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Archive for the ‘The church’ Category

by Jim Gordon

In the organized church system we are taught that the pastor is head of the church. He has all the answers and so much more knowledge than anyone else in the church. I mention the pastor as a ‘he’ because when I was young and growing up it was unheard of to have a woman pastor. It is sad that this is still the case in so many churches today. Women are still looked down upon and not given the full acceptance they should have.

I remember scheduling meetings with the pastor so I could ask him questions and find out all the answers to Christian living. It almost floored me one time when I asked the pastor a question and he actually said he did not know the answer.

Looking back, I can see that I certainly looked to the pastor rather than looking to the Spirit. I was putting my hope in a man who I thought could tell me everything about God, yet I was not seeking to know God himself.

Next in line were the board of elders. I thought each of them were so much more holy than I or anyone else in the church. If they were not they certainly would not be in that position of authority. Boy was I wrong. I have a friend who thinks prayers have more authority when she goes to the board of elders and has them pray.

Questioning Christian Leadership

The longer I was in the church the more I began to wonder about things. Of course, I did not dare ask the questions I had since people would start questioning my faith or think I was questioning the pastor.

When I read that Christ was the head of His church, I wondered why the pastor seemed to get credit for that position.

I read that we should call no one father (or pastor) other than God, and I again wondered why people in position of leadership and authority in the church wanted to be called pastor or apostle or elder.

We are told that the Holy Spirit is our guide and teacher and we do not need anyone other than him. Yet, we look to the pastor or an elder or some big name evangelist to find all the answers to our questions.

I began getting dissatisfied with having these questions and not letting them surface enough to come out and be asked. I began to realize I had more and more questions and less and less answers.

I finally started coming across books and websites of people who seemed to be in the same boat. They were wondering and questioning and being open with their questions. Some of them seemed to actually come up with some answers that made sense to me.

The more I thought, questioned and read the more I began to realize that our traditional church system is really not what God intended for the church. I also realized that questioning is not a lack of faith. God can handle our questioning, in fact, most of the time Jesus taught more with questions than answers. He wanted people to question and reason over things.

True Christian Leadership

The true Church that Jesus is building is not a brick and mortar place. The head of the Church that Jesus is building is not a pastor, pope, elder or apostle. In fact, the head is not a man or woman at all.

Leadership in the Church of Jesus is not what we have always thought of either. When we realize Christ is the head and leader of his Church, we begin to realize that man has no business demanding or expecting people to follow them and put them in the place of Christ.

True Christian leadership is not an office of authority. It is not a place for only a few who are specially trained at a man-made Bible school. True Christian leadership is for all of us who are members of the Church God is building. We are all kings and priests, we are all holy and righteous because of Christ. To be clear, when I say Church I am not talking about any denomination or physical building. The true Church is a community of people who are following Christ and He is our head. All the rest of us, men and women alike, are equally functioning body parts of his Church.

No person has a place of authority over another. That is the world’s way of doing things. That is the business way of doing things. Needless to say, there are a lot of churches and religious organizations that are acting like big business with their presidents and CEO’s, but that is not how it should be.

Christian Leadership as God intended is the Spirit working through the different body parts, leading by example. Leaders are those who encourage and teach from a place of love and experience, not a place of authority and power. Each of us are leaders at one time or another in the sense of leading by example, experience and love. We come in contact with those who need encouragement or a little guidance, not from someone who thinks they know it all but from someone who has been there. A person who, out of love, wants to see the best for everyone.

True Christian leaders will not demand your loyalty. They will not want your allegiance to them. They will not rule over you with authority and expect you to follow them no matter what. True leaders will want to lead you to the head and true leader of the Church, Jesus. It is time we stop looking to men and women as our main guides and leaders and look to Jesus. We need to listen for the leading, guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit who is actually God within us, rather than seeking the knowledge and wisdom of mere men.

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by Jim Gordon

As a person that has grown up in organized religion, I can honestly say that the church today has fallen way off course. What we call church today many times seems more like a large corporation. We seem to be more focused on our programs, building bigger buildings, having a bigger and better worship band, getting on radio or TV and being a step ahead of the church down the street.

Our churches today are so divided by denominations and doctrines that it makes me think of Heinz 57 Varieties. It seems like there is a church building every mile or two from each other, yet they cannot seem to come together in unity. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, yet we continually divide ourselves and fight and argue amongst ourselves. Those outside the church can only look on and laugh.

It amazes me how upset and defensive people can get when you mention that going to church is not a requirement. They seem to forget that the church is not a building and is not a place we go too. The Church is the body of believers no matter when and where they get together.

Usually the first verse that is quoted when we talk about not going to church is Hebrews 10:25 – not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Nowhere does this verse say that we have to assemble in a building on a certain day at a certain time. Nowhere does it say we have to have a pastor to teach us, or a worship band to lead us in praise and worship.

I feel so often that we christians want to be entertained and told what to believe, then go home feeling satisfied that we have fulfilled our duty until next Sunday. We have become lazy and do not want to spend the time hearing the Holy Spirit teach us. As 1 John 2:23 states, as for you, the anointing which you received from Him (talking about the Holy Spirit) abides in you and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

Jesus said where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them. That can be in a restaurant, in a home, in a park or anywhere. So many people put more emphasis on where we meet and not enough emphasis on spending time with the one we love. Why is it we feel the need to go to a building anyway? God said we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God told us that He is always with us. So why is it people say they are going to the house of God to meet with Him. We are the house of God, and He lives within us.

Going to a building to meet with other believers is not wrong, but let’s start calling it what it is. The building that people go to on Sunday morning is only a place where the members of the Church sometimes get together. The Church are those of us who are following the example of Christ, and that is done on a daily basis not a one-day event.

How many times do people get more involved with the things about Christ, the services, the meetings, the up-keep of a building and the money to keep the bills paid, that they lose sight of their first love Jesus. He is to have the preeminence.

We are to follow the example of Christ by loving God and loving others as ourselves. Let’s be clear that we are to love all people, not just those who believe like us, agree with us, look like us or are of the same faith.

Stop the arguing over different interpretations and denominational doctrines. Stop the judging and condemnation of people and start loving others no matter what. It is then that the world will know we are His disciples and see a difference in the way we live as Christians.

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by Jim Gordon

Growing up in the christian church, we were told a lot about sharing our faith. We were told that if we did not tell others about Jesus they would never know anything about him. It seemed to make a lot of sense at the time.

We were told if we did not share our faith with everyone we met we were not doing our duty as a christian. This has led to a lot of guilt over the years.

To make things worse, we were told if we did not tell them about Jesus and the possibility of going to hell if they did not accept him that their blood would be on our hands.

I truly believe we were taught wrong. There is certainly nothing wrong with sharing your faith, but to do so under pressure and out of guilt is another story. I believe our commitment is to love God and love others. The Holy Spirit will convict and draw people to the God of love. He may even use us at times, but it will be done naturally and as he leads in love. It will not be forced or due to obligation.

I also believe when we live by guilt and pressure to witness to others, this can lead to friendship with ulterior motives (1). We are nice and friendly to others with the hope we will get to talk to them about God. We get so busy trying to force the conversation so we can do our required duty that we forget to just be unconditional friends.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 it says to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody”.

To me this makes more sense, to live daily in a way that wins the respect of others. Anyone can say words, but living a life being friendly, caring and accepting makes much more of a difference. I have personally seen people who were very bold in their words. They could talk to anyone, anywhere about God and tell them they need to turn their life over to God. Yet when they were done talking, they lived a life that is completely different from the words they just spoke. People look at that and do not want anything to do with the god they were just told about.

I personally do not believe we are to be forcing our views on others. We should not feel obligated or forced to share our faith with anyone. We are to live our lives as we know best in a way that is pleasing to God. Then let that love be a natural by-product that others will see and be drawn to God without us saying a word.

When we live our lives out of love for God and love for others, telling others, whether by word or deed will be natural, unforced and without obligation. It will be out of sincere love and usually because others ask about the love they see in us.

  1. Friendship with Ulterior Motives

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by Jim Gordon

Is it me, or do you find that some of the teachings we have grown up with in modern day religion may be wrong? It could be a simple misinterpretation or it could be people purposefully trying to force others into their way of thinking.

Do you ever grow tired of reading all the different views and opinions, interpretations and doctrines? Do you get aggravated when people argue over their beliefs, yet God has told us to love one another?

It can get pretty discouraging seeing all the postings on Facebook and other social media where people argue, and sometimes heatedly, over their views and interpretations. Sometimes they are basic views we have grown up accepting as gospel truth, yet now we question whether they are gospel or man’s wrong interpretation.

No matter how you interpret the scriptures, no matter how much you believe your way of thinking on spiritual matters, someone else will have a completely different view. Even those who are followers of Christ cannot agree on everything. We all have a different view on the bible and spiritual matters.

I wonder why we cannot accept each other no matter what our interpretation. Truthfully, none of us can prove most of what we believe, whether it is faith in God, heaven, hell, satan and a number of other topics. It is all by faith that we believe what we believe. We cannot prove or disprove anything.

I think we should ask the Spirit daily for His guidance into truth. Hold to what you believe, but be open enough to change when God (not some other person) gives a clearer view of the truth. When someone has a different way of looking at things, accept them. You do not have to agree with them. Who knows, they might be right. Friendly discussion of each others views can be helpful.

I do not think any of us can say without a doubt who is completely right or wrong in our interpretations. We should seek God for truth through the Spirit and let everyone have their right to do the same. Quit fighting and arguing over who is right and who is wrong.

We should remember that unity comes only in Christ. It is not through religion, doctrines, denominations or bible versions but through Christ alone. Unity through Christ looks beyond religion, doctrines, denominations, race, sexual orientation and nationality.

God is love and he lives within us. By allowing his love to flow out of us we can look beyond our differences and accept one another even when we disagree.

One thought comes to mind in all this, ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so’. The most basic and simple song we learned long ago seems to be the one thing on which we can all agree.

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by Jim Gordon

What would you tell someone who asked you what a christian must do to be pleasing to God?

A lot of people would start out by saying we must go to church, we must tithe and we must obey the ten commandments. They would probably say we have to witness to others and give our money to the poor, and probably even some in the USA would say we must vote republican.

Seems like we christians are so hung up on works and doing things in our own effort to be pleasing to God. If we are not going to church we are backsliding. If we do not tithe to the church we are robbing God. We have all these things we are told we should be doing to be pleasing to God.

I think a lot of the christian world today has forgotten that Jesus came to fulfill the old covenant. When he said “it is finished” he was declaring the old covenant had come to fulfillment. By living a perfect life, Jesus showed us God’s true character which is love. He restored the fellowship between us and God. He sent the Spirit to live within us so we could enjoy that fellowship on a daily basis.

I think the real answer to the question of what must we do to be pleasing to God is…..nothing! We do not have to do anything because God provided grace through Christ. We are the righteousness of God and the Spirit of Christ now lives in us. It is not based on what we have done, it is all on what He has done.

We no longer have to try to keep the ten commandments. Those were a guide, or tutor to lead us to Christ. We no longer have to go to church because through Christ, we are the Church. We can assemble together with other believers any day, anywhere. We do not need to look to others for guidance and knowledge because the Spirit lives in us and is our teacher and guide. We do not have to tithe our money because the old covenant has been fulfilled. We can now give our money out of love and to who and where God is leading us to give. We do not have to force every encounter with someone to witness to them because the Holy Spirit is the one who draws all men to God. Since He lives in us we can be open to allow Him to work in us how He pleases.

So many christians today do not realize the freedom we have in Christ. They do not understand grace and the fact that we are no longer under condemnation. We do not have to do things to be pleasing to God. We now live under the guidance of the Spirit and we do things out of love, not out of obligation and trying to keep rules and commands.

So many of us live day to day under condemnation because we feel we have not done enough for God. We feel we do not measure up because we cannot do things like someone else does, or we cannot preach like someone else can. The fact is, God made us all the way we are for a reason. In the body of Christ, we all are equal and all have equally important qualities that God uses. No one is on a higher level than anyone else. We are all brothers and sisters and we are all under the headship of Jesus Christ.

Stop feeling like you are not pleasing to God because of something you do or something you do not do. Christ has provided grace for all of us, and there is nothing we can do to earn it or pay for it.

We can rest in God’s love. We can enjoy daily fellowship with Him because He loves us. We can be assured that we are now in the Kingdom for eternity because of what Christ has done for us. We can stop listening to others who we think are on a higher level than us, or who we think are closer to God because God loves each of His children equally. We are all capable of hearing and learning from the Holy Spirit who is within us. We do not have to wait until Sunday to hear from Him, worship Him, serve Him because we are the Church and every day is the Lord’s day.

Stop condemning yourself, look to God, love Him and love others. Let Him teach you, guide you, live through you day by day. There is nothing more you need to do than accept Him, love Him and love others. We are now new creatures in Him. We now live in His Kingdom. Forget the the rules and regulations of religion. Love God, love one another and realize you are loved just the way you are.

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by Jim Gordon

Does it not seem strange that in the christian church world we are told we are to love others, yet when we come to a difference of opinion or a change in views in our beliefs, christians can be the first to throw a stone?

We hear about fairly well-known individuals within the church system say they have changed their views and no longer accept some of the teachings they grew up with in the church. They are not necessarily saying they are walking away from God but they are walking away from many things they have been told about God they no longer accept.

When this happens, usually other christians are the first to judge and condemn these individuals rather than try to accept them and find out exactly what is going on. Their first thought is they are leaving their complete belief and faith in God.

Many times, this is not what the person is saying anyway. Leaving religious teachings of the church is not leaving God. In fact, many times leaving some of these teachings behind is just the beginning of a deeper walk with God.

I grew up in the traditional church setting and I had many good times there. I met a lot of nice people and learned many things about God. The thing is the church as we know it was never what God intended. Church is not a place or an organization, it is the people who love God and love, support and encourage one another.

The church today seems more like a corporation with the CEO and board of directors. I know there are a lot of good people within the church system. They love God and want to live their life for him. Yet for my wife and I, we became disenchanted with the religious system and felt there was a better way for us to live for God, which was outside the walls of religion and the human-led system of church each week.

We felt that since the Spirit lives within us there is no need for a middle-man (pastor) to lead and teach us. If the Spirit of God actually lives within us, why do we so often depend on a human being to lead and teach us?

I certainly do not want to make anyone feel bad if they are still a part of the institutional church. They are like I used to be and feel that was the best way to show love for God and learn about God. I would not tell anyone they should leave the system, although for my wife and I we certainly do believe it was the best thing for us.

Whether you are in the church system, questioning the church system or have left it, the main focus should be to love God and love one another. Doing so fulfills all the law and the prophets (as Matthew 22:35-40 explains). Of course, we know that the law no longer needs to be fulfilled but at the time Jesus taught this he was living under the law. Now that grace has been applied, we no longer live by the law but by love.

Leaving the institutional church or changing and deconstructing your religious views and interpretations do not mean you are leaving God. Rather than jump on board with those who judge and condemn, take a little bit and find out more about what is going on. Then remember we are all at a different place on the path as we follow Jesus. Pray for one another, encourage and support one another but do not beat one another up as we each try to follow Jesus as we feel led.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“The moral standards by which Israel’s first ancestor were expected to act seem to come not so much by God’s unique command, but by expectations of the surrounding cultures” – Pete Enns

We are all products of our environment. Our cultures play a huge role in how we as a collective, strive to improve and develop ourselves into a reality of wellbeing and enjoyment. The Latin root word cultura: “till the soil, tend, grow” is the same root as Cultivate and Cult. Which I find fascinating when we when look at how cults work in our religious settings. I see it more expansive then that. Culture is the true cult when it comes to how we as a society interact, develop, and grow.

One of the definitions of cult states: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious”. I think this is the most used definition when it comes to religious people accusing other religious people for “not doing it right”. Within Christendom, there is an everlasting list of religious groups that are accused of being cults: LDS, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist’s are the main targets. Yes, these groups have their problems, but I think as research shows, majority of the churches we see throughout Western Civilization are showing unhealthy practices which is leading to an exodus from the religious institutions. Alas, the great cult list continues.

With that being said, for all those religious/spiritual practitioners out there, what do we do with the other definition of cult: “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work”. From the Christian perspective, isn’t this what we do with Jesus? Aren’t we in the end, a cult? I mean this is how we got our name in the first place, right? We were following The Way (what followers of Jesus called it) of Jesus and when other groups saw this, the cult name we were given was “Christian”. So, is this word/idea of cult the end-all of good and healthy religious practices?

Don’t think the religious/spiritual are the only group guilty of being cult-like. From Patriots and their civil duty to a person and idea, to the Scientist and her devotion to the work of the scientific method–all humans in one way or another practice cult-like behaviors to bring about “wellbeing and enjoyment” to their social structures. See, culture is always influencing how we as humans view the world. What culture is best? I don’t think that’s the question we should be asking ourselves.

We should realize that culture will always be part of the human experience. All of us will have our cult-like ways in how we move through this life. But the thing that still moves me to still participate in the way of Jesus is the realization that culture doesn’t always produce healthy, peaceful and loving outcomes. Injustices still are running amok throughout the world of cultures. The poor are still poor, the hungry are still hungry and the rich are still getting richer.

The violent cultures of Empire & Religion are still manipulating how all this social process works. These structures only want one thing: controlling power. This model will not bring justice, mercy, peace and love. What do we do as a society to change this culture? Well, tough to say. But I do believe Jesus showed us a way to develop a new process within our cultures: It is the powerless who act out of love in order to change the cult of culture (Mark 10:42). Let us be lovers who seek peacemaking; not haters who seek warmongering…

“Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.”- Barbara Brown Taylor

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