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Archive for the ‘The church’ Category

by Jim Gordon

Have you ever passed a church building and saw a sign out front that says ‘Everyone is Welcome’? When I see one, I always wonder if they really mean what they say. I have seen so many congregations over the years get set in their ways and enjoy the people who are regulars, but what would happen if everyone did come to their church?

What would the thoughts and feelings be if a gay couple walked in, or if a group of homeless people came to hear the Sunday morning sermon? What if an atheist or muslim group decided to stop by and join the service? Would everyone be truly welcome?

We know that Jesus literally welcomed everyone and mostly those who the religious world did not want to have any association. Jesus met with and cared for the people who probably would not go to a church, either because they would not be truly welcome or because they just did not think they would fit in.

everyoneiswelcome

Maybe that says something about our organized church of today. Maybe we have become so involved with religion and the denominations way of doing things that we have lost our first love. Could we be so caught up in the trends of modern religion that we forget our relationship with God?

Maybe we need to concentrate more on living in fellowship with Christ on a daily basis. More of loving Him and loving others and less about what building we go to on Sunday morning, if we go at all. The true Church is not a building and it does not matter which day we meet or where we meet. The Church is a community of believers. Those who live for Him each and every day. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We should not be focused on a building but on a daily walk with Him.

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

It is time to put our focus back on our first love, Jesus. It is time to live out our relationship with God on a daily basis, not just on one day we call the sabbath. As followers of Christ we walk with him daily, loving God, loving others and being prepared to give an answer of the hope that is within us to those who ask us. I pray we all let the love of God show through us so that others will be drawn to Him.

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by Jim Gordon

I recently listened to a YouTube video by Richard Jacobson and in it he mentioned veal crates. I had never heard of that before so I checked it out a little. It was interesting reading about veal crates and it got me to thinking about another type of box.

What I found was that veal crates are a close-confinement system of raising veal calves. Veal crates are designed to limit movement of the animal because meat turns redder and tougher if the animals are allowed to exercise. In some veal crate systems, the calves are kept in the dark without bedding and fed nothing but milk.

Veal crates seem to limit the calf from being able to move about and roam in much larger areas thus getting exercise which would cause the animal to strengthen. It also keeps them from contact with other calves and under the control of the person raising the calf.

VealCrate

Personally, this makes me think of the institutional church. Before we go any further, I want to point out that I am not an enemy of the church. I was part of the institution for over fifty years and very involved, so I can speak as an insider rather than someone who knows nothing of what I am saying. I do believe the institution confines us and limits the freedom God intended us to have.

I also realize that people cannot just up and leave because someone else says they should. It is a choice between the person and the Spirit. I believe there is specific timing as to when and if someone leaves the religious institution. I know for me it took fifteen years or so of being dissatisfied and thinking there had to be more. As Barbara Symons mentioned in her book ‘Escaping Christianity: Finding Christ’, “There is a need for all of us to experience restriction until Christ is formed within—like a pearl within an oyster, closed tightly until the time of harvesting. Before I understood this principle, I tried to convince others to leave the system as I did and in retrospect, it was before their time. I felt like a cage fighter; only my opponent was the cage itself. I was battered and beaten by trying to dismantle the religious system from the inside out as I tried to liberate those still within its grasp. I now understand that people will remain within restraint as long as they need to”.

People are brought into the box of religion and kept there to support and grow the institution. Once inside the box they are taught what that particular denomination believes or how that specific pastor thinks. Sometimes they are kept in the dark and only fed the milk of the word rather than the meat that gives them strength, knowledge and the ability to hear the Spirit for themselves.

Many times, people are restrained from being free to serve and use the gifts they have been given. Therefore, due to lack of exercise of using their talents they become weak and have no confidence to do anything other than what the institution says.

Most of the time they are only having fellowship with those within the box and usually encouraged to avoid fellowship with people who see things differently or do not go along with their way of thinking.

Outofthebox

Rather than enjoying the freedom God has provided outside the box and a life of accepting others and loving others, they are kept inside. By doing so they learn to exclude people, avoid certain people and are only fed the knowledge the institution and pastor wants them to know, all with the purpose to keep them from leaving.

It seems to me that breaking out of the box and being free to follow God without the rules, regulations and expectations of religion would be a much better way of showing the love of God to others. Being free to fellowship with all people, accept and love others with the love of God no matter who they are or what they believe.

We are not meant to be confined within the walls of institutional religion. God has set us free to follow Jesus wherever he leads. We are free from the rules that religion puts upon us for the purpose of making us better Christians. We are the Church that Jesus is building, a people who love and follow him not a building or organization.

Rather than live within the confines of the box religion puts us in, break free and live in the world God has created. Love people, accept others and show the unconditional love of God to everyone.

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By Mike Edwards

The Synchroblog is where bloggers write on spiritual topics – often different perspectives. This month we were challenged to write on How Churches Can Work Toward Unity and Peace. Links to other articles will be put at end of this Post November 28

Our country is obviously divided but since when does love always require agreeing. Marriages couldn’t last if they had to always agree. Churches usually desire to lead by example in promoting peace but they must “walk the talk.” Helping the less fortunate can be accomplished by a gathering of people focused on loving others as themselves. Unity by all gatherings who believe in such love surely could accomplish even greater good.

Keep in mind Church in the Bible isn’t a building but individuals.

In the Bible “Church” was not a building or a place attended once a week. Jesus referred to His followers as being the Church and to encourage and care for one another.  The Bible doesn’t tell the Church to go to church.  Jesus said “Where two or more are gathered in His name” God would be present. Jesus did not specify where they must gather, what they must do or how they must do it. Simply find environments to encourage and be encouraged to radically love as Jesus did.

When are churches with the same message going to unite over the Bible?  

Churches will remain divided, despite a common message of love, when insisting on their version of “because the Bible says so.” Books, since literature, require interpretation. Even biblical scholars who respect Scriptures disagree what the Bible says about divorce, gender roles, homosexuality, hell, etc. Terrorists justify killing infidels because they worship a Book at the expense of common moral sense inborn in us.

Atrocities such as slavery, condemning gays, denying women equal roles as men, etc. have been justified because the Bible supposedly says so. Let’s listen and express ideas openly in love which may lead to new understandings. The overall message of the Bible seems clear – love others unselfishly. Churches can unite by not declaring the certainty or morality of their opinions according to the Bible. For elaboration see: http://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/rethinking-the-bible/

When are churches going to unite over titles?  

New Testament followers of Jesus did not refer to themselves as Baptists, Methodists, Protestants, Catholics, or even Christians. Paul warned of the harm of divisions among followers: “I follow Paul; another, I follow Apollos; another, I follow Cephas; still another I follow Christ” (I Cor. 1:12). If we got rid of titles people might seek more WHO we follow than what we believe in.

Less titles means more money to help the less fortunate. If anyone deserved to be paid in spreading Jesus’ message it was the Apostle Paul who wrote most of the NT. But, Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3). How much more money could be used to feed the poor if salaries didn’t have to be paid and elaborate buildings didn’t have to be erected? 

When are churches going to unite by listening not preaching?

Going to church typically involves sitting and observing than participating. The implication is that some are more spiritual and smarter about God than others! God speaks to individuals not just preachers. When you don’t agree with those in authority, you are seen as divisive. This hardly inspires unity despite differences of opinions. Churches understand going to a church doesn’t inspires connection. That is why they organize community groups outside their buildings. AA seems closer to God’s wish for gatherings for encouragement (Heb. 10:24-25).

So, how can churches unite around the message they exist for?  

I have my doubts buildings called churches will change. They would have to change their view of the Bible. They would have to drop their non-unifying titles. Thus, there would be less of a need to spend on constructions to remain separate. Their teachings methods would have to demonstrate that God speaks to all and not a few. This would create genuine intimacy thus greater inspiration. All churches supposedly exist to encourage loving others like you want to be loved. When will they unite around such a message leading to greater peace?

Here is the list of other writers and authors who contributed to this month’s Synchroblog. Go read them all to see what others think about church unity.

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by Jim Gordon

We hear the word fundamentalism a lot in the christian world. I actually grew up as a fundamentalist but never realized that was what I was because I never put much thought into all the different terms and labels. I just loved God and went to church because that was the way I thought we lived the christian life.

When I looked up the word fundamentalism in the dictionary I found the following definitions: 1. a conservative movement in theology among nineteenth and twentieth-century Christians. Fundamentalists believe that the statements in the Bible are literally true. 2. in Christianity the belief that every word of the Bible is divinely inspired and therefore true. 3. a religious movement characterized by a strict belief in the literal interpretation of religious texts, especially within American Protestantism and Islam; the beliefs held by those in this movement; strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles.

Fundamentalism

Now that I know what fundamentalist means, I no longer believe I would be considered one. My views, beliefs and interpretations have changed so much over the years, especially since leaving the organized church. For some reason I never felt comfortable asking questions while in the organization. I just took what the pastor said as gospel truth and never questioned anything. Being outside the walls of religion I am letting all those questions come out and seeking truth from the Spirit of God rather than from a pastor.

I believe fundamentalism leads more to separation, condemnation and being judgmental. It seems to me being so set on specific doctrines, beliefs and interpretations can prevent us from asking questions, learning, accepting and loving others.

Are my thoughts a popular way of looking at the christian life? Of course not! I grew up in the organized church from a very young age and spent nearly sixty years in it. I also used to think everything depended on my works such as attending church, tithing, doing good works and reading the bible and believing it was perfect, completely literal and the only way God spoke to us today. There are many people still doing all this and they sincerely love God and think this is the way we are to serve God. Yet being outside of this setting, I have seen what is for me a better way. A way of depending on the Spirit within to teach and guide us. A way that loves and accepts others even when they do not see things the same.

Today the term fundamentalist christian seems to have more of a meaning of being hateful and not being accepting of others views. Completely different from what Jesus taught and what God is like.

Jesus was not a fundamentalist, he was not even a christian. Jesus was the personification of the Father who is a God of love. Even those writings from the old testament where men wrote from their beliefs, ideas, interpretations and what they thought about God were shown to be wrong when Jesus arrived. He showed us that God is not a god of vengeance, hatred and murder but a God who loves all of us.

We are to love God and love one another. Loving our neighbor does not mean just loving those who live next door, or loving those who believe like we believe. Our neighbor is everyone else in the world. Seems to me most fundamentalist reject those who see things differently and prefer to stay away from those who do not believe the same.

I would rather be known as a follower of Jesus rather than a fundamentalist christian. The way of the law and following rules and set doctrines of men have come to an end. The way of loving one another because of the grace of Christ is the new covenant way. I have actually become quite tired of using labels at all. We are all human beings who are loved by God. We should all be treated with love, respect, acceptance and have the same rights as everyone else. God did not create some people better than others, we are all created in His likeness and are loved by Him.

There are so many topics and beliefs I grew up learning in the fundamentalist church that I no longer accept. I certainly have not lost my belief in or love for God, yet the many interpretations that were taught by men and women in the institution I now find wrong and not like Christ.

Rather than adhere to a set of rules and institutional-taught beliefs we are to submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit that lives within us. Learn to hear his voice and let your life be a daily communication of his love to others.

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by Jim Gordon

I have read many articles about church abuse. It seems many Christians have been through bad times in the organized church and they have become angry and frustrated with the system. Certainly understandable.

For me, I cannot say I went through anything I would call abuse in the system. I grew up in church and was very active over the years. I truly felt I was doing what was pleasing to God and I earnestly was trying to learn and do what He would want me to do.

When I hear all the abuse stories and all the troubling times in organized religion, I do not always understand. I know there are many people in the modern, organized church that truly love God and are trying to please him. I also realize there are many people who were unduly abused in various ways during their church life, and that is very sad.

For me, after several years of being unsatisfied with the system and feeling there certainly had to be more to it than what I had been part of, I stopped attending a traditional church. Obviously, this has to be something you feel is right for you. I do not think it is a good thing to tell people they should do the same. This is a choice that each believer has to make for themselves. I came to this conclusion after many years of seeing things, questioning things, reading things and just being completely frustrated with the system of organized religion.

I have no regrets in leaving, although I have no regrets for being a part of it for so many years either. I did learn a lot and made a lot of good friends. Of course, because of the years involved there are many beliefs and ideas I need to detox from now.

For now, feeling the system is wrong, my wife and I have decided to walk with God outside the walls of the organized church. Not that anyone is intentionally trying to do what is wrong but the whole modern-day organized church is off base. Granted, the system is the only thing we know. It has been this way for years and we grew up with it and thought it was the way it should be.

We have it engrained in us that to assemble ourselves together is to go to church on Sunday morning and sit through a scheduled program. Nowhere does scripture tell us that assembling together has to be done in a particular way, at a special time or in a set place.

churchnotabuilding

We are told that the pastor is the spiritual head and the one we learn from and come under authority and guidance. Of course, God tells us that Jesus is the head of the church, which is his body and the Holy Spirit is our teacher and we need no one to teach us other than him.

We are taught that we are saved by grace, but we need to live by the law to be pleasing to God. Reading through Paul’s teachings it is easy to see that we live by grace. Now trying to live under the law is a curse (Galatians 3:10-13). Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant Law for us because we could not do it. Jesus did the work, Jesus died and ended the Old Covenant. Upon his resurrection the New Covenant began and we now live by grace. The New Covenant tells us to love God with all our heart and love others.

The Law was a tutor to show us that we were completely incapable of keeping the law and living a perfect life. Only Jesus was able to live a perfect life. For us Christians, a tutor is no longer needed because we have come to Christ and depend on his work and grace.

We are taught that the Bible is the true, living, inerrant word of God. John 1:1 tells us that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. To me that says that Jesus is the living Word. The Bible is the inspired words of God, but we are not to look to the Bible as the all-powerful, inerrant source of what God has to say. We should look to Jesus who is our all in all, our very life.

We are taught to tithe although that is not taught under the New Covenant. Giving as we see a need and as we feel lead is now done out of love, not tithing to the church as a requirement. I personally feel the church today is more of a big business than it is a religious organization. Tithing is pushed because the organization needs to have the bills and the salaries paid.

We are told we are poor sinners saved by grace and that we are weak, unrighteous worms who are unworthy of God’s love. Yet the bible says we were originally created in the likeness of God. We cannot live a perfect life in our humanness but because of Christ and the work he has done, we have been restored to fellowship with our Father. We are now the house of God and we are holy and righteous in his sight because of Christ.

People want to put themselves under the authority of a pastor or the elders of the church, but God says we are all kings and priests and Jesus is the head. We all have something to say when we come together to build one another up. There are no levels of authority among believers. We are all equal parts of his body and have equally important functions to fulfill in encouraging and building one another up.

I think an important fact for us to remember today is that no matter if you are ‘in church’ or outside the walls, we should be looking to each other in love and not fight and argue amongst ourselves. Whether you are going to church, you are going for the Lord, or if you do not go to church, you are doing so for the Lord. Accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for one another, encourage one another and stop looking down on people who see things differently than you.

Even those outside of Christianity need our love not our condemnation. Jesus loved those who the religious leaders of his day did not want to have any association. We want our Christian church, Christian schools, Christian dating sites, Christian this, Christian that, whatever we can do to be separate and apart from the non-Christians. Yet we were told to go into all the world and show the love of God to all those that are around us.

YouaretheChurch490

I truly feel that being a person in Christ is a daily lifestyle. Being the church is a 24/7 way of life not a Sunday only thing. God said that He is building His church and that He no longer lives in buildings made with hands. We are the church, we are God’s house, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are the body of Christ. We function together as equally needed parts of the body under the headship of Jesus.

We need to adjust our way of thinking and realize that church and Christianity are not a religion. It is a lifestyle we live day by day. Jesus is our life, it should be no longer us trying and doing, but resting in what Christ has done for us. We are in Christ and it is him living in us day by day that makes the difference. We may be the only Jesus a lot of people will ever know.

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by Jim Gordon

Many people seem to look toward those who take authority in the Christian world. So often we look up to those who are in leadership positions. We put our faith and trust in the pastor of our local church, or the evangelist who comes and speaks during revival services.

We tend to think that those who are in authority and leadership positions are more knowledgeable about spiritual matters, and able to lead others to God better than the normal average christian.

The truth is we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we are all capable to be leaders in the sense we can encourage and help build up those with whom we have contact along the way. Each of us are kings and priests in God’s kingdom and no one is more important or on a higher plain than anyone else.

Christian leadership is no more than brothers and sisters in Christ who have lived and experienced more in spiritual matters lending a helping hand to those who are still maturing in their walk with God. There is no position of authority in this type of leadership. It is done out of love and compassion for one another and the desire to be used by God to encourage others in their walk with Him.

What I see so often in allowing people to take authority over one another is that it places an intermediary between God and man. Fortunately, not all people in leadership positions think this way and they are serving out of true love for God and for helping their fellow believer. Yet so often we hear of people in authority that demand our allegiance. They insist we listen to them and follow what they teach or else. This is a great misuse of authority in the christian world today.

ServantLeadership

I do not believe there are offices of authority and leadership in the sense we hear about it today. Those who have been given positions of leadership in the body of Christ are not in a higher standing than anyone else. They are to lead by example out of love for those who are still learning like everyone else. They are to be encouragers by example, helping build up their fellow believers into maturity.

Ephesians 4:11,12 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip his people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.

The true meaning of leadership by God’s standards is servanthood. Thinking more of others than you do yourself. So often it seems like just the opposite with men and women thinking they are the ones with authority and knowledge.

Matthew 20:25,26 but Jesus called them to Himself and said, you know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.

What I believe is the final authority among Christians is the Holy Spirit who lives within us. The bible can be used by the Spirit as a guide and help, but the bible is only a tool the Spirit uses. Apart from the Spirit there is no final authority in any person or book.

Although we can learn from the bible and we can learn from one another and their experiences, it is the Spirit of Jesus from within us who is the final authority and the head of the body known as the Church. The Church is not a building, not a denomination or an organization, it is each of us who are equally functioning and necessary parts of the body of Christ.

*******

This post is part of the June Synchroblog in which numerous bloggers around the world write about the same topic on the same day. Links to the other contributors are below. If you enjoyed this article, you will also enjoy reading what they have to say about the topic of Authority.

Authority for Believers – Soulcare Ministries

Who Gets To Say What Is Right Or Wrong? – What God May Really Be Like

A Surprising Source of Spiritual Authority – Glenn Hager

Is it the Bible or Jesus that is authoritative for Christians? ANSWER: Yes – Jeremy Myers

Surrendering Our Authority To Jesus – K. W. Lesley

Under Who’s Authority – Layman Seeker

authority? – Metler

The Age of the Spirit – Liz Dyer

 

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by Jim Gordon

Sunday after Sunday for many years my wife and I have ‘gone to church’. We sat in a pre-planned service, being entertained, listening to one person tell us what God was saying and looking at the back of the head of the person sitting quietly in front of us.

Each week we sat there, not having the opportunity to say what was on our minds, no chance to talk and get to know our brothers and sisters sitting all around us. We were told this was good fellowship, meaningful worship, and that we would be learning more about God each week. More like learning more about that particular doctrine and belief about God from the perspective of the pastor.

Truthfully, we were getting so tired of this religious social club environment. We were not getting anything out of this experience and we certainly were not putting anything into it…..other than our money when the offering basket went past. We have become tired of the religious enterprise with its pre-planned services, the CEO and board of directors, along with the gimmicks and programs designed to ‘bring the people in’ especially when we were told to go out into the world.

church-people-or-building

We are finding that true community is believers living their daily lives with one another by caring, loving, assisting, encouraging and building one another up. This is what is known as the Church. It is fellow believers living daily for Christ, not a once a week trip to a building and sitting there for an hour.

We are followers of Christ going about our normal daily business living with Christ as our head rather than a pastor. We live as one with Christ, letting his life and love touch others each and every day. We assemble with our brothers and sisters in Christ any day, anywhere. Sunday is not the Lord’s day but every day is the day the Lord has made. God’s house is not a building where we gather with people of similar beliefs. God’s house is us, His people, those of us who have accepted His grace. We are called to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, not just those who believe like we do.

It has been good for us to stop being part of the Sunday morning crowd at the building of our choosing. It has us looking to God more, listening for His voice and allowing the Spirit to teach us rather than one man. It has us loving and accepting people as they are, not just those who believe like us. The Church is meant to be a community, living, loving and caring for one another each and every day.

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