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Posts Tagged ‘community’

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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Fellowship is an important part of living as a follower of Jesus. Fellowship with other believers can be encouraging and helps build one another up.

When we hear about fellowship today we usually think of church. Several churches even have the word fellowship in their name.

According to the dictionary fellowship means friendly relationship; companionship; an association of persons having similar tastes, interests; friendliness.

I grew up in the organized church and thought for years I was having good fellowship every time I attended a Sunday morning service. As time went on I began to question if we were actually enjoying good fellowship or not. If fellowship was a relationship or companionship with others how was that being obtained by sitting in a pew every Sunday looking at the back of someone’s head? We never really showed friendliness just sitting there and we never knew if the person in front or back of us had the same tastes or interests. How were we having fellowship when we just sat and listened to a select few run the program?

sundayservice

After my wife and I decided to leave the organization and live outside the walls of religion we wondered how we would find fellowship with others of similar tastes. Truthfully it did not take long. God started bringing people across our paths in places and at times we never expected.

We were sitting in a local cafe one morning relaxing and drinking our morning coffee when we noticed two men at the next table. One was a young long-haired rock group looking person talking with an older gentleman. We could not help but hear their conversation at times and we kept hearing them talking about God and life in Christ.

After some time of listening we decided to politely ask about their conversation and found that the younger guy was in a christian heavy metal band, had left the traditional church a few years ago and was living outside the walls of religion like us. This was an encouragement to us because it showed us that God will bring about the people for fellowship any time and in any place.

We have met many people over the past two years who have similar tastes and interests on our path outside the walls. We have joined in with people many times at a restaurant or in our homes for fellowship and food. Most of the time it has only been 3 to 5 people, but we have had so much more meaningful fellowship with others outside of traditional church than we did sitting in the typical service.

As written in 1 Corinthians 14:26… what then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

To my wife and me the church mentioned here is not a building of four walls with a select few people running the program on a set day and time. The Church is a community of Christ followers who have a friendly relationship and associate any day, any time, any place when Christ brings them together to lift up Christ and his love, to encourage one another and to get to know the tastes and interests of each other.

communityofbelievers

Obviously fellowship can also happen with people of different tastes and interests, different faith, different lifestyles. We can be loving and accepting of all as we get to know and understand each other and treat each other with kindness, respect and friendliness.

Yet fellowship among believers is needed for us to be encouraged and built up. As mentioned in 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. This verse in no way says we must assemble in a building with a set program on a set day or led by a select group of people. This verse just means as followers of Christ we need each other. We need time together getting to know one another, build one another up in Christ and live a life that shows the world the good news of the gospel, which is that God loves each and every one of us.

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Kindness is something you do not find much of in our world today.

The Bible speaks about kindness many times. Kindness is one of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22.

The dictionary says kindness is being considerate, or helpful. I think the world be a better place if everyone treated each other with kindness. I am talking about all people, even those you do not agree with in life. Those who have different interpretations, lifestyles, sexual orientations, political stands or religious beliefs.

It usually doesn’t take a lot to be kind. Sometimes I think we make it so hard, when something as simple and easy as a genuine smile can brighten someone’s day. Being polite and kind to others can sometimes be just what they need to make their day. Holding the door for someone, letting them go ahead of you in line, smiling and saying hello… you never know.

Kindness

Simple Kindness

The little, everyday things we can do to show others kindness can be a seed planted in their lives that will one day grow and help lead them to Christ.

These days it seems we even have a hard time with Christians treating each other with kindness. We want to fight and argue over our views and interpretations and forget that as Christians, we all have the common ground of faith in Christ.

A friend of mine recently talked about relationships and how they seem to come to an end. He said it is based on what the relationship is about. If it is based on some thing or some activity, once we get tired of that particular thing and move on, the relationships based on that activity usually come to an end. I have noticed the same thing among those who attend an organized church. You may spend many years there, making many friends and being involved in all the activities. Yet once you leave, either to move to another church or to have communion outside the walls of the organization, all your friends from the old place seem to disappear also. Our friendships and relationships should be based on the common ground of faith in Christ and His grace. This should not change no matter where you go or how you participate in life as the Church.  Our love of the Father and for one another as His children should be the one thing that can hold together a friendship.

Let’s see if we can make a point of doing at least one act of kindness each day. You never know where it may lead.

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So many followers of Christ today live like they are under the Old Covenant.

We have been brought up in the religious system that seems more like a corporation rather than a community where the priesthood of all believers should be the norm. The church has a pastor, elders and deacons just like a corporation has a CEO, board of directors and operating committee.

We still have the mind-set that we are living in the Old way of doing things. A lot of us still think the church is a building we gather in and listen to a ‘chosen few’ tell us what God is saying.

We tell each other to ‘have a good Lord’s day’, thinking Sunday is the chosen day to set aside to worship God and rest.

We look to the bible like it is part of the trinity and we worship it and use it for all kinds of rule keeping, judging and condemning others.

We tithe ten percent to the church, thinking God requires it from us and if we do not give the tithe, we are robbing God.

Jesus completed the Old Covenant and brought it to an end. He made a New Covenant with his creation, which we are now living under.Old and New

Jesus is building his Church, which is made up of people, not brick and mortar. It is a community of believers with Christ as the head, and each of us equal, participating members in a loving group of people. Now that may happen anywhere and anytime; in a building, in a house, in a park, a restaurant and so on. The fact is that Church is not an organized meeting in a set place at a set time, but it is a fellowship and relationship among fellow believers, no matter if there are only two or three.

Each and every day is the day the Lord has made. Every day is holy and for resting in the work God has already done. The idea that the seventh day is holy is just not true in the New Covenant.

The bible is the inspired word of God. Although God inspired men to write, it is still a book written by men. It is the Spirit that gives life and meaning to those words. If the Spirit isn’t enlightening us and teaching us, the words do not have life.  Jesus is the living, all powerful, inerrant Word of God.

Tithing was a law given to the Jews in the old covenant. It is no longer part of the new covenant. Giving out of love as the Spirit leads is the way things are done now. God does not need our money, but giving to those who do, out of love, is a way that is pleasing to God and a help to others.

It is sad that men have continued to teach the Old Covenant way to believers today, although it is understandable. All of us alive today do not know anything different since this has been taught for hundreds of years. Not until the Spirit opens our eyes and leads us in His truth do we see this new way of living by his grace.

Seek God’s truth, ask the Spirit for guidance. Do not be condemning and argumentative towards fellow believers who see things differently, but be open to what God shows you. Do not be close-minded and continue to do things just because that is the way we have always done them.

The Spirit is within us and he is our guide into all truth. Be open to hear his voice and follow in the way he leads you. Do not be condemning towards your brothers and sisters in Christ who follow a different path. It is the same spirit that leads us, and we are all called to love one another.

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My wife and I have for years ‘gone to church’ Sunday after Sunday. 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 we were having good fellowship and teaching, learning more about God each week.

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. We were feeling a lot like what our friend Kenn Bruner said in one of his postings… people “who are tired of a predictable and ‘business as usual’ mundane and mediocre existence as a Christian; those tired of sitting in a church pew Sunday after Sunday in their “comfortable and safe” place, bored to tears”.

What we are finding is 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 true Church. It is fellow believers living daily for Christ, not a once a week trip to a building and sitting there for an hour. As Ken Eastburn said in one of his postings… “Organic house churches are different than Bible studies or small groups as to fellowship and caring for one another. Meeting together once a week to study and discuss the bible is fine, but an authentic family of God is different. It goes deeper. Coming prepared to meet the needs of others, even when it is inconvenient, demonstrates the love of Christ”.

We are followers of Christ, going about our normal daily business, living with Christ as our head….not 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, every day is the day the Lord has made. God’s house is not a building where we gather with people who believe similar to the way we believe. 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 my wife and me 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. Although we have not yet found what we are looking for, we are trusting God to lead us and bring us into a community of believers he has for us. As Dan Notti said in one of his postings… “Believe God for it. Authentic community is God’s intention for believers. He has made the provision for it through the work of his Son and the power of the Holy Spirit, and He has the patience and love to stand with us as we experiment with living into it. Can we believe him for that”?

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Have you ever passed a ‘church’ building and saw a sign out front that says ‘Everyone Welcome’?

When I see one I always wonder if they really mean what they say. I’ve seen so many congregations over the years get set in their ways and enjoy the people who are “regular’s”, 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 a few prostitutes decided to come in for a service. What if a group of homeless people walked in to hear the Sunday morning sermon? Would everyone be truly welcome?

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

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

Maybe we need to concentrate more on living in fellowship with Christ on a daily basis, loving Him and loving others, and not worry so much 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 who live for Him each and every day. 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 law and the rules and regulations. We now live under a new covenant which went into effect at the death and resurrection of Jesus. We now have the Living Word within us through the Holy Spirit. We no longer need any man to teach us the ways of God, because now the Spirit is 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 only on one day. If you are a follower of Christ, it is a daily way of live of 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 are all letting the love of God show through us so that others will be drawn to Him.

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