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Posts Tagged ‘Ekklesia’

By Jim Gordon

Those of us who are outside the walls of religion and institutional church have found a freedom we sometimes cannot explain. At least we cannot explain it in a way that people who still attend a church building will understand.

The problem is those who still attend the traditional church do not accept the fact that everyone is different and sees things in various ways. They usually want to stay away from us or talk about how we have backslidden and fallen away from God because we do not do what we have traditionally been taught was godly.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are worshipping and loving God just as much as before only in a different way. We have not left the Church (ekklesia) but we have left the building (church). Jesus is building His Church out of ‘living stones’ not brick and mortar.

My wife and I left the church because we felt the system was not the way God intended, yet we never left the true Church which is made up of all of those who are believers.

Each of us has an equally important part to play in the body yet no one is the head or over anyone else. Each of us are kings, priests and functioning parts of the body and we are all needed and important. Of course, only Jesus is the head of his Church not a pastor.

Those of us who have left the traditional church service are often told we need to attend because we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Yet this verse does not mean we have to be in an organized, pre-planned service led by a pastor and a worship leader. It is saying we need our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether we meet on a Monday at a café, Tuesday in a home, Thursday at a bar or Friday in a park makes no difference. Jesus said for where two or three gather together in my name there I am in their midst.

For us true and meaningful fellowship happens each and every day when God brings us together with a brother or sister, or when we meet up with another couple for dinner. It also may be a time of one-on-one fellowship online with a brother hundreds of miles away yet bonded closely through the Spirit.

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We are so conditioned to think of the church building and its events and happenings as the main way of fellowship and learning. Although we are told in the bible that when we come together each of us should have a word, or a song, or a praise. How often does that happen within the institutional church? Yet being outside the walls my wife and I have found this to be the norm. We all talk, we encourage one another, learn about each other, pray for one another and we support and care for each other. Fellowship is everyone having a part to play and everyone being open and talking about what God is to them. Sitting quietly in a church service does not fulfill what God intended fellowship to be among his children.

We should remember that rather than having a feeling of ‘us vs them’ mentality those of us who used to be part of the institutional church should also keep in mind that those who attend church are doing so because they love God and think they are doing the right thing. We are all children of God, whether we are in the institutional church or out of it. We are all parts of the Church that Jesus is building.

For those still attending, most do not think about how the system is wrong and is not what God intended for His people. After all, this is all we have known all our lives. We have been taught all along that this is God’s plan for us, to assemble together in a building, pay our tithes and look to the pastor as God’s spokesperson. I know I believed this for many years while within the system.

As people of God we are to love God and love others. We cannot do that in our own strength it is by the power of the Spirit within us. The sad thing is we should not have a problem loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet sometimes it seems we have more trouble loving those who are part of a tradition that we no longer feel is right, but are still followers of the same God we love.

I pray that all of us can keep in mind that we are children of God, saved by grace and living in His kingdom now. Whether we are ‘in church’ or outside the walls, let us focus on our love of the Father and for one another. The world needs to see the love of God in action among His children. They do not need to see arguing, fighting and disrespect that is so familiar among Christians today.

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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

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.

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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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by Jim Gordon

Several of my past articles have mentioned modern day church and how it is off base from what it was intended. I want to make clear that I am not against church, but I also want to make clear what I mean when I say church.

Normally when the word church is mentioned, we think of a building we go to on a certain day to learn about and worship God. We also think in terms of how much we go to church as being a guide to how spiritual we are, or how close we are to God. We think of the doctrines, rules and regulations placed on us by the church as ways to make us better Christians.

Church

I think we need to reset our thinking. The Church is not a building. The Church is the bride of Christ, all of us who are saved by grace. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The building is just a place where we can meet and conduct spiritual meetings. It is another place to enjoy christian fellowship. Rather than see church as a place we go, we are to be the Church daily living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and showing the love of God to all people.

Another area where we confuse the meaning of words is in regard to the word of God. When we talk about the word of God we usually think of the Bible. The Bible is inspired by God, but the true living Word of God is Jesus. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus is the Word of God.

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Far to often we christians put too much emphasis on the Bible, sometimes even thinking of it as part of the trinity. Remember it is not Father, Son and Holy Bible. Again, the Bible is written by men but is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. It is certainly profitable to read the Bible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but we need to focus on the fact that the Word of God is alive and living within each of us as followers of Christ.

Although it may seem unimportant on how we think of church or the Bible, I think it is very important that we understand what is really meant. The old mindset of a building and a book need to be replaced with the fact that the Church are those of us who are redeemed through the blood of Christ and the Word of God is Christ Himself, alive and living within us.

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As someone who has grown up in organized religion, I can honestly say that the institutional church has fallen way off course. What we call church today many times seems more like a large corporation run by a CEO and executive board.

We seem to be more focused on our programs, building bigger buildings, having a bigger and better worship band, getting on radio or TV and being a step ahead of the church down the street.

Variousbeliefs

Our churches today are so divided by denominations, doctrines and biblical interpretations that it seems we fight among ourselves more than anything. Many places there is literally a church building every mile or two from each other yet we cannot come together and our world continues to get worse and worse.

It amazes me how upset and defensive people can get when you mention that going to church is not a requirement. They seem to forget that the church is not a building and is not a place we go to, but the Church is the body of believers. Usually the first verse that is quoted when we talk about not going to church is Hebrews 10:25 – not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Nowhere does this verse say that we have to assemble in a building on a certain day at a certain time. Nowhere does it say we have to have a pastor to teach us, or a worship band to lead us in praise and worship.

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

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

Going to an organized religious building is not wrong, but we should call it what it is. The church building that people go to once a week is a place where the members of the Church get together. The Church are those of us who are saved through faith in Christ.

TheLoveofGod

So often we Christians can get more involved with the things about Christ, the services, the meetings, the up-keep of a building and the money to keep the bills paid that we lose sight of our first love. Jesus is the head, He is to have the preeminence. We should be putting our focus on Christ, loving Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and loving others with the love of God.

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

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For those of us who have left the traditional church system, there can be times of discouragement, questioning and just plain not knowing what to do. Do not feel guilty for having such feelings.

I know that my wife and myself became fed up with the religious church system after spending over fifty years in it. Week after week we went to a pre-planned service, sat and watched only a few select people participate and listened to one person talk and tell us about God.

If was obvious there was a divide, a group of people who participated and a group of people who sat and listened. I remember thinking how spiritual the leaders of the church must be and how knowledgeable they were to hold positions in the church. I always thought I had nothing to say that would be important or helpful and I was so thankful for the pastor and the elders who seemed to have it all together.

As time went on I began wondering about certain verses in the bible that talked about each person having a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.

Or what about verses talking about us as living stones being built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. To me this says that all Christians are a holy priesthood and can offer spiritual sacrifices to God. All have the right to go directly to God through Jesus Christ our High Priest.

We are told that we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people that we may proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

All these verses and many others sure sounded to me that we were all capable, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, to be equals with all others who followed Christ. All can serve and fulfill a purpose in the Kingdom of God.

My wife and I came to believe that the divide we see in the Christian church was really very unbiblical. There are no first and second-class citizens of the Kingdom. There should not be a clergy-laity divide within the true Church that God is building through Christ.

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We were always taught that the church, the brick and mortar building people attend once a week, was the house of God. Yet the bible says that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of God is within us.

Finally making the choice to leave the church system, we decided to walk with God outside the walls of religion. This of course is a very unpopular decision in the Christian world. People have lost friends and fellowship with other believers because of this choice because those who are in the system feel leaving it is wrong.

I have heard of many people after leaving became known as back-sliders, people fallen from their faith and who have lost their relationship with God. When people find out we no longer attend a church they do their best to reason with us and try to get us back in line and back in the church system.

After three years being out of the institutional church, neither of us want to go back. We have found a freedom to live with God apart from the denominational requirements, various doctrines, the many man-made ways of following God and the thousands of interpretations of the bible that differ from church to church.

Over time God has brought people into our lives in ways we never expected. We are finding many new relationships online with people who have also left the church system. Fellowship is needed among us followers of Christ but that does not have to be done in a building on a set day and being face to face. In fact, we have had more meaningful relationships being outside of church then we did in it including online and face-to-face fellowship.

MindofChrist

If we believe the Holy Spirit lives within us, that we have the mind of Christ, and that the kingdom of God is within us then we need no man to teach us. The Spirit will guide each of us in the way he has for us to go. We are not going to all agree and walk in perfect agreement, but God leads each of us on separate paths yet leads us all into a close fellowship with Him.

For those with young kids it can be even more troubling because you are not sure what to do with the kids. Yet I believe that God will guide you and bring ways of showing the love of God to your kids whether it be in a group or in your family at home. I do not want to give out ideas for you to try because I believe the Spirit of God will guide and direct you in the way you are to go in teaching your children.

I do believe that God is big enough and personal enough to guide us outside the traditional church and the clergy system we have all know all our lives. It is a difficult road to go but it certainly seems to me a much better way to follow God and live for Him.

What decision you make in regard to attending church or walking outside the walls, remember both groups are children of God and trying to follow Him the way they feel is best. In church or out of church we all make up The Church, each of us equally important and equally able to let God love through us.

Focus of following God in the way he leads you, love others equally, do not think more highly of yourself than of others. Be open to let God lead you on the path he has for you whether it is in traditional religious ways or the unpopular way of living outside the walls of church and religion. Love and accept others as they are and let the love of God touch everyone you meet along the way.

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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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