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Posts Tagged ‘institutional church’

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.

Church1a

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

We hear the word fundamentalism a lot 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.

Fundamentalism

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 am letting all those questions come out and seeking 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 and 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 His likeness and are loved by Him.

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 that lives within us. Learn to hear his voice and let your life be a daily communication of his love to others.

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After many years of growing up in the traditional institutional church many things have changed over the past few years.

Of course, while in the religious system I was ‘set apart’ from the supposedly wrong kind of people. We had our friends within our particular brand of religion and tried to stay away from people who saw things differently.

We were told it was best to associate with like-minded people and fellow believers who agreed with our doctrines and interpretations, but beware of people who have different beliefs or who came from difference faiths or, worse yet, no faith at all.

After over fifty years in organized religion my wife and I came to a point where we felt it best to leave the system and follow a life with God outside of organized religion.

I would not tell anyone to do this or try to draw anyone out of church if that is where they are happy and satisfied. I personally believe the system is flawed and for those who choose to do so, it is better outside the walls than in. But that is a decision I would leave to each person to make under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I can say for us, after leaving we have been happy with the life we have found. We have freedom to follow the Spirit as he guides us. We rely on him rather than putting our faith and trust in a pastor or some spiritual leader. We have found more meaningful fellowship as God brings people into our lives to actually talk rather than sitting quietly in a service looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us.

After going through the process of leaving and starting to write on Done with Religion, I have had the opportunity to meet many new people from various walks of life, various faiths and religious beliefs. I have met many nice people that are LGBT and atheists as well and I am so glad to have done so.

Equals2

It seems to me being open to being friends with all people is so much better and interesting than feeling we are some kind of holy people who should stay away from others. It does not take long to realize that the labels that are placed on others do not completely described the person behind it.

Obviously, we are not going to agree on many subjects yet we can look past those differences and find many things we do share in common. We all want to have a meaningful, purposeful life. We all want love and friendship. We all want to get our bills paid, enjoy life and be happy. We all have causes and interests we want to promote and be successful at doing.

So rather than thinking you have to stand your ground on certain topics and separate yourself from others, look past those things and see the fellow human being in each person you meet. It seems much better to enjoy the friendships of all kinds of people in this life rather than let the differences separate 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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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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So often when we talk about leaving church, people usually misunderstand why we made such a decision.

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

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

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

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

Churchislifestyle

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

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

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

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

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This hit me one evening as my wife and I sat listening to one of our grandsons play in the school concert band. The band was an example of what the Church should look like. When I say Church I do not mean a building under the direction of a pastor but a community of believers, each with a part to play under the guidance of Jesus.

There were many people from many different backgrounds playing various instruments. As they played different songs some of them moved to another instrument playing two or three different instruments.

Each participated using the talents they were given. They blended together as a unit when they were under the leadership of the director.

Concert Band

If only one person played and all the others just sat there, we would be missing out on a beautiful sound. Or if each person played what they wanted, separately doing it their own way we would get many people playing different tunes and styles without direction. It would sound terrible.

Even though each individual had their own gifts and part to play, they all kept their eyes on the director who brought it all together in perfect harmony.

As the Church, each of us come from many different backgrounds. We all have a gift, talent or various talents given to us by the Spirit. We have different parts to play but each of us participates.

Imagine if we all came together and only one person participated. We would be missing out on a beautiful experience of the complete body participating and using their God-given talents for the good of the group.

Church is not a place to go where everyone sits down and just listens to one person, but it is people who are equally functioning parts of the body under the direction of Jesus who is head of the body.

Each of us make up the body of Christ, and as we keep our eyes on the director, Jesus, he will bring everything together in perfect harmony for the good of the body.

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