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Posts Tagged ‘community’

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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Christianity can mean a couple different things and it depends on what meaning we are using as to how I feel about it.

If, when talking about being a Christian, we mean we are following Christ, acting like Christ and living like Christ, I am all for being called a Christian.

Religions

Usually these days the word Christian means more about the religion of Christianity. Just like Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Baha’i, Shinto, Taoism and a host of others, Christianity is a religion controlled by men. It is divided up into many various denominations, doctrines and biblical interpretations. Contrary to popular belief Jesus did not start the Christian religion.

Here in the United States we are so proud to say that America is a Christian nation. Unfortunately, I have to disagree with that idea. America is a country made up of many religions and beliefs. The good thing in this country is that we are not forced to be a part of any religion or belief. We have many freedoms that are not found in other places and I am thankful for that fact. We are free to choose what we want to believe, who we want to follow and we have the right to express that without fear of punishment.

Following Christ is not about a religion. I actually think it is better sometimes not to use the word Christian because of all the religious thoughts and ideas it brings up. Religion is a man-made, organized system that divides more than anything. We separate into groups that meet in buildings on set days and at set times saying we welcome anyone, yet only want those who feel the same way we do.

It bothers me to see so many who profess to be Christians, those who believe in God and Jesus and spreading His love to others, who argue and fight with those who think differently. We are supposed to be known for our love for others and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Still, it seems a lot of Christians are more interested in defending their personal views and thoughts, getting mad and arguing amongst themselves while those outside the faith are looking at them and wondering why they need to have Christ in their lives.

Now, talking about Christianity in the sense that we are following Christ, living like Him and treating others like Jesus treated people, this is an entirely different thing. As mentioned in Acts 11:26, the disciples were first called Christians by the people of Antioch because they saw the disciples acting so much like Christ. To me, this is the true meaning of a Christian.

BeLikeJesus

True Christianity is a community of people who act like Christ and let him love through them. It is a daily life and is not separated into normal living and religious living. It is not specifically following set doctrines or following rules of do’s and don’ts. It is not meeting in a building once a week listening to one person talk, singing a few songs, shaking hands and going home. It is not a system of leaders who are on a higher level than others. Those who have gifts of leadership lead by example, lead as equals, and lead by a servant spirit to encourage and build up their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. They are not to lead by power or a position of authority.

True Christianity is a daily life following the leading of the Spirit. It is meeting with those we come in contact with along our daily routine and showing the love of Christ. It is eating together, laughing and crying together, accepting one another, talking and discussing our thoughts and views.

As followers of Christ, we are to love others, accept others, and treat others with compassion, respect and love. We do not have to agree with everyone, just accept them. We can agree to disagree and love people just as they are. Everyone does not have to be just like us and they do not have to believe like us. They should be able to be themselves and we as Christ followers should be OK with it.

It is time to stop being a Christian in the sense of religion and focus on Jesus and let Him live through us. After all, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, God lives within us. There is no reason why we cannot love and accept others just like Christ loves and accepts everyone.

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We know when the word church is used most of the time we are talking about the modern-day, organized religious organization that people attend on Saturday or Sunday. The traditional organized church with its many programs, leaders, pastors, rules and regulations.

We forget that the Church is not a building or an institution but a community of people who love God and love one another. Whether in church or out we are all one body with Christ as the head.

OneBody

I think an issue today among those of us who have left the organized church is to feel those who are still involved in church and those who think differently than us are our enemies. This is not the correct way of thinking.

People attend church for various reasons such as out of obligation, guilt, social purposes or because they have always gone to church. Yet there are many people attending church that truly love God and want to follow Him and show his love to others.

Many outside of church start thinking they are more righteous or further along in their walk with God than those who still attend church. This is a bad attitude to have and we should be loving and accepting of those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter if they attend church or not. Just as those who faithfully attend church should not look down on those who have left the organized system looking at them as if they are backsliders or have lost their faith. Our Father will lead each of us in the way he has for us in his timing.

The important thing is our love for God and for one another. No matter what we do on Sunday mornings, whether we attend a church building or love God from outside the walls, our goal is to decrease to self, our desires and plans and allow Him to increase and love others through us.

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I do not know about you, but the verse in Hebrews 10:25 about not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together sure gets quoted a lot when it comes to attending church or not attending.

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

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

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

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

To me, this verse is saying that we need our brothers and sisters in Christ for encouragement and to stimulate one another to love and good deeds in Christ. It has nothing to do with an organized religious service in a building. It has everything to do with loving and communicating with other Christians.

One of readers of this blog, José Arroyo made the following comment, which goes along with this thought… “we assemble to motivate each other (to) love and good works…exactly what I didn’t get in church when I attended. Nevertheless, I can assemble with one or two, and Jesus is there to motivate us himself. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. That makes a threesome, enough for an assembly”.

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

Another reader, Viki Wieland Manera, made this comment…”I have only been out of the church for <1 year, but I am finding the assembly of just 2, 3 or 4 is 100x more powerful than my former assembling with 200. There is deeper meaning and honesty. The masses for me created a falseness and mimicry that I was never comfortable with – even after 20 years of it”.

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

An interesting comment made by Terrence Williams said…”this verse stresses to me the absolute difference between “assembling” and “gathering”. A box of Legos can be constantly gathered together but it only takes shape to represent the desire of its creator when it is assembled by him. Then it is ready to perform the function it was created for. So is the body of Christ. Therefore, those who put all their eggs in the basket of Sunday church, it is they who have truly forsaken the “assembling” of themselves together. They are constantly gathering but never really assembling”.

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

A more in-depth study of this topic can be viewed at the following link, written by my good friend David Yeubanks of truthforfree.com:  Click here: http://www.truthforfree.com/forsaking-the-assembly/

(Originally posted on June 10, 2015)

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Whether you are part of an organized church or not, we as followers of Christ are the Church. It is not a building or an organization but a community of believers loving God and loving others.

We should be able to get past our differences in doctrine and interpretation, get past what church we attend or if we attend at all and focus on our love for God and our love for one another.

We are not going to agree with one another and we are not going to come in contact with every person in the world. Yet we are to be ready each day to allow the Spirit of Christ, who is within us, to reach out to those individuals we do meet along the way to share the love of God with them.

All our organized services and plans to get people to a church building so the pastor can get the good word out will never make a huge difference. It is our job to go out into the world and live a life of love. That does not mean all of us have to become missionaries and go to some far-off land. The people we come in contact with each day during our regular routine are the people we are to show God’s love.

This is the way we will make a difference in our world, when people see the love of God within us for each other and for God.

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After over fifty years in the organized religious church system my wife and I decided we had enough. Let me make clear what I am talking about when I say church (lower c). I am talking about a building, a religious organization with a pastor and board of elders in charge, a place for people to gather who are somewhat like-minded in their doctrine and beliefs.

There are many reasons why people leave the church system. People are hurt, abused, burned out and frustrated with the whole system.

People get hurt by being misunderstood or treated wrong by another church member. Something was said or done that made someone mad and the hurt feelings got the better of them and they decided to leave. Maybe a church leader did or said something that was misunderstood and hurt the feelings of another.

SpiritualAbuse

Many abuses can happen within the religious organization. Leaders of the church can manipulate people and take advantage due to their position and how the congregation places their pastor on a pedestal. Other members can say or do something that hurts the feelings of others. We have all heard of various cases of abuse among church leaders and congregants over the years. Fortunately this does not happen everywhere, but it does happen more than we want to admit.

People get burned out because they are so willing to work for the church and they are asked to do everything. Sometimes every night of the week they are busy with the work of the church, many times not getting to do anything they want to do and even at times neglecting their loved ones. Once they finally say no they are treated like someone fallen from grace.

Others get frustrated with the church politics, the cliques among members, the pastor’s sermon style, the worship music or some other specific reason they are no longer interested in attending a particular church. Most times they leave and go to another church thinking they will find what they are looking for at a different building yet under the same setup.

Sometimes we just get tired of the same thing week after week so we leave looking for a different church style, seeking a different preaching style and wanting to meet new people.

There are so many various reasons why we christians leave a particular church and move on. Yet for my wife and me none of the above reasons where why we left.

We were not hurt, abused or burned out. We were not mad or frustrated with any person or teaching. After church hopping for a while we found we were just as dissatisfied no matter where we attended.

For us we had a deep feeling of dissatisfaction with the basic concept of the modern-day church. We felt the organized system was not what God intended when He said He would build His Church. His Church (capital C) is not built with hands, brick, mortar, denominations or doctrines. His Church is made up of each of us who are followers of Christ. Each of us are kings and priests in the Kingdom of God and we each can have something to say and do that will be an encouragement to others.

Jesusandmanasone

To us Church is a community of believers living each day outside the walls of the religious systems and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Church is a community of people daily loving God and loving others as Jesus did while on earth. Jesus loved, cared for and respected people no matter what label they had attached to them.

The church organization is not a bad thing. Many people learn about God’s love there, many find fellowship and purpose there. It is a choice each of us has to make for ourselves.

For my wife and me, we had no more interest in attending a weekly meeting listening to one person do all the talking. We had no more interest in being stereotyped according to the doctrine of the church to which we belonged. We feel so much more freedom living for God each day outside the walls of religion, free to love people of all backgrounds and beliefs without being judged or condemned because we do so.

This is our decision. We do not say we are right and everyone else is wrong. It is a decision you have to make for yourself. The thing we all need to remember is whether we go to church or not, we as followers of Christ are all members of his Church. We need to stop condemning those who see things differently. Whether in church or out of church we are to love all people the way they are and even more so those who are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to be known as followers of Christ by the love we have for one another.

If you go to church and are satisfied there, if you are learning about the love of our Father and serving others with your talents, do not seek to leave. If you are in church but are feeling dissatisfied and unhappy with the ways of the traditional church, leave and do not feel guilty about it. Either way let us not get into an ‘us versus them’ attitude because we see things differently.

We are each walking with God on the path He has for us. Not everyone will be on the same path. Keep seeking the guidance of the Spirit, love God and love others as you walk along your path each day.

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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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