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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

No matter what your lifestyle, what you choose to believe, how you accept things none of us will ever completely agree with anyone else. As believers, we would not expect those who do not follow the christian faith to agree with everything we think and say. Yet, we also know that other christian people will not agree with everything either. We have so many denominations in the christian world and none of them can agree completely. But this is all OK, we are all individuals who see things differently. The last thing I want is to make people feel I expect everyone to see things my way.

I think those of us trying to follow Christ should be able to accept one another, believer and non-believer alike, talk with each other about how we see things and still be respectful and kind. We are to be known by our love, but unfortunately, that just is not the case most of the time.

No matter if we are gay, straight, christian, muslim, jew, hindu, atheist, asexual, baptist, methodist, charismatic or whatever label people put on us the underlying fact is we are all human beings. We all deserve to be treated with respect and be accepted. We each should be able to live our life and make our own choices without being condemned by others. We should be able to discuss our differences respectfully, and none of us should try to force our views and choices on another.

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of name calling and disrespect among different groups of people over time. Christian people saying God hates gays, and atheists are of the devil, people being afraid of muslims, one denomination wants nothing to do with another denomination…this is all sad and wrong.

If we could look past the labels and see each other as people who overall want the same thing, to be happy, to be loved, be healthy, get our bills paid and enjoy life I think things would be better even with our differences. This is not to say we have to agree with everyone and associate with everyone and be happy together, that just is not going to happen. There are too many different thoughts, ideas, beliefs, ways of life and personalities for us to agree on everything and be totally comfortable with everyone, yet accepting each other and respecting each other in spite of our differences certainly is a possibility.

Equals2

When you read about the life of Christ in the gospels, you see someone who loved people. He did not disassociate himself from any particular group, nor did he turn away anyone or think he was better than others. Jesus showed the love of the Father by caring for people, talking with people, eating together, healing people and not condemning them. The only crowd he had a problem with was the religious leaders of the day who thought they were so much better than everyone else because, in their view, they kept the rules. Their reasoning was they did not do the ‘wrong’ things and they did the ‘right’ things. They did not associate with the type of people they thought were less religious and unworthy of God’s love. Jesus was always getting on their case for being so religious they were of no earthly good to the Kingdom of God.

Speaking of all the different views and ways of life, I can remember when I was young and growing up in the organized church how I always stayed with people of similar belief. I do not know for sure if I was actually taught this or it was just a common belief I picked up, but I felt I needed to stay away from people of different views and ways of life. I thought it would be great to work in the church system or for a christian bookstore as a job, then spend my off-time in church services and doing church work. That way I would always being around someone who saw things pretty much the same as I did.  This way I would not have to be around ‘those’ people, whoever ‘they’ were. I still see this in the church today, a separatist mindset.

Sound familiar? So much of the traditional church setting is based on separation from those who think differently. This usually brings a feeling of superiority, being separated from those who need to see God’s love in action and living a Pharisee-type lifestyle. (Pharisee: strict observance of religious ceremonies and practices, one who adheres to laws and traditions, self-righteous or hypocritical person).

Compare that to the life of Jesus we read about in the gospels, a person who loved people, was not condemning or unkind, hung out with those who the religious crowd did not want anything to do with, spent time eating and drinking with the non-religious crowd and truly cared for others.

I know we all see things differently. We will not all agree on things and we have no way of proving our point in regard to spiritual matters. Yet I think it is time the christian ‘religion’ comes to an end and Christ-like people begin to daily show the unconditional love and acceptance of God to everyone.

Jesus said to love God and love one another. He did not say love only those who live in a way you think is right or with who you completely agree. Love people the way God loves them and agree to disagree rather than judge and condemn.

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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When we talk about loving others and accepting others, many times people think that means we agree on everything. If we accept them then we give up all our personal views and convictions and do whatever it takes to get along and live in harmony.

The truth is, that is not what is meant at all. We all know we are not going to get people to agree on everything. We are not going to get people to accept the differences among us, yet we know we can accept people even in the differences.

When we love, accept and respect people the way they are we will not always agree or condone their actions, yet we can treat each other with compassion and kindness.

It seems that many christian people forget that no matter what label we put on others, there is a human being behind that label who was created by God.

Rather than condemning or judging others based on our interpretation of the bible or based on our doctrines or personal morals, we should remember that we are all God’s creation and accept one another for that reason.

acceptothers1-11-17

When we say love and accept one another we understand that none of us are going to completely agree and live happily ever after. There will be many times we do not agree with the other person’s opinion or way of doing things. There are times we may not even like what the other person is doing, yet we can love them with a godly love that comes from the Spirit within.

 

Just because we do not agree or see things the same way, we can still accept and respect the other person. We will never live in a world where we all agree and give up our personal convictions just to get along. Yet with the power of the Spirit within us we can accept, respect and be kind to everyone realizing we are all fellow human beings wanting to live a good and happy life.

When we read about the life of Jesus we see him loving all kinds of people, treating them with respect and compassion. If we claim to be his followers, should we not do the same? Christ loved people who most religious people of the day did not want to be around. The only people he actually had problems with were the religious leaders who thought they were so much better than everyone else. Unfortunately we still see this among people today.

Christian people seem to pick out gay people to be the worst sinners around and we make atheists our enemy rather than a fellow human being. Many whites and blacks cannot get along nor can people of different religions. We have women who hate men and men who want to demean and dominate women. We seem to divide ourselves up based on the label we apply rather than seeing another human being who many times wants the same things in life we all do.

godlovesus1-11-17

When it comes to pointing out sin, I do not believe it is our job to do so. Sin is sin and God will convict people if there is sin to be dealt with through the Holy Spirit, not us. We are called to love God, which means we will live for Him and let Him work in us. We are also called to love one another, which means we pass on the unconditional love of God to all we meet along the way.

 

Rather than fighting, arguing and trying to prove our way of thinking we should follow the leading of the Spirit within for ourselves and let the other person be responsible for living their own life.

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So many times we christians get the idea that we are not supposed to associate with people who are not believers. We seem to sometimes isolate ourselves and feel the need to separate ourselves from those who see things differently.

book-store

I at one time felt the same way myself. I wanted to be in church every time the doors were open and I wanted to work for a christian book store so I would constantly be around christian people. Boy how my views have changed.

 

I have also noticed that a lot of christian people seem to have bad feelings toward those of different race, LGBT, atheist, muslim and even other christian denominations. At one church I actually saw some of the worst hatred toward the pastor of the church.

I had been involved for years in the church and around religious people. I do not want to put everyone into the same basket but there seems to be many that feel this way.

Fortunately I have had a change of mind and have come to find that separating ourselves is not what God intended for us anyway.

Jesus said he did not want to take his disciple out of the world, yet he said to come out and be separate. What was he talking about? Could it be he meant that we were to come out of the religious system and the world system and live in the Kingdom system in this world now? We know we are not to separate ourselves from those living in the world, yet we can separate ourselves from the religious and world system by allowing the Spirit to guide us, teach us and love others through us.

We know the world system is opposite from the Kingdom system. The world system is the mess we call life today under man’s rule, thinking only of ourselves, hatred, greed, worry and materialism to name a few. Or as 1 John 2:16 says, for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.

Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within you. The Kingdom of God is love. We know the Spirit of Christ came to live within us as believers and we no longer need the religious system or a building and pastor since now we are the temple and the Holy Spirit is our teacher.

Jesus did not separate himself from those who thought differently. Rather than being isolated from those who think, believe and act differently than those of us who believe in God, I feel we should be out there around those who are different and show the love of God to them.

It is just as in our personal families, there are those who have different views, different beliefs and different lifestyles yet we love them. We are to be the same with those in this world, we can have our differences yet we respect and love them anyway.

lovegodlivelikejesus

Jesus said to love God and love others. He never said we have to agree and be the same. But we are not to treat those who are different from us with any less love and acceptance. Rather than separate ourselves and make it look like we think we are better than everyone else, we should allow the Spirit to live through us showing the love of God to everyone.

 

Not everyone is going to believe like we do or accept our way of thinking. Jesus never said to only associate with like-minded people. We are to love God and love others, showing them that God loves them just as much. Whether we believe the same or not we are all humans created and loved by God. We are to let the world see the love we have for our Father and for one another remembering that Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”.

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I am becoming more and more angered over the so-called religious freedom acts being signed into law in various states across our country.

I know it sounds good, and I do believe everyone should have the freedom to choose their religious beliefs or to not accept any religious beliefs. Yet a lot of these bills sound more like discrimination to me.

When we sign into law a bill that forces one groups views on everyone, or when the religious beliefs of one group are forced on another group, that is not standing up for your faith…that is discrimination. When we can forfeit the normal human rights and privileges that everyone should be entitled too, just because they do not go along with one groups ideas of morality and normal day-to-day living, I think we have gone to far.

ReligiousFreedomAct

I can hardly believe in our modern time laws are being passed saying that if you have a certain religious belief, you do not have to give the same rights and consideration to a certain group of people just because they differ from you.

What happened to the teaching of Jesus to love our neighbors and do not judge. Do we not remember that Jesus spent time with the non-religious people and those who the religious crowd would not spend time.

We need to remember, just because people are different, just because we have different views and different faiths or no faith at all, God created us all and He loves us all. We, as his followers are to do the same.

We are not going to legislate christian morality. We are not going to convert anyone to our way of thinking by passing laws, especially those that discriminate against anyone. Remember, as christians we are to love God, love our neighbor, love our enemies, love those who hate us and mistreat us. The Holy Spirit is the one who will convict the world of sin where convicting is needed. We should stop trying to do the job of the Spirit and love one another in spite of our differences.

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With all that is going on in the news these days, especially here in the U.S., it makes a person wonder what this world is coming too.

Bruce Jenner and his gender change is getting national attention. Various police situations, the most recent being Ferguson and Baltimore are in the headlines. Racism, gay rights and many other situations are going on that seem to be escalating rather than improving.

There seems to be more and more unrest, with people getting very dissatisfied that nothing seems to be changing.

I’m not going to take up these issues directly and I certainly don’t have the answer that will satisfy everyone, but I will say that Christianity is not the answer. When I say Christianity, I’m talking about the religion with rules and regulations, do this, don’t do that, and all that comes to mind when talking about modern-day religion.

Loving and accepting others by the power of Christ from within is the only way that will make a difference.

I am disappointed to see so many people who follow Christianity being so mean and argumentative towards others who feel differently.

I see Christian people arguing, yelling at others, trying to prove their point and basically condemning them to their face. This kind of behavior certainly does not showing the love of Christ.

I personally feel that showing the love and acceptance Jesus showed to everyone he came in contact with while on earth is what is needed.

loveandacceptance

We are not called to condemn others, judge others or try to prove our point over theirs. Jesus said to love God and love others. It is not our job to judge and condemn, only to love.

That does not mean we have to agree with everyone. It doesn’t mean we condone everything others do. It just means that we can love and accept others as they are, and trust that God will bring about any changes. We are not the ones that need to point out things in others’ lives or try to force them to change. We can love them as they are and allow God to do the work.

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