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Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

by Dan Foster

It has been over three years since I last went to church. For a kid who grew up going to church every week, twice a week, for the first 38 years of my life, this feels like a big deal. Occasionally, I feel like I should get out my Sunday best, dust off my hymnal, and head down to the local chapel for old time’s sake, or perhaps to appease some lingering sense of internal guilt that tells me I am destined for the bowels of Hell — a belief that, ironically enough, I picked up from my involvement in church in the first place.

And that’s a big part of the reason that I walked away from the institution. I couldn’t stand how guilt and fear were used as tools to manage and manipulate people’s behavior. I couldn’t stand the performance-based religion where I constantly strived to receive God’s blessing, acceptance, and forgiveness. Above all, I couldn’t hack the hypocrisy that I observed in certain church leaders. If these men are anything like the God they purport to serve, then I want nothing to do with it!

And so I walked away. But, I am not alone. For example, in the USA alone, around three and a half thousand believers walk away from the Christian church every single day. According to the online publication The Christian Century, in the USA, an average of nine churches per day shut their doors for good. Yet, according to Barna Research, over 70% of Americans still identify as Christians. And so do I. My problem is not with Jesus. So far as I am concerned, he is history’s preeminent teacher of love, grace, and compassion and worthy of being followed. Rather, my problem is with the church. Which left me with a conundrum. How do I follow Jesus now that I don’t go to church, especially when almost every expression of my faith had been linked to the church up until this point in my life? In addition, I have observed that the Bible assumes that all Christians will be part of a faith community of some kind. Christianity has always been and always will be a communal religion, so I knew I couldn’t do it alone. So how do I do Christian faith without being part of the institutionalized church?

And so, I created this online faith community. Welcome to church! The Backyard Church is a safe place for people who still have a faith but can’t, don’t, or simply don’t want to go to church in the traditional sense. Maybe you’ve lost faith in the system. Maybe you’ve been hurt by the church or other Christians. Maybe you find the church is not an emotionally safe place to ask your questions or share your doubts. Maybe you’ve even arrived at a place where you want to grow in your faith, but the church is taking you around in circles. You have come to the right place. Let me tell you what you’ll find here in the Backyard Church.

Here you’ll find a safe place for your faith to fall apart without being judged for it. Here you’ll find people who will walk with you while to try to piece it all back together as well. Here you’ll find a safe place to ask your big questions, share your doubts, talk about your pain, and unpack your religious trauma. Here you’ll have access to thought-provoking and challenging content that will help you move forward. Here you’ll be able to connect with like-minded people from all over the world who are on a similar journey. Here you’ll be able to chat with other church members and leaders openly and honestly. Here you’ll be able to participate in online forums and discussions about matters of faith. No church is perfect. This one won’t be either. But, my hope is that in this church community, we can at least be honest, real, and open.

Everyone’s story is welcome here without judgment. No need to perform. No need to try to impress. If you’re longing for a church community like that, then welcome home! Whoever you are, you belong. I pray that The Backyard Church brings you life, faith, and hope. God bless.

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by Jim Gordon

When we think about Jesus, we automatically think of Christianity. Although the two are completely different. Christianity mostly means a religion that is based on the Bible and God. Yet it is more of things we do rather than who we are in Christ.

Jesus did not come to start Christianity. Jesus was not a Christian. We are missing the whole point when we focus on religion rather than the real reason Jesus came to live among us. He came to show us what God is really like, and the love God has for each and every one of us.

According to Wikipedia it is stated that there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jewish, Christianity and every other religion, and in a sense, they are all actually related. They are all human based ways of trying to please the God (or gods) they believe in and serve.

In regard to just Christian denominations, World Christian Encyclopedia says that Christianity as a whole consists of 6 major ecclesiastical-cultural blocs, divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions, composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries. It certainly cannot be stated that people are not interested in some type of higher power.

The sad part is that we want to argue over which religion is right or wrong. We constantly argue over whose interpretations are right, and most often we do not even want to associate with those who feel differently.

Needless to say, we all have our interpretations, thoughts and ideas, but those just make us unique individuals. They were not intended to cause separations and divisions among us. We should be able to be ourselves and yet love and accept those who see things differently.

If we could get past the religious part of our beliefs and live in the freedom God provided, things would go much better. Rather than defend our denominational interpretations and our personal ideas, if we would love and accept others with the love of Christ, people would be more open to hear about our God.

Often, rather than love and accept one another, we are normally busy pointing out the mistakes of others and condemning those who we consider sinners. When we do so, the love Jesus told us to show everyone seems to get missed. I personally do not think it is our job to convict people of their sins. The Holy Spirit will convict those who need it, and will draw them to God. We are just told to love God and love others.

When we focus on the gospels and the life of Jesus and realize that he did not condemn people for their sins, we can see a distinct difference from the way we act today. He only had an issue with the religious leaders who thought they were better than everyone because of their works.

When it comes to saying I am a Christian, I am hesitant anymore because of the meaning it often has to many people. If being a Christian means being part of a religious organization, trying to live by following the law and being discriminatory, exclusive and condemning others, I am done with that. In that sense, Christianity is not the answer, nor is any other man-made religion. If being a Christian means a follower of Christ, someone who wants to be like Christ and show the love of God to everyone, then I am all in.

Jesus is not into religion. Jesus came to show the love of God to every human being no matter who they are or what they believe. Jesus crosses the barriers of religion and loves everyone. In the world today, we are the Jesus that people see. We should be ready to show the love and acceptance that God showed us to everyone we meet.

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 sad that Christianity is divided into so many different groups. We all have a little different interpretation of the bible and a little different understanding of 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 these things.

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 Christ, listening for his voice and the guidance of the Spirit, loving God and loving others as God intended. If we did, I think it would be much easier to look past our differences.

The problem seems to be that we are unwilling to see any other viewpoint other than our own. There are those such as my wife and I that do not attend an organized church. There are those who attend a church every time the doors are open. Some attend a house church, some meet with fellow believers at cafe’s, parks, 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 expecting them to see things our way.

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 our differences.

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 interpretations I had five years ago are completely different from some of the interpretations I have now. I am sure in another five years they will change again as God leads me into more truth.

Sometimes we are afraid to accept viewpoints of others because we feel if we do not hold to our way of thinking, we are compromising and not standing up for what we believe. We do not have to give up how we interpret the bible, but neither should we think everyone else is wrong. We can all learn from one another.

We should also remember that we are not responsible for convicting people of sin, or leading them into truth, or even saving them. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. We are told to love God and love others.

When we realize we are each 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 realize we are walking as one with God together.

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

Most of us have heard or read the bible verse found in Hebrews 10:25, which reads, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching. This verse gets quoted a lot when it comes to church attendance.

Once someone hears that my wife and I stopped attending an organized service each week, the first thing we usually hear is this verse quoted.

Truth of the matter is, I do not think this verse is even talking about what we call church.

As I have stated before, church is not a building or a place. Church is the people of God, those of us born into His kingdom by grace. Church is not an organization; it is an organism. Church is not a one-day event, it is a daily lifestyle of people loving God and loving others.

When reading the verses preceding Hebrews 10:25, you find it is talking about grace and how we are now granted permission to enter into the Holy place, not a building, but the very presence of God. This happened when Jesus died and the veil was torn from top to bottom.

To me, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together is saying that we need our brothers and sisters in Christ for encouragement and to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. It has nothing to do with an organized religious service in a building. It has everything to do with loving, communicating and encouraging other Christians as a daily norm.

Photo courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez
on unspash.com

When you think of countries where Christianity is against the law and churches are closed down, do we think the Christian people are wrong for not attending an organized service every week? They get together in small groups in houses or where-ever they feel they can meet safely. It may not be more than two or three people.

Jesus said where two or three gather together in my name, there I am in their midst. We do not need buildings or large groups of people to fulfill this verse about assembling. We do need each other, no matter if it is meeting at home, meeting for dinner at a restaurant, or getting together in a park. The important thing is to love God and love one another and be available to our brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage and build them up.

Let me make clear, I am not against church or those who attend. My wife and I were part of the weekly service for years, but over the past few years, we have found that for us, it makes more sense to be outside the walls of religion and seek meaningful fellowship each day with our brothers and sisters in Christ rather than to continue sitting in a pew listening to a select few participate. We believe in the priesthood of all believers, and that it is a daily lifestyle, not a weekly event. Every one of us are equally important parts of the body and we are to be ready each day to support, encourage and love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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

I am writing about this topic out of frustration. Talking about God is as natural to me as talking about a great book or movie. The latter is such an easy conversation most enjoy engaging in. When the topic of God comes up, the conversation hardly flows or seems natural to many. I recently wrote here what God thinks about trying to convert others.

Myth that people are just rebellious

Let’s debunk the theory that those who avoid spiritual discussions is because they are self-centered. The Bible is used to suggest all people who don’t believe in God are simply suppressing what they know to be true (Rm. 1:18-32). Actually, this passage refers to those who didn’t deny Israel’s God existed but turned to other gods to justify harmful behaviors. This isn’t most of my friends. It is wrong to assume those who aren’t pursing God do so for evil reasons. Just call anyone’s behaviors that violate the rights of others for what they are – immoral and destructive.

What may be the main reason people avoid discussions about God? 

I am convinced one main reason many avoid spiritual discussions is because they can smell a hidden agenda a mile away. It’s wrong to engage in friendships with others for the purpose of converting them to believe as you do, without advising upfront your agenda. It is another matter if one chooses to attend a church meeting, for they are inviting such a discussion. Many God-followers engage in aggressive tactics, because we have been taught certain beliefs are required to go to heaven and avoid hell. A literal Hell is a myth according to the Bible so such motives aren’t God’s wishes. See here.

But I have something amazing to share! 

I can’t prove God exist or doesn’t exist, but personally I am convinced one has nothing to lose having faith that God does exist. God through their influence has made me a better man, husband, father, and friend or at least better than if on my own. But I respect those who aren’t convinced or have doubts a Creator really exists. That doesn’t make me more moral. Conversations should be natural and mutual. We don’t have to convert people. We don’t have to feel guilty because we aren’t convincing others about God and their love for them.  God can take care of themself!

We talk about God when we are ready

My grown kids aren’t running to catch honey from my lips. We are close. I am a counselor by profession so geez – I have a few relational skills. Heck, I announced when teenagers my role was changing to being more of a mentor than authority figure. What teenager doesn’t dig that? Then again, I am not knocking down doors for advice from others. We may all need to travel the journey toward wisdom or God at our own pace without any pressure.  The road traveled of learning and reflecting may best lead to lasting convictions. People inspire others because of who they are. God believers – Relax!

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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What Do They Really Mean?

by Jim Gordon

So often in Christianity we use words to describe spiritual things, yet what we say and what we mean are sometimes two different things.

Take for instance the word church. Most of us think of a building where Christians meet every Sunday for an organized, pre-planned service of music, prayer and a sermon by a pastor. In reality, true Church is better described by the word ekklesia. It is people who are following Christ and allowing Him to live and love through them. Church is not a place or a building, nor is it the house of God. It is not done on a specific day or at a set time. Church is the body of Christ, each of us equally functioning as parts of the body under Christ. We live each day by the power of the Spirit living within us, loving and accepting others.

How about the word Christian itself? We usually think of people who love God, go to a building each week and follow specific doctrines. Actually, Christian is a man-made word that originally was used to describe those who followed the teaching of Jesus and were doing the works of Jesus. Today, Christians are considered people who believe in God, go to church, follow specific rules, pray, read the bible and try to get more people to come to their church. Unfortunately, many times Christians seem to be known more by what they are against rather than sharing the love of Jesus. * 

Christianity today is more widely known as a religion, an organization led by a man or woman. Even more so, currently it is becoming known as a political action organization. Most people outside of Christianity see this as just another religious organization that really makes no difference in helping and sharing the love of God to those outside their particularly group.

When we talk about prayer, we generally think of a pastor or godly person saying spiritual sounding words to God. Many times, prayers are written out and followed word for word to make it sound more spiritual. Actually, prayer is just talking. Like you would talk to a friend or relative, prayer is talking to God. Not only talking, but being quiet and listening for God to speak to you. It is talking to God like we talk to anyone else.

What about the bible. Of course, our first thought is a book that God inspired men to write. If we look closer at John 1:1, we find that the bible is not a book at all. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God”. We see that the Bible or Word of God, is Jesus. He is the inerrant, all powerful, living Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us. The book we call the bible is God inspired and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. It tells us about human beings who were trying to find God and figure out how to relate to God. It tells of how God dealt with his creation and shows how much he loves us. The bible is a book about God and man’s quest to find God, and we can learn a lot about God and ourselves by reading it. What we do not want to do is make the bible equal to God. The bible is not part of the trinity, it is a book. Again, God inspired, but humans still had their views and opinions in writing it.

The word worship is generally thought of as a time during the religious service when people are led into song and outward praise to God. This is usually done by a leader or group who are chosen or paid to lead in this way. The style of worship also varies greatly from group to group. Many people think worship are songs, or lifting of hands or dancing. Worship is actually a deep sense of reverence and adoring praise of our Father. It is personal and does not need a professional leader to bring us to this point. It is a sincere and earnest thankfulness we have for God and can be done whether with others or privately.

I am sure there are many other words we could come up with that would fit here, but the main point is it is not so much the word we use, but the true meaning behind it. Jesus is the all in all. It does not boil down to our doctrines, beliefs and man-made efforts. It is following Christ, allowing Him to live through us and giving Him the throne of our lives. Jesus is the head of the body, the rest of us are equal parts with equal functions in his body.

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

Partnering With God  is a book full of essays that explores possibilities that God desires an open friendship with us all, the same kind of relationship that adult children dream of having with their parents. I will share my essay in time. See two of the essays below that can lead to the kind of relationship with God you have always dreamed of but maybe never heard about:

“God desires a special form of partnership with us; namely, a friendship.” – Wm. Curtis Holtzen, “Friends with Benefits” 

“A tragic teen suicide became a source of radical repentance and new life for a church in Manchester, England.” – Nicholas Bundock, “A Long Obedience in the Wrong Direction”

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

After being in the organized church for well over 50 years, and seeing all the different denominations, beliefs, interpretations and opinions, there is one thing that makes me sad. That is to see so many followers of Christ fight and argue over the different paths we take in our Christian walk.

I am not saying all-roads lead to God, but while trusting in God and following Christ we are going to take many different paths during our life here on earth. They are going to be different from other followers of Christ, but we are following the same Christ.

Those of us outside the institutional church should not divide and separate ourselves into the ‘in church’ and ‘out of church’ groups. In the same manner, those who are part of the modern-day church should not look down on and separate from those outside the institution. We need to accept that we both love God and are following Christ along the path he has for us.

I think this is what working out our salvation means. Not that we have to work to earn our salvation, but we continually learn as we follow Christ in our salvation. We, as Christ followers, will take different paths in our walk with God. We should not expect everyone to walk the same path. By using the term Christ follower, I mean that Christ is living within us, and we walk with him and let him live through us. We are following him and the example he set that we read about in the gospels.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to love one another, encourage and build up one another. We are not to be continually expecting everyone to act like us and walk in the same way we do. We are to be accepting, loving and kind to all we have contact with each day, and especially to those who are fellow believers.

It seems we are more concerned about every Christian believing and acting the exact same way and when they act differently, we want to fight, argue and separate ourselves rather than accept that God works in each of us in different ways. He made each of us differently, and he leads us along different paths as we walk toward a common destination.

Rather than expect everyone to be just like us, we are to love one another the way Christ loved people while he walked the earth. Different interpretations and ways of walking with God should not be a stumbling block to a loving fellowship with one another.

Besides, we are not going to lead anyone to Christ when all they see is arguing and disagreements among brothers. We are not going to draw people insisting they conform to our way of thinking and following our rules and interpretations. The only way people will know we have something worth checking out is when they see brothers and sisters in Christ caring for one another and building one another other up in love.

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 followers of Christ, I feel we should be able to accept and love everyone. No matter what we believe, what our faith or doctrine is, no matter our religion, nationality, sexual preference or color, we should try to see each other as Jesus sees us. This is a type of love we cannot do on our own. It is only possible by the love of God within us.

We want to love, accept and care for people. It is only natural that we will not always agree, but we want to look past those areas of difference and love each other in Christ. This seems to be the way that others will come to see the love of God; not through condemning and bashing one another nor in trying to prove we are right and everyone else is wrong. Love does not mean seeing eye-to-eye, it does not mean we agree or even like some of the things people do. It does mean we look past the differences and we love and respect each other as Christ loves us.

We all have different opinions, views and interpretations of things. We all come from different backgrounds and beliefs. Yet, no matter if we are LGBTQ/straight, Christian/atheist, Republican/Democrat, American/foreign, white/black, male/female or whatever label people put on us, the fact is we are all human beings. We all deserve to be treated with respect and be accepted. Each of us should be able to live our life and make our own choices without being judged and condemned by others. We should be able to discuss our differences respectfully, and none of us should try to force our views and choices on others.

If we could look past the labels we wear and see each other as people who overall want the same things. We all want to be happy, to find love, be healthy and enjoy life. If we could do that, I think showing godly love to one another would be easier, even in our differences.

We need to look past the labels and see each other as human beings who have feelings, and who want share love and friendship. We want to be people who can get to know one another, learn from one another, share thoughts and ideas and accept each other as being created in the image of God.

We are all different, we all wear different labels, yet we are all the same. We are all human beings created in the image of God. Let us each try to focus on the common goal of loving God and loving one another.

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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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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