, all the players who had a role in bringing this movement into fruition, worked and lived within their own cultural context. You cannot have the prophetically justice stance of Moses without having a dictator like the slave-driving Pharaoh. Or the “rags-to-riches” story in the journey of Ruth through the perils of a patriarchal society. Its relative for all these characters when they engaged in the culture of their day. From politics, earth-care, education, traditions, and entertainment, all these cultural aspects play a role when shaping and forming one’s Jesus community. To place the church “outside” of the culture of the day, is to put it in a stale and unproductive state. This does nothing in bringing about the earth as it is in heaven admonition from Jesus. It only brings about an escapism which never produces good fruit.  

2. Consumer-Oriented Platforms

We want it all, we want it with ease, and we want it NOW! This is the modern era of consumer Christianity. The bigger, stronger, and faster consumer minded motif we find ourselves in is becoming more of a game than a gift. Our easy access to goods is bringing about those lovely seven deadly sins we all enjoy so much (tongue and cheek, hehe).  Instant gratification is so nice, isn’t it though? I love having access to so many goods from just the tip of my fingertips and the scroll of my smart phone. Our technology driven society is helping the insta (haha get it?)cause for sure (plug in and stay tuned). Yes, technology has done some great things for human civilization. But we cannot deny the negative side of it as well. I get that we all enjoy some type of “retreat” from the woes of this world so we can encounter God. This is all well and good. You want rock stages, fog machines, Starbucks coffee and strobe lights, knock yourself out. I am not trying to say to stop doing these types of practices. The problem I am seeing is, instead of getting disciples, we might be getting fans. Hey, but fans are the ones that keep this consumer machine rolling…we need fans, right? Economies based on exchange will need some admirers if we are going to keep this merry-go-round operational. Entertainment can be intoxicating along with being detrimental when it comes to participating in the Jesus Way. Look, we all are going to be within the non-dualistic tension of being consumers and lovers (1 Cor 13:4-8). Its what we do with this tension that matters.

3. Exclusionary Campaigning

Factionalism has been the new trend within the American church today. Looks like we are joining the American polarized political divide. Yes, we are supposed to act within our current cultural issues, but what is to be our tactics? It cannot be one that causes divisions and strife (Gal. 5:20) but one that produces LOVE, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That is what we are called to participate in. This is what produces the fruit that Jesus spoke of. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a crazy time to be alive in the USA. Tensions are high (so much so people are throwing out possible civil war). We are going through extreme social unrest from pandemics, racial injustices, economic disparity, and political strife. The divide is obvious and deep at the moment. But no matter what, the church is to be the example of love above all else (i.e., Shalom). This love may look like a “dividing sword” (Mat. 10:34) to “others” who might just not have a vision of a justice (love in public) rolling down like a river through our American streets. Regardless, we are here to love our enemies (which means we have no enemies) and be a people of inclusion, hospitality, and generosity.

4. Doctrine Certitudes

Jesus was about the Gospel, not doctrine. The Gospel should always be seen as a way to bridge the gap between the outcast and the conformed, the poor and rich, the black and white, the gay and straight, the man and woman, the transsexual and the heterosexual, the child and adult (Gal. 3:28-get the picture?). We cannot be bamboozled by this notion that the Gospel is just one tight net idea that once examined and believed, no other type of suggestions or behaviors can stem from it. The Gospel is a plethora of creative and innovative ways of being in the time and place we are given.It is not just a set of beliefs (atonement theories) to believe in, nor is it one certain type of action within one’s culture (social justice). The Gospel involves those ideas and actions, for sure! But it’s really just simply good news, which everyone needs nowadays.

* * *

Well, what do you think? Again, if we are looking to bring about the cross-like, forgiving love that Jesus brought, what do we do in the chaos and orderWE ABIDE (uh oh, I just gave you an answer haha)! We breathe. We seek. And maybe, just fucking maybe, we will find…

Just as the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you. Abide in My love! 

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