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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

So often when I mention that my wife and I have left the organized church, people assume something happened to hurt us or make us mad or we were abused in some way. Just to be clear on this subject neither one of us have ever been abused or hurt by the church. Neither one of us are mad about some event or some person at church. I know there are people who have had bad experiences which sometimes includes abuse and I think that is terrible. Fortunately for us that is not the case.

Today we seem to hear much about sexual abuse and the catholic church although this can happen in any church system. We hear of people in power within the system taking advantage of their members for various reasons. Fortunately this is not the norm in most churches but is a real and terrible thing that happens way to often.

I actually had some very good times while within the church system. I made many good friends, learned about God and his love for me and had many fun and enjoyable experiences with the people who were part of the church system.

It is certainly not out of abuse or being hurt that my wife and I decided to leave the system. After nearly sixty years in the organization and after the last fifteen of those years feeling that something is not right with the system, we made the decision to leave and follow Christ outside the walls of religion. To be clear, this was our decision and we certainly do not expect everyone to agree or do the same thing. Many people are part of the organized church who truly love God and want to serve Him. After all, the religious system we know as church is all we know.

We believe the Church is a community of people and not a building nor a service held one day each week with paid professionals leading the service. We believe the Church is each of us who follow Christ and see him as the head. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and each of us are equally functioning members making up his body.

WhatisChurch

We believe forsaking not the assembling of yourselves means we need one another. We live each day having fellowship with those God brings our way no matter where it happens. We never truly found real fellowship when we sat in an organized service for an hour looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us. We believe true fellowship is not just sitting together with other people in a room but it is daily loving, encouraging and praying for one another and meeting the needs of those we are able to help.

The temple in the Old Testament was only a shadow of what was to come in the New Testament. God now lives in us as his temple and he is our leader rather than another human being we call pastor. The only mediator between God and man was Jesus. He repaired the separation between God and man and we now have direct access to the Father without anyone in between. There is no hierarchy in the Church. Each of us are equally important parts of the body and able to teach, encourage, build up and pray for one another. It is truly a priesthood of all believers and not a one person show. Those with specific gifts for helping the Church are not better or more spiritual than the rest. They are brothers and sisters who walk along beside those who need encouragement. They are those who have learned a spiritual lesson and are there to help those who are still learning. They are servants among the body of Christ who are there to help and encourage.

So when I say that we have left the church it is only the building and organization I am talking about. We left not because we were mad, hurt or abused. We left because we believe the religious system most people call church is flawed and far from what God is building. He is building a group of people who will daily follow Him outside the walls of religion and organizations of men, loving God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind, loving their neighbor and accepting all they meet along the way.

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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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So often when we talk about leaving church, people usually misunderstand why we made such a decision.

Far to often christian people who remain in the traditional church system automatically think we have left our faith, gave up on God or are in a back-slidden condition spiritually.

Rather than listen to our reasons and trying to understand, many are more interested in proving why our decision to leave was wrong. They try their best to encourage us to come back to God by going to church. Unfortunately many just write us off as someone to avoid and forget.

If they would only watch and listen a while they would see that we have not left God. We have only left a system that we feel is flawed and not what God intended. We have left the man-made system to follow God in what we feel is a more natural way by putting our dependence on the guidance of the Spirit alone without the middle-man known as a pastor.

We feel we no longer get much out of the weekly organized service with one person doing all the talking. A building where only a select few have anything to do with the pre-planned service.

Churchislifestyle

We feel that when we gather with others each of us should have a voice, some word of teaching or encouragement.

For those who are followers of Jesus, most of us grew up in the church system. That is all most of us have known. Yet it seems the Spirit is drawing many out of the system and into a more organic way of gathering. Church no longer is seen as a building or an organization based on traditions and doctrines of men.

Church is community, it is people living daily under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the love of God. It is coming along-side other believers for fellowship, encouragement and building one another up in Christ. This can happen anywhere and any day, in homes, restaurants, parks, pubs……even in buildings when all can participate and be used by the Spirit to encourage others.

For those still in the traditional system, please do not worry about those of us who have left. We have not left God. There is no reason why we cannot all accept one another and the choices we make in regard to attending a religious organization or following Jesus outside the walls of religion and traditional ways of gathering. Whether in or out of the institutional church, each of us in our own way are trying to follow Jesus in the way we feel he is leading us.

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Why does the word inclusion make so many of us christian people cringe?

inclusion

We often want 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 the same way, but have thankfully changed my mind.

I am not necessarily just talking about organized religion or institutional church, but accepting people in general in our daily lives.

We see this so much within christianity, such a wide variety of denominations and interpretations of the bible. This is only mentioning fellow believers who believe that God is with us and loves us.

When it comes to including people who we see as completely different from us, it is even worse. African-American, White, LGBT, Atheist, Muslim, Jew and on it goes. We seem to think as believers in God we need to separate ourselves from those who see things differently. We think we should not associate with them or people will think we agree with them and are a part of their way of living.

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.

inclusionbyjesus

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.

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. Inclusion makes the world our classroom for a full life. Inclusion treasures diversity and builds community. Inclusion is about our abilities – our gifts and how to share them. Inclusion is the way of God and the way of showing the love of God to all we meet.

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Do you get tired of seeing such disagreement among fellow christians? We do not see a lot of unity and agreement at all today.

unityamongbrethren

Jesus said his followers were to be known for their love for one another. Yet today it is hard to find brothers and sisters in Christ being loving and kind.

Fortunately this is not the case in every situation, but it seems a lot more common than it should be.

I am not just talking about being accepting and kind toward those who are outside the christian faith, but it is hard to find true love and acceptance among brethren of different denominations within the faith.

If we go to the same church building and accept the same doctrines, you will usually find love and acceptance. I remember when I was in the church system the first thing I would ask someone was where they went to church. If they went to an organization I liked and agreed with, I would pretty much instantly like the person. If they went to a place that was different in their way of worship or interpretation of the bible, then I would immediately be on guard and almost dismiss them as someone to get to know. This seems to be a pretty common occurrence.

It is sad that we put such walls up with people who think differently. It is sad that we have made such importance out of buildings, doctrines, interpretations and bible versions that we forget God loves each of us no matter what we believe. We are to love God and love others just as God does no matter what they believe, especially among those who are also followers of Jesus.

Loving and accepting people does not mean we are always in agreement and that we always get along. Of course there will be disagreements and differences of opinions, probably even arguments and hurt feelings at times, but that is life. We can disagree and even argue at times and still respect and accept the other person.

By the power of the Spirit within us, we can accept, respect and be loving toward others. Not only our brothers and sisters in Christ, but those who are not of the christian faith and belief. I think we can disagree and have different opinions and still act in a respectful and accepting way toward our fellow human beings.

loveoneanother

Jesus said that they will know we are his disciples by the love we have for one another. Love draws people, but condemnation, judgment and unloving behavior drives them away. Many times, when I say we are to love and accept others I get a lot of comments about being wrong because as christians we are to point out the sins and mistakes of others. They say our responsibility is to make sure others know what they are doing is wrong….at least by their way of thought.

I personally do not think we are to be the sin police. We are not told to do such things. We are told to love God and love others. As far as I am concerned the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin where conviction is needed. That is between the Spirit and each individual as to what they do and how they respond. We are only to love others.

Love draws, God is love. Rather than judge, condemn, separate and argue, get out there among humanity and let the love of God flow out of you by the power of the Spirit. There is a whole world of hurting people, both christian and non-christian who can use the encouragement of an accepting person who cares and shows the love of God.

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Why is it we seem to enjoy pointing out the mistakes of others? Have you noticed when you see someone doing something wrong or making a mistake that you want to make sure to let them know about it? I notice when driving if I see someone make an illegal turn or run a stop sign, the first thing I want to do is blow my horn and let them know they made a mistake.

I think a lot of the time we do this because deep down it makes us feel better about ourselves. In the Christian world, many times we want to point out the sins of others just to make ourselves feel more holy. Most of the time when we act like this, it drives people further from the truth of God’s love because they feel attacked, condemned, unloved and unaccepted. They also do not understand that those of us who are saved by grace are forgiven and cleansed from our sinful nature, yet we still commit sins. So when we point out the sins of others, the first thing they see is a hypocrite who thinks they are a better person.

Jesus was Loving and Kind, Why Aren’t We?

When we read the gospels and the life of Jesus, we see him loving and accepting people that the religious people did not want to be near. Jesus was known as a friend to sinners, a rebel, a glutton and a drunkard. I think if he were here in the flesh today, most churches would not want him around. Read another article by my friend Chris Kirk on this topic at: https://notesfromthebridge.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/does-jesus-weep-3/

I have always said we should love everyone, accept them as they are, and do not judge. Then I hear other Christians say that is not the way to be. We have to tell them of their sins, let them know they are doing wrong and point them to Christ. That is our duty as believers to make sure everyone knows they are sinning and are in need of being saved.

Actually I think we can do both, we can love and accept everyone, and we can talk to them about mistakes and changes, but it is solely at the leading of the Spirit, and in love. One thing we need to remember, doing things in love does not always mean it will be easy.

Real Love in the Spirit

Most Christians today do not really know anything about real love in the Spirit. We are so busy wanting to point out the speck in the eye of another rather than deal with the beam in our own eye. This is not love. This is more selfishness and self-righteous thinking.

When we talk about loving others and accepting others, that does not mean we are saying everything goes. We are not saying there are no consequences to bad choices. Yet when we come to others in a self-righteous spirit, or even in the sense that it is our job to point out others faults, we are not coming to them in love.

SpeaktheTruth

I agree, real love for others will sometimes mean saying things that will not be popular or well received. The difference being, it is said and done in the love and power of the Holy Spirit, not in a holier-than-thou attitude. Loving others is wanting the best for them. Loving others is seeing them through the eyes of God. Sometimes people do things that are not in their own best interest. At times they need someone who sees things differently to let them know they may need to make changes or that there are other ways of doing things.

I personally feel that when we are led by the spirit to deal with people about something, most times it will not necessarily be in regard to sin in general. The word of God says the Holy Spirit will convict the world (non-believers) of sin. As believers in Christ, the sin issue has been dealt with at the cross. This means to me that dealing with non-believers and their sin issue is not our business. We are to love them and accept them, and let the Spirit do the work that needs to be done.

What Are You Against?

We are so busy pointing out the sins of non-believers and condemning them, in the hope of leading them to Christ. As Christians, we have come to be known more by what we are against, rather than showing the love of God. Due to this, people do not see the love of God, all they see is people telling them how bad they are. It is God’s love that draws them, not our guilt-ridden words. See our article What are You Against at: https://donewithreligion.com/2012/07/26/what-are-you-against/

Let the love of God flow out by the power of the Holy Spirit and stop being unloving, unaccepting, condemning and judgmental of people. The Spirit will convict the non-believer of their sin and draw them to the Father through love. We are to be listening to the Spirit within us and allow him to speak in love to others as he leads, not in our own strength or religious way of thinking.

—   —

Here is an interesting related article from our friends at Jesus Without Baggage, which deals more with speaking the truth in love with other believers:
https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/matthew-18-and-sin-in-the-church/

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