Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘institutional church’ Category

by Jim Gordon

Often times in the past I have talked about modern day church and the way it is way off base from what it was meant to be.

It is not that I am against church, but it is a matter of being clear on the proper meaning of the word. Not that we have to be politically correct in description, but I feel we need to be clear on the matter in regard to our way of thinking.

Normally when the word church is mentioned, we think of a building we go to on Saturday or Sunday to learn about God. We also think in terms of how much we go to church as being a guide to how spiritual we are, or how close we are to God. We think of the doctrines, rules and regulations placed on us by the church as ways to make us better Christians.

We need to reset our thinking. The Church is not a building. The Church is the bride of Christ, all of us who are saved by grace. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The building is just a place where we can meet and conduct spiritual meetings and social events. Doctrine, rules and regulations are the old way of living, it was part of the law which Jesus fulfilled and brought to an end. We now live by love because of his grace.

Our thinking in regard to the word of God is also flawed. When we think of the Bible we think of a book and call it the word of God. The Bible never calls itself the actual word of God. The true living Word of God is Jesus. In the gospel of John it is stated that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God; and the word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus is the Word of God. There is certainly nothing wrong with reading the Bible because it teaches us about God and leads us to Jesus, the Living, Inerrant Word of God. Our focus is to be on the fact that the Word of God is alive and living within each of us and is not just words printed on a page.

Although sometimes it may seem unimportant how we think of church and the Bible, it is very important that we understand what is really meant. The old mindset of a building and a book need to be replaced with the fact that the Church are those of us who are redeemed through the blood of Christ and the Word of God is Christ Himself, alive and living within us by his Spirit.

Read Full Post »

by Jordan Hathcock

I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am. – John Newton

Here we are folks! We made it through the insane, sorrowful, confusing, defeating—and whatever other negative shit you can think of—year of 2020! Look, it has been a historic year and it’ll go down in history, no doubt. A lot of loss from all social aspects. Some experts are saying we might not see the end of the tunnel until 2024 (please god, I hope not). Alas, if you are alive and kicking, it’s something positive to take into the new year of 2021. Let’s breathe for f-sakes! I like to share with you my own “spiritual roll call” for this upcoming year. I think it’s healthy to step into a state of mindfulness when it comes to our wellbeing. So, let’s bring the awareness, baby!

Here is my “list” of where I am at with my spiritual (everything is spiritual, right Rob Bell?) life. Just going to lay out some “big” concepts with my inerrant (haha j/k) two cents. I hope it’s of substance and a possible help to whomever is reading this “blog”. Contemplation can definitely bring us into a more calming presence which hopefully brings about a more peaceful way of life (fingers cross for 2021). Enjoy my Spiritual Roll Call!

God

*Who* (or what?) is God really? Father? Mother? Being? Universe? Alien? Trump (seems to be for some but I regress hehe)? The who and the what don’t really tickle my fancy as much as the how? I definitely have come to a place where I see the Divine as more of an experience than a exact substance. How is God moving and breaking through my life seems more relative than the ontological details. At the same time, I love swimming in the Jesus tradition. The story of Jesus still captures my imagination. Yes, that stems from a lot of culture and family upbringing–we are all products of our environment. Yet, there is something still so new and relevant with the Jesus story that resonates with me more now than ever. The Spirit of Abba seems to be forever guiding me—with her wings of love, grace, mercy, peace and justice…oh my! 2021 needs some of that…

Church

Being raised in a pretty dogmatic tradition, it‘s pretty amusing to see myself back participating in a brick and mortar church. I don’t think it’ll never not find this to be hilarious (in a good way). As a person who is pretty anti-authority, it’s ironic to see myself being part of a Christian church. I am even part of the members board?! Elder Hathcock anyone?? Being raised L.D.S., the title of elder is pretty cringing (no offense). But that’s the paradox of it all! I get that some people are just not going to step foot in a church ever again (for good reasons). Those who find themselves in the physical church have their reasons too (don’t ask me what those are hehe). It’s easy to point fingers and bring our judgments to the nones, dones and the active. All I trust in is that community matters. We are all connected and I think it’s super healthy to help each other out. And I guess I like how the Jesus commonwealth feels best (shoot me).

Scripture

Can we really trust in ancient stories? Can we experience them in a way to better enrich our lives and those around us? Well, I don’t know for sure—but it seems like in the Christian tradition—we see more harm being done with the Bible than good. But this can be done with anything really, right? I mean look at the smart phones we use everyday? Technology is an amazing gift (especially through this pandemic). But we see the other side as well. Social media is just one click a way to a world of division and hostility. But it also can be used for just the opposite. Kind of what the Bible does, right? We can either take this book and use it to seek and destroy each other or we can let it help us point to divine healing and liberation. I will take the later. Quote me on this: I will never use scripture to judge or condemn anyone…woooweee!

***

There you have it. Some of my perspectives that will hopefully bring about some healthy change in my little bubble and beyond. It’s good to name and claim it once in awhile when you are looking to be transparent, I think? Maybe your spiritual roll call will lead you into a presence which will produce new heights for this 2021 year. Let’s do this!

Read Full Post »

by Jim Gordon

For those of us who had anything to do with church, we always knew exactly what it meant when we heard someone say it is the Lords’ day. We knew that was the day we considered the sabbath and the day we went to church.

We would think of Sunday as a special holy day, a new beginning for the week. It was the day we worshipped and fellowshipped with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It was a day to relax, do nothing and prepare for the week ahead.

Referring to the Lord’s day as Sunday, or whichever day you believe is the sabbath, is an old covenant way of thinking. The old covenant is now complete. Jesus fulfilled the old covenant, brought it to an end and began a new and better covenant. It is a covenant of grace and love without the rules and religious laws.

Actually, Sunday is the Lord’s day, as is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Each day is the day that the Lord has made and we can rejoice and be glad in each day.

As we approach the beginning of a new year, we can see that the Lord’s day(s) are similar to New Year’s Day in one sense. We always look to the new year as a time for new beginnings. A time to make changes to better ourselves in one way or another.

When we realize that the Lord’s day is every day, we can also see that each and every day of the year is a new beginning.

As we are ready to celebrate a new year, let us remember that we do not have to wait a whole year to start fresh. Every morning of each day can be a new beginning. Let us seek the guidance of the Spirit who lives within us, show the love of God to everyone and enjoy each day the Lord has made.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

by Jim Gordon

There is an old hymn that says “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand”. This leads me to think about the organized church. As important as the church is in our lives, we have to be careful not to put our hope in it. I have received a lot of help through the church and a lot of good basic teachings. I also learned of salvation but my hope is not in the church. My hope is in “Christ the solid rock”.

There are times when we are alone in our walk with God and without regular fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Many of us have left the organization and are deconstructing our faith and may have to stand alone for a while. Fortunately, we can rely on our relationship with Christ because his Spirit lives within us. The church is no substitute for Christ. It is where we can learn about Him but it is not the goal. The point is that we have a relationship with Christ and not the church, and He is our source of strength.

The modern-day organized church is a place for believers to get together, but it is not the main source. Going to church does not make us Christians, it does not make us better people or more dedicated believers. It is a place to get ideas, different interpretations and encouragement from others, a place to meet other believers and enjoy fellowship, and a place to reach out and help others.

We need to stop putting the focus and emphasis on church, stop putting our eyes on pastors and realize that they are not the answer. We need to put all focus and attention on Christ. It is Jesus who we follow and worship. He is the Shepherd and the rest of us are his sheep. There are no co-shepherds and no intermediates between Christ and us. We are to follow Christ and Him alone. We are to learn from Him and love others equally.

There is nothing wrong with going to church, but do not put your eyes on it and the leaders therein. Keep your focus on Christ. Whether you go to church or do not go to church, Christ is the one we look to and serve. Do not worry so much about going to church, but rather be the Church. It is not a building we go to, but it is the people who love and follow Christ.

If you have been going through the deconstruction process from organized religion like I have, you will learn that you can depend on Jesus to lead you into his truth. He will prove His love and care for you over and over just as he has done for me. Bottom line, let’s be careful that we do not put our dependence on an organization but on Jesus. All other ground is sinking sand.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

There are thousands of reasons people believe or not believe in God. One may believe just because their parents do. One may not believe because of God’s lack of intervention in such an evil world. Research is available online why Christians become atheists (deconvert) or why Christians leave the institutional church but not God (disaffiliate). What can Christians control to not deter those who may want more of a relationship with God but don’t pursue because of unnecessary obstacles?

Lies About God!

I am convinced many may not pursue a relationship with a Creator because they believe lies others claim about God. I know “lies” is a strong word, but no one can claim with certainty their view of an invisible, inaudibly God is TRUTH! Most would agree a God who isn’t perfect isn’t worth believing in. We can only compare God’s love to perfect human love. My moral intuitions tell me a loving God couldn’t condemn gays for choices they can no more control than straights; God couldn’t discriminate again women by denying them equal roles with men which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face; God couldn’t create a place such as Hell to torture unbelievers forever. See here.

Christians with a hidden agenda or mission is a turn-off.   

It is wrong to engage in friendships for the purpose of converting them to your beliefs without advising upfront this is your agenda. We must stop being so damn certain and do more listening. We can’t prove God exist. If God truly exists, wouldn’t God be capable of convincing individuals on Their own. Engage in relationships both to love and be loved. Discussions about God best come up naturally. The sinner’s prayer to avoid Hell isn’t in the Bible. Jesus seemed on a difference mission according to the Bible.  See here.

 Christians have a problem – it’s how the Bible is viewed.  

It is believed or implied biblical writers somehow magically got their words and thoughts directly from God. Such an unprovable process implies God approved everything written about God in the Bible. Many don’t accept the God of the Bible for good reason:

  • God supposedly would send wild animals to kill the children of the disobedient (Lev. 26:22)
  • God supposedly orders the murder of women, children, infants, and animals in war (I Sam. 15:3)
  • God supposedly ordered killing boys and non-virgin women but sparing virgins for the warriors (Num. 31:18)
  • God supposedly approved rebellious children put to death (Lev. .20:9)
  • God supposedly approves a wife’s hand being cut off when grabbing another man’s genitals (Deut. 25:12)

The Bible can be viewed as recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. God didn’t necessarily have in mind that recordings wouldn’t be questioned or that writers had perfect views of God. We have every right to question interpretations suggesting a Creator doesn’t love how we were created to love others. We must use our moral, loving sense. You can see my railings about the Bible HERE.

Evil and God just don’t mix sometimes.   

God’s inactiveness with so much evil in the world is one reason many are atheists. Why doesn’t a supposedly all-powerful God intervene more? How is God allowing evil any different than a parent who stands by and watches this child being sexually abused? Let’s stop rationalizing by saying God’s evil is sometimes good. Maybe God can’t control or violate freedom and love perfectly. Divine love limits divine power. Maybe God can only stop evil with the help of others freely helping. See God Can’t by Thomas Oord.

Similarly, promises Christians make about prayer turns many away. The truth is miracles are rare.  Maybe God is already doing all they can in a free world, by working through individual lives to change the world. Maybe prayer is more about a relationship with God as we attempt to change the world together. It seems God creating freedom necessitates one being able to do as much harm as they can do good. Authenticity, the highest good in relationships, is impossible without freedom. God, like parents, had a choice – to not create or create knowing suffering was a possibility in the pursuit of intimacy.

I’m not so sure hypocrisy is a big stumbling block. 

It doesn’t help that Christians don’t get along, as evidenced by the tens of thousands of denominations, all claiming their beliefs are the right ones. The truth is that we all are hypocrites. What human being lives up to the standards they know in their heart are honorable? But it is reasonable to expect those who talk about God to act godly. As mentioned possible hypocritical beliefs, supposedly according to the Bible, present a challenge. Christians must avoid claiming certainty, especially when such views seem to go against our moral intuitions.

Other challenges to not get in God’s way with individuals exist in the research. The church seems so focused on certain beliefs, such as sexual purity, rather than focusing on helping those less fortunate. Why can’t we focus less on sexual behaviors and more on the homeless? Abuse by leadership representing God surely turns others away from God. Sexual abuse is too often sweep under the rug. Most Christians believe God’s spirit works in the lives of people. If Christians want others inclined to consider their God, control what you can to not interfere with God’s work.

Read Full Post »

Nine Church traditions that need to die
by Dan Foster , Guest Blogger
(Regularly writes at medium.com)

Growing up as Pastor’s kid in the eighties gave me a front row pew to the kind of vitriol and anger that can emerge from an otherwise lovely and mild-mannered Christian when you say or do something to offend them.

I remember the first time my Father preached a sermon on the topic of sex — something quite ground-breaking at the time. After the service, he stood at the door and greeted everyone as he always did. I remember one little old lady getting right up in my Dad’s face and, waving one pointed finger perilously close to his nose, screeching at him, “If you ever mention ‘that word’ in church again, I’m never coming back.” She couldn’t even bring herself to say the word “sex,” because I suppose she was far too upright and pious for the likes of anything slightly pleasurable or necessary for the survival of the human race.

Photo by Daniel Tseng on Unsplash

My father was a great pastor, but he was ahead of his time. He like to challenge the status quo, make people shift uncomfortably in their pews and, occasionally, he like to slaughter a sacred cow.

The term, “sacred cow,” has its origins in Hinduism, but it is commonly used in Christian circles to describe those elements of church life that have been elevated to such a high level of importance that they cannot be touched, criticized, changed or removed. Above all, sacred cows are not essential to the fundamentals of Christianity, but people treat them as if they are. In fact — truth be told — if you got rid of them, the church would function just as effectively — probably even more so.

Over three decades in the Evangelical church I have done a fair bit of cow spotting. Here are a few common sacred cows that need to be put out to pasture — maybe even slaughtered completely:

The Offering

One of the most awkward parts of many a church service is the moment that an open offering plate is thrust under your nose by an eager and expectant church usher (usually an older man), with the expectation that you will put a wad of hundred dollar bills in it. Okay… so maybe not that much, but the pressure to give is real.

This uncomfortable tradition of ‘sending around the plate’ is usually prefaced by an ‘offering talk’ (that is sometimes almost as long as the sermon itself), where parishioners are exhorted to let the moths out of their purses and fill the coffers of the church for the good of the Kingdom. In the worst of cases, some churches insinuate or even promise that your financial gifts will somehow unlock the blessing of God over your life — as if God could somehow be bought off in such a way. This amounts to nothing more than manipulation.

Should we give? Yes! Christ calls us to be generous and to give to those in need. However, we are also told to give discreetly and without fanfare. In fact, the Bible says, “Each one of us should give what we have decided in our heart to give. We should not give if it makes you unhappy or if we feel forced to give. God loves those who are happy to give.”

Image for post
Photo by By Suzanne Tucker on Shutterstock — purchased with license

The Communion Table

I know of a worship leader who made the mistake of resting his guitar up against the communion table at the end of his worship set. The backlash was swift and brutal. The pastor’s inbox was full of complaints about the irreverence of the worship leader. How dare he use the table of the Lord to rest a common musical instrument up against!

True to its form, the church publicly humiliated the worship leader by making him get up on stage an apologize to everyone for his gross sacrilege. He left the church soon after. Good for him!

I heard of another pastor who moved the communion table from the center of the stage to a position off to one side, simply to create a little more space. The pastor was accused of attacking the centrality of the Lord’s supper, leading people astray and presenting a ‘watered-down’ version of Christianity. The following week, the communion table was back in the middle of the stage. From then on, the pastor would move the table just a few inches each week and, over a period of several months, successfully moved it back to one side without anyone noticing.

In some churches, the communion table is a scared cow. In reality it’s just a piece of ordinary furniture. Covering it in a nice white table cloth doesn’t make it sacred. Even the fact that the elements of the Lord’s supper sit on top of it doesn’t make it sacred. In fact, to place such high importance on an inanimate object would be akin to making an idol out of it, wouldn’t it?

Image for post
Photo by Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash

Church Music

One of the sacred cows that my father was unable to kill, when he was a pastor, was the pipe organ. The church had an ancient pipe organ that was so seldom used that it was almost purely ornamental. I’m pretty sure that the last human being who actually knew how to play it had passed away a few centuries earlier. Even so, when the church outgrew its ancient building and attempted to shift the congregation into a bigger and more modern facility, they were unable to part ways with the pipe organ. Consequently, at great expense, the entire organ was painstakingly removed from the old sanctuary and transplanted into the new. There it sits as an ancient monument to a bygone era, gathering dust. It sticks out like a sore thumb.

This highlighted to me how we can get attached to certain instruments, styles of worship — even certain songs — to the point of elevating them to god-like status. Music is one of the most-complained-about aspects of church. Every week someone would say the music was too loud, too soft, too fast or too slow. They would complain that the number of old hymns was disproportionate to the amount of modern worship songs. They would say that certain songs lacked lyrical content, theological accuracy or a catchy riff. When it comes to the sacred cow of music, Christians can fire up very quickly.

However, we weren’t even commanded to gather around an organ and sing, were we? Singing is really just one way to worship. It’s not the be-all-and-end-all. These days, my favorite way to worship is actually to sit in silent contemplation. Try that sometime!

Image for post
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Male-dominated church leadership

Once upon a time, the idea that power and leadership was ascribed to men by virtue of their gender alone was widely accepted. In some cultures it still is. However, as the modern, Western world continues its relentless and necessary march towards equality, patriarchal structures and systems are quite rightly viewed as unacceptable and outdated. Still, those who stand to lose the most by the deconstruction of patriarchal systems — namely conservative men — won’t go down without a fight. Nowhere is this more evident than in the church, when some men will fight tooth and nail to protect their turf.

A woman can be the leader of my country, but she can’t be a leader in many local churches. That’s because many Christian churches ascribe to a form of “benevolent patriarchy” commonly known as Complementarianism. This belief gives men the role of authority over the wife and children, and only allows men to be church leaders. Women are expected to submit unilaterally to men, fathers, husbands, pastors.

I remember the very last time I attended a board meeting at my conservative, evangelical church. The group — all men of course — had gathered, and a decision needed to be made that required some legal advice.

“What a pity we don’t have any lawyers who come to our church that we can refer to for this matter,” Said one of the board members.

“My wife is a lawyer,” I spoke up.

“True,” replied the board member, “What a shame she is the wrong gender.”

And the rest of the men chuckled knowingly.

We ought to be disturbed when it is suggested that those absent of male genitals must unilaterally submit and defer to those with.

Image for post
Photo by Lisa F. Young on Shutterstock — purchased with license

Church and politics

Many Christians are uncomfortable with the marriage that seems to exist between the church and the conservative side of politics. It is a well established fact that white, evangelical protestant Christians overwhelmingly support Donald Trump and his presidency to the point where “Evangelical Christian” has become a kind of synonym for “Trump Supporter.”

The idea that Jesus is somehow on the side of the Republican Party is laughable. If Jesus is on anyone’s side, it’s the side of the orphan, the widow, the refugee, the poor, the lost, the hurting and the weak.

In my home country, Australia, I believe that the more progressive political parties often have ideas more aligned with the compassion and grace that Christianity is supposed to espouse, particularly in matters pertaining to welfare, foreign aid, equality, asylum seekers and the environment. Yet, it is kind of an unwritten rule that Christians should vote for the conservatives.

Yes, I have had friends walk away from the church because they can’t reconcile why the church supports political parties that turn away the refugee and oppress the minority.

Image for post
Photo by ehrlif on iStockphoto — purchased with license

The Building

Let’s be clear. The Bible never mentions a building called ‘Church.’ Never. In fact, the Bible never speaks of church in those terms. The buildings came later when the state got a hold of the church, under Roman Emperor Constantine in 312 AD.

On the other hand, Jesus said where two or three are gathered He is present. Two or three — not 40 or 150 or 6,000. Not in an auditorium with a speaker, a band and dozens of rows of chairs. When Jesus spoke about the church, he was talking about people. People are the building blocks of church, not bricks and mortar. That is why church began in the humble homes of believers and that is why church can still continue in the humble homes of believers even as we are forced apart on occasions such as global pandemics.

Jesus never instructed believers to buy land, build buildings, establish a weekly worship service, create a liturgy or institute a sacrament. He simply commanded believers not to forget Him; to live together, and to eat, and to remember. A building is not needed. It might be helpful, sure. But real Christianity is a fully portable experience.

Image for post
Photo by Skull Kat on Unsplash

Children’s Sunday School

At various times in the Gospels, Jesus’s disciples are seen to try to keep children away from Jesus, because Jesus was — in their opinion — far too busy and important for kids. Yet, in Matthew 18:10, Jesus commands us not to look down on children, but to welcome them.

Therefore, it strikes me as odd that many churches segregate children to some far-removed corner of the church property so that the adults can worship God in peace and quiet. Here, during an hour of glorified babysitting, we teach children to be good little boys and girls. We teach them to be nice, obedient and compliant.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for children’s Sunday School lessons, but I think the whole system needs an overhaul. Better yet, here’s an idea. How about we design worship services that are inter-generationally friendly so that we can all participate together? We ought to stop patronizing children, and start to treat them as people who have a things that they can teach us, and meaningful contributions they can make.

No wonder my kids found church so boring, because — let’s be honest — young people are drawn to risk, challenge and adventure, but these things are often discouraged in the local church. Instead, many congregations offer a safe, nurturing community — an oasis of stability and predictability. Studies show that women and seniors gravitate toward these things. So not surprisingly such congregations are over-represented with women and seniors.

Richard Rohr, in his book, “From Wild Man to Wise Man,” says it like this:

“Real spirituality should emphasize movement over stillness, action over theory, service to the world over religious discussions, speaking the truth over social niceties, and doing justice instead of self-serving. Without this, spirituality becomes characterized by too much inwardness, a morass of unclarified feelings, and religion itself as a security blanket. This prevents a journey to anyplace new, and fosters a constant protecting of the old. It is a no-risk religion, just the opposite of Abraham, Moses, Paul and Jesus…”

As long as we present the Christian faith, inaccurately, as something less than the great, challenging, risky, dangerous, treacherous adventure that it was meant to be, we sell out. And children will find their adventure elsewhere.

Image for post
Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Pews

In the small village of Okeford Ftizpaine in South West England, locals are up in arms after their parish church made the decision to sell off their 150-year-old, antique Victorian-era wooden pews.

As comfortable as old wooden pews are, I would not personally object being able to sit on something more modern and easy-on-the-backside, especially during the weekly sermon by the local vicar.

Not the people of Okeford Fitzpaine, though. They would rather keep their old pews. However, it turns out the removal of these ancient bench seats is rather a matter of necessity as the sanctuary requires more flexible furnishings to allow space for people who are… how do you say it nicely? More rotund than the average human.

A recent report by the church committee concluded: “We have had occasions at weddings where the couple have been too large to be able to walk side by side down the aisle. With different chairs we would be able to widen the aisle.” They also added that the the pews were not suited to the “human form of today” — presumably that means the larger human form.

Even so, it beats me how a church community could somehow think that uncomfortable, 150-year-old wooden pews were so essential to church life that they are worth fighting for — as if single chairs might somehow the instruments of Satan.

Burn the pews, I say!

And while we are at it, let’s get rid of rows all together. I say that because rows divide and differentiate. Rows promote the consumerist mindset. Rows promote the brainless acceptance of information without critique. Rows perpetuate the hierarchical model that places an expert up the front to mediate between us and God. How about we meet in circles instead — around tables even? Tables invite connection. Tables invite conversation. Tables invite friendship.

Image for post
Photo by Kyler Nixon on Unsplash

Marriage

In 2017, the satirical Christian website Babylon Bee published an article entitled, “Woman In Singles’ Ministry Gets Married, Promoted To Real Christian.” The article gently pokes fun at the idea that getting married is basically a ‘level up’ in Christian circles.

The reality is that the popular view of our day is that singleness is a bad position and marriage will cure it — that being single is not sufficient, not adequate. It’s something you need to change because it’s wrong. And, if this is the popular view in our society, you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s the popular view in the church. At first, we make fun of single people (mainly while they are young), but only for a while. As they get older, we begin to wonder what’s wrong with them. Are their standards too high? Eventually, we end up pitying them, as if they were destined for a miserable life.

Somehow, we arrived at the idea — the myth — that singleness is bad. It’s the reason my Mum started suggesting suitable partners for me as soon as I turned 18. It’s the reason why I signed up to a dating website when I was in my early 20s. It’s the reason why people in the church ask, “So, when are you gonna find yourself a nice girl?” It’s the reason why half of you are trying to match-make for your single friends. Christian are often guilty of treating singleness like it’s a problem that needs to be solved — despite the fact that Jesus and the Apostle Paul were single men.

In fact, the Apostle Paul comes along in 1 Corinthians 7 and lifts up singleness as a legitimate way to live, in a way that would have shocked the world in which they lived at the time. Suddenly Paul is calling singleness a gift. A gift! Imagine that! In so doing, Christianity was the first religion that held up singleness as good. So, the church ought to quit making it out like married Christians are on a higher level, somehow.

Image for post
Photo by Richard Jaimes on Unsplash

It’s time to kill the sacred cows

Call me a heretic if you like, but I don’t think that Jesus is impressed by our attempts to clutch at power, to elevate some and to put others ‘in their place,’ to resist change, preserve the status quo and uphold ancient practices and models that are superfluous to the fundamentals of Christianity.

And I really don’t think that Jesus cares too much about the form of our worship — our buildings, our furniture, our music, and our religious traditions.

So, why do we elevate these things to such a high position that we would be willing to fight over it? I’ve seen churches split, people hurt and relationships destroyed over these trivial matters.

They are sacred cows! Now let’s slaughter them!

Read Full Post »

by Jim Gordon

If you have grown up in the organized church system and later change your views, what do you do with all your all friends who are still in the system?

Sometimes the first thought is to separate from them. They no longer understand you so why be a part of them?

To this I say that the bible says to forsake not the assembling of yourselves together. I do not believe that means we need to stay a part of an organized church and attend their meetings. I feel it means we still need our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not done through a Christian organization on a certain day of the week. How much fellowship can we really have sitting in an organized service listening to one person do all the talking?

We need a daily interaction with believers for encouragement, strength, prayer support, helping others and sharing the love of God to lift one another up. We need communion with other believers, and not necessarily always about spiritual things. Just good old fellowship and communication on a number of topics: spiritual, our various concerns and needs, funny things and basic conversation.

I honestly feel we should not separate ourselves from those who think differently from us, but sometimes it cannot be helped because they will cut us off. They tend to think we have lost our faith or have fallen under the lies of the devil.

When my wife and I left the organized church, we did not leave God. We still believe in Jesus, in loving God and loving others. We love our brothers and sisters who are still in the organization and believe we still need each other.

We do need to get past the us versus them mentality and accept one another whether we attend a religious organization or not.

If they feel we have lost our faith or walked away from God, it does not mean they are our enemy. We are still to love them and do our best to get along and support them. If they choose to stay away from us, there is nothing we can do about that, but we cannot write them off and forget them. We still love them, pray for them, and go on with our lives sharing the love of God with them any everyone we meet.

Read Full Post »

By Mike Edwards

I grew up attending church often more than once a week. I referred to myself as a Christian because that was the common label used in the institutional church. I can remember not liking the label early on because people often associated it with being religious, and there is a lot of bad religion out there. I have grown uncomfortable with the label for myself for a long time now.

Christianity has become associated with beliefs about God I reject.

I don’t believe for a second Hell is real and God tortures forever those who don’t believe. This makes God terrorist-like – only God waits until life after death and keeps you alive forever to torture. I don’t believe women are second-class citizens. You can dress it up all you want in “loving leadership,” but I don’t want a man being my daughters’ go-between with God. I don’t believe God condemns gays for attractions they have no control over any more than straights do their attractions. There are many beliefs about God associated with Christianity that I reject. See here.

I don’t refer to myself as a Jesus follower.

I think many associate Jesus with the Bible which has been used to makes some claims I don’t accept what a loving God would be like. It’s okay to doubt claims made about Jesus. Jesus’ followers witnessed miracles by Jesus and still initially doubted He was coming back from the dead. It may be a little easier to believe once you are an eye-witness to a resurrection. Some can’t logically wrap their heads around how chromosomally Jesus can be both man and God. We can respectfully and openly discuss Jesus’ actions and claim made about God to discern if Jesus represented what a loving God is like.

Why I am a God-follower!

I don’t know all the reasons why some are inclined to believe there is Creator or God and why others aren’t. I know it isn’t because of moral superiority. I have my failures to prove that. Due to the complexities of the created world and humans, I just am convinced there is a God who created and loves each one of us like no other. A common Creator also explains best for me how humans seem to have an inborn feeling that we “ought” to treat others like we want to be treated. I have never met anyone who doesn’t want to be treated with love and kindness. I follow God because I am convinced God can turn bad people into good people and good people into better people.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Writer Dylan Morrison

Fascinated by the Nazarene but unimpressed by religion!

Follow Your Arrow

Unashamed of who God made us to be, and unapologetic in our pursuit of God and our purpose in His kingdom

The Grace Cafe Journal

Exploring Grace Apart From Religion

Blind Injustice

Injustices we may not be aware of

Sophia's Essays

This is where I post my essays, primarily about LGBTQ+ issues, politics, and Christian theology.

My Journey

Welcome. My blog is a place where readers will find writings of personal experiences, thoughts, and the peace that the Lord provides throughout my walk. I intend to bring inspiration and insight, as well as providing a very personal and transparent view into my life, in order to help others see their own lives in a different perspective. I strongly believe that we all need a different view at times, in order for our own personal growth to take place.

Hazy Divinity

Welcome To The Party

Candice Czubernat

A leading voice in the LGBTQ and Christian dialogue

Our Journeys Matter! - Posts

Done with Religion ... Not Done with God

Ally's Notebook

Thoughts To Share

Life of a Prodigal

Searching for Truth outside the church walls

What God May Really Be Like - Misbeliefs About God

To those done with religion but not God and my kids (Click FOLLOW for future Posts; See ABOUT/USING THIS SITE tab to navigate Site)

Christy Lynne Wood

Looking for the Real God

Confessions of a Recovering Churchboy

What I bought before, I just can't sell

Intermission

Reflections in the midst of life.

She Seeks Nonfiction

A Skeptic's Quest for Science, Wonder, & Books

The Wild Frontier

The search for infinite Truth and the invincible Love of an incredible God.

A Wilderness Voice

"The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, says the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, says the LORD of hosts." (Hag 2:9)

Entering the Promised Land

by walking in the Spirit

Beyond Church Walls

Done with Religion ... Not Done with God

Escape to Reality

Exploring the wide open spaces of God's amazing grace

%d bloggers like this: