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Posts Tagged ‘institutional church’

by Jim Gordon

Does it not seem strange that in the christian church world we are told we are to love others, yet when we come to a difference of opinion or a change in views in our beliefs, christians can be the first to throw a stone?

We hear about fairly well-known individuals within the church system say they have changed their views and no longer accept some of the teachings they grew up with in the church. They are not necessarily saying they are walking away from God but they are walking away from many things they have been told about God they no longer accept.

When this happens, usually other christians are the first to judge and condemn these individuals rather than try to accept them and find out exactly what is going on. Their first thought is they are leaving their complete belief and faith in God.

Many times, this is not what the person is saying anyway. Leaving religious teachings of the church is not leaving God. In fact, many times leaving some of these teachings behind is just the beginning of a deeper walk with God.

I grew up in the traditional church setting and I had many good times there. I met a lot of nice people and learned many things about God. The thing is the church as we know it was never what God intended. Church is not a place or an organization, it is the people who love God and love, support and encourage one another.

The church today seems more like a corporation with the CEO and board of directors. I know there are a lot of good people within the church system. They love God and want to live their life for him. Yet for my wife and I, we became disenchanted with the religious system and felt there was a better way for us to live for God, which was outside the walls of religion and the human-led system of church each week.

We felt that since the Spirit lives within us there is no need for a middle-man (pastor) to lead and teach us. If the Spirit of God actually lives within us, why do we so often depend on a human being to lead and teach us?

I certainly do not want to make anyone feel bad if they are still a part of the institutional church. They are like I used to be and feel that was the best way to show love for God and learn about God. I would not tell anyone they should leave the system, although for my wife and I we certainly do believe it was the best thing for us.

Whether you are in the church system, questioning the church system or have left it, the main focus should be to love God and love one another. Doing so fulfills all the law and the prophets (as Matthew 22:35-40 explains). Of course, we know that the law no longer needs to be fulfilled but at the time Jesus taught this he was living under the law. Now that grace has been applied, we no longer live by the law but by love.

Leaving the institutional church or changing and deconstructing your religious views and interpretations do not mean you are leaving God. Rather than jump on board with those who judge and condemn, take a little bit and find out more about what is going on. Then remember we are all at a different place on the path as we follow Jesus. Pray for one another, encourage and support one another but do not beat one another up as we each try to follow Jesus as we feel led.

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by Jim Gordon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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by Jordan Hathcock

“When our institutions lack movement to propel them forward, the Spirit, I believe, simply moves around them, like a current flowing around a rock in a stream…without that soul work that teaches us to open our deepest selves to God and ground our souls in love, no movement will succeed and no institution will stand.”-Brian McLaren

It looks like we have come to the undeniable crosswords between the institutional church and the movements that have shifted forward. Ever since Jesus started a movement within the Jewish institution in Jerusalem 2,000 plus years ago, this “odd couples” relationship seemed doomed from the start. Both sides of the spectrum will have their reasons why one cannot work attached to the other. Do we have to let go of one to allow the other to flourish?

Without letting my bias opinion get in the way here, I would like to propose that both the institutional church and the movements that come out of it, can work together to bring about the shalom Christ attended all along. Unfortunately, when I hear some type of sympathy for the *Western* (just to get a little more specific) institutional church, I cringe! The numerous stories and historical proof of the pain and horrible damage the institutional church in the past two thousand plus years has done, it’s hard not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Here are just some reminders of what I am referring to:

– Religious wars

– Slavery

– Colonization

– Witch Trials/Burnings

– Racism

– Inquisitions

– Antisemitism

– LGBTQ+ inequality

– Nationalism

– Consumerism

– Environmental Destruction

This is just some of the systemic issues the institutional church has produced. How this has negatively affected groups, communities and individuals is catastrophic when comparing it to the Spirit of love and wholeness that the movement Jesus produced and represented. It’s more like we are participating in damage control instead of producing new ways to bring about healing and liberation.

What are we to do with this? Can we really see a healthy “marriage” between the institution and the movement? I believe we can. Here are some amazing examples of when the institution and movement worked together to bring about the kin-dom—God’s liberated, the liberation of God at work among people, the good news for those who suffer at the hands of kings–of love:

– Abolishment of Slavery– Although many Enlightenment philosophers opposed slavery, it was Christian activists, attracted by strong religious elements, who initiated and organized an abolitionist movement. [1]

– Civil Right Movement– Spearheaded by a Baptist minister, Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed that “any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that scar the soul, is a spirituality moribund religion.” [2]

– Hospitals and Hospice Movements- The second great sweep of medical history begins at the end of the fourth century, with the founding of the first Christian hospital at Caesarea in Cappadocia, and concludes at the end of the fourteenth century, with medicine well ensconced in the universities and in the public life of the emerging nations of Europe The first hospice was set up by Christian nuns in 1900 Ireland. [3]

These are just a few of the examples when people within the institutional church decide to take a stand and move toward compassion in action to ignite a shift towards peace and love. It has and can work. We are seeing several Christian Denominations (brick and mortar institutions) coming together to welcome and affirm the LGBTQ+ community into the church. We are seeing Christian clergy standing by the Black Lives Matter movement. Look, I know this relationship has a long way to go. But we cannot deny that by working together, we are seeing this partnership make a difference for the better.

In conclusion, let me just point out two verses from the Christian scriptures that Jesus, at first, seems to totally contradict himself:

“Believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Vs.

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Not to get to long winded here but let me just point out that both statements from Jesus are true. Yes, it doesn’t matter if you worship (to adore) here or there (building or beach) because the church is not a building or a beach: it’s us! We are living stones building up the New Jerusalem that is coming down to our reality in the here and now.

We have resources that we all need to make this kingdom reality happen. This comes in all types of “institutional/movements” shapes and sizes. It comes in building funds so we can produce possible food shelters for the homeless. It comes sometimes just from those individuals own time and effort when standing with activists for social justice causes.

In the end, we are all human looking to bring about what we believe the True Human started over two millennials’ ago. We will always have the more conservative or liberal approach to the Christ-vision. Let’s trust that we will ALL listen to the call of honesty and authenticity in discovering the fruit of our vision in action…

“The movement we need is not like a wave whose incoming is inevitable and we just need to catch it. It’s more like a ship that can be built from available materials: if we catch the desire for adventure, get organized, and collect and fashion the materials, we can soon set sail.” [4]

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by Jim Gordon

Since doing the article on abuse in the church I have come across several people who have left the church system but not because of abuse. Unfortunately, abuse does happen and it is terrible especially within a place that should be known for its love.

Yet, even more than stories of abuse the one comment that seems to keep being said is that ‘I left because something just did not seem to be right. I felt there had to be more’.

I think this is a common feeling among those of us who have attended church for some time and have seen some things that just do not make sense. Sitting in a service once a week looking at the back of someone’s head does not make a lot of sense when in the bible we are told when we come together each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. Yet that does not happen. We all sit quietly listening to one person participate.

BetheChurch

God said he is building his Church from living stones, or in other words from us. Church is people. It is not a building nor an organization. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and if the Spirit of Christ lives within us, why are we just sitting letting only a few participate?

Many people are coming to the realization that the organization we know as church is flawed and not what God intended. We seem to be putting our focus on the pastor and the organization rather than emphasizing the Spirit of Christ who lives within us. We are to allow him to love others through us as we go about our daily lives. People are getting tired of just sitting along the sidelines when we can walk daily with the Spirit of Christ walking with us.

The Church that God is building is a living organism, many people making up one body under the headship of Christ. The church that many attend is an organization made of brick and mortar, doctrines and denominations and led by human beings. Many good things happen in the church building but the body of Christ is an active, living body where everyone has an equal part to play. Rather than attend a pre-planned service once a week we are to be living daily under the guidance of the Spirit. It is by his power from within that we can show the love of God to everyone we meet.

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by Jim Gordon

Have you been hurt by the church? Have you been abused within the church? I know many have and that is terrible, but there are many more who have not. My wife and I are a couple of the many who were never abused or hurt within the church but we still left. There are many of us who have left the system, not due to abuse or hurt but we have come to see the system as flawed. We have come to find a better way to express our love for God and for our fellow mankind. For us it is walking outside the walls of religion yet following the example of Jesus by loving God and loving people, all without an ulterior motive of getting people to church. Do you have a similar story? If so we would be glad to hear about your steps to leaving the system. Feel free to post your comments below.

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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

It is sad that Christianity is divided into so many different groups. We all have a little different interpretation of the bible and a little different understanding of doctrine. Obviously we are not going to agree on everything, but we certainly should be able to love one another and accept each other even when we differ on these things.

It is hard to understand why this happens when God tells us we are to be one as Jesus and the Father are one. Yet, we understand that we are human and it is easy to lose sight of our first love. If we could only stay focused on Christ, listening for his voice and the guidance of the Spirit, loving God and loving others as God intended, then we could look past our differences and accept one another.

acceptOneAnotherNew2019The problem seems to be that we are unwilling to see any other viewpoint other than our own. There are those such as my wife and I that do not attend an organized church. There are those who attend a church every time the doors are open. Some attend a house church, some meet with fellow believers at cafe’s, parks or restaurants and others meet in their homes over dinner. We should accept these differences and love one another rather than argue over who is right and who is wrong.

There really is not a right or wrong way to assemble together and we need to stop expecting everyone to do things exactly the same way. We should respect others views and focus on loving them rather than expecting them to see things our way.

Things will not change until we start focusing on what is common in our lives rather than the differences. The common focus should be on Christ, the head of the body. After that we should focus on loving others rather than arguing about the differences in interpretation.

We also need to keep in mind that we are all constantly changing as God brings new truth to us. We are all learning and changing as we are ready to accept new truths. The interpretations I had five years ago are completely different from some of the interpretations I have now. I am sure in another five years they will change again as God leads me into more truth.

Sometimes we are afraid to accept others interpretations because we feel if we do not hold to our way of thinking we are compromising and not standing up for what we believe. We do not have to give up how we interpret the bible, but neither should we think everyone else is wrong. Besides, we really are not responsible for convicting people of sin,  leading them into truth or even saving them. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. We are told to love God and love others.

When we realize we are each equally important functioning parts of the body, and Christ is the head, we can start to change how we feel about those who do not see things exactly the way we do. We can begin to accept our brothers and sisters in Christ just as they are as we realize we are walking as one together with God.

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