Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Will They Know?

Since leaving church, I have realized in an ever increasing way just how much I relied upon a lot of "stuff" that goes along with church attendance and the so-called Christian "lifestyle" to form the major part of my Christian witness in the world. So when I did make the decision to leave, one of the first thoughts I had was "what will people think?" Not what will other Christians think, but what will non-Christians think? Will they assume that I have lost my faith? That I have backslidden?

When I told my family, they were quite taken aback. I tried to explain as best as I could. But it is tricky, as none of them are believers. I for sure didn't want them to think that I no longer wanted to be a Christian. But so much of the reputation and understanding of what a Christian is is wrapped up in oft-church-going. And I was one of the most oft! Usually I went to four services a week. My family, and lots of other people, commented on how strange it was for someone to go to church so often. I used to tell them it wasn't because I had to go, but because I wanted to go. And I did want to. Then.

The popular concept of a "good" Christian would certainly include faithful church attendance. Also being involved in a Bible study. And not smoking, or drinking, or swearing. Or going to racey movies, or going to bars, or bingo, or gambling casinos, and the list could go on and on. But that’s not right, either. There are plenty of people who fit the bill in that regard, and yet aren't followers of Jesus Christ. They do all the right things, and live morally upstanding lives, but they are still outside of Christ.

I came across this little blurb today. I had written it several years ago, just rambling on to get things off my chest.

"Aren’t we supposed to be fools for Christ? What good do we do if we just huddle together like a bunch of sheep, never saying anything, or doing anything that might be different? Everything nowadays in the church is all polished and predictable, so religious a lot of the time. Even the way we talk to one another, and the way we talk to God, when we pray. I keep comparing it to how it must have been in the days of the apostles. What would they think of us today? They might not even recognize us as Christians, we are so worldly, so dispassionate about Christ. We are either on some emotional band-wagon or other, or we sit around discussing doctrine, like it was some kind of scientific theory. We try to keep one foot in the world, and one foot in the Kingdom. But it can’t be done. So then we are miserable. And no wonder. He didn’t save us to become some kind of hybrid born-again religion. He has given us eternal life, yet we live as if this life here is all we have. This life here is nothing! When I was first saved, I looked around, and wondered where all these Christians had been all my life. Surely if they felt as exited as I did, they should have been a lot more evident. But it seemed as thought they only ‘came out of the closet’ on Sundays, and on Wednesday nights. The rest of the time they just went about like regular people. You couldn’t really tell them apart from the rest of the world. But I just knew there must be more to being a Christian than what I was doing. Shouldn’t my life make a difference? I want it to make a difference. Or else what is the point of my living it? Even before I was saved, I had a yearning to make a difference, somehow. And now I have a reason, the best reason in the world, to make a difference. I can make a difference for God’s kingdom, I can make a difference for His Name’s sake. What else are we here for? God is working His purpose in us, so we will work it out for Him. He shows us truth, He changes our heart, He changes us inside, so that we will behave differently outside. Otherwise we are just hiding our light under a bushel. It is not meant to be hidden."

It seems that even back then I was questioning, and frustrated. So tell me, how will they know? How will they know that I love Jesus? How will they see a difference in my life, if I'm no longer talking about church and Bible study? If they run into me in the grocery store on a Sunday morning, will they assume that I'm backslidden, or that because I don't go to church I don't love God any more? I think I know what the answer is. The answer is that the love of Christ will be evident in my life; my love for Him, His for me, and His for them. If I cultivate that relationship, and make seeking Him and knowing Him my highest priority. If I hide His word in my heart, and ask daily and hourly and moment by moment for grace to be faithful to what He has called me to be.

This is an important issue to me. I am more concerned about what non-believers think than what other Christians think of my leaving church. Have you ever wondered about this? What conclusions have you come to?


Adam said...

You have discovered exactly what the un-saved should see in us. Jesus!

This will either attract or repel them.

The "Church" or "church" in any form, shape, or connotation is the greatest deception that satan has used to delude and confuse those who would follow Christ.

Those outside look at the rot and hypocrisy within and laugh or are put off.

Those within are of two types , goats and sheep. It makes the goats feel they are pleasing God and it diverts the sheeps attention from feeding from the Tree of life to feeding from the myriad flavors of "Christianity". It leads the sheep into pastures that tend to fatten them for the kill, (Well at least a fleecing! :-) ) rather than bringing them into the freedom of captivity by God. Oh what a rest!

Do you know of any "Church" or "church" or whatever that is known by the lost because they say "Look, those must be followers of Jesus. See how they love one another."? If your answer is "No" then you will have to understand that they are not a group of followers of Jesus. Or you must deny Jesus' own words - something that a lot of doctrinal police seem to be good at! Notice I am not saying that there are no true believers in their midst.

In His parable of the tares and wheat, Jesus tells us that the sorting will be done by angels at the right time. That sorting is happening now. The gathering up of the tares for burning is the congregating of people into "churches".

If you hearing Him call you out please obey! Revelation 18v4.

Stop using the word "church" to describe anything to do with true believers. It is a satanic word and is not a translation of the Greek word "ecclesia" as found in the original N.T. manuscripts.

Satanic! Isn't that a bit over the top! No! Anything that twists the meaning of the original is from that source.

Whilst "church" is a totally foreign word to the scriptures there are other words that also twist the meaning of the original.
Some of these are; pastor(s) - the true english is "shepherd". Ask why is it pastor in 1 place only (ASV) and sheherd(s) over 140?; Deacon - this is merely servant or waiter; Bishop - this is "someone who looks out for you" (like a big brother?); Minister - this also means servant! How many ministers are really servants, both in government and the "church2 they are the top dogs.

There are more words that have twisted scripture to read like God approves of heirarchy etc. This happened because King James instructed the translators to do so in order to fool his subjects into submission even thru' religion!

So those who try to be church, fix church, re-invent church, do it another way etc. will inevitably still be or have church. It's the nature of the beast.

Church is not broken! Unfortunately.

It works only too well to keep the sheep in bondage. After all the word religion is from the Latin - to bind again. To paraphrase Paul to the Galatians "Why on Earth would you want to be "bound again" to the church when you have experienced freedom in Christ".

Let those who have ears to hear, hear.

a brother

Maureen said...

Yes there are certainly true believers that meet in the buildings we call "churches". I have met many that love God, and each other. The lost may not see this love displayed inside the building, but they should see it when we are out and about everywhere else. I have no way of judging if that is evident to them or not.

I do see evidence of ridicule of the "church" and there is plenty of reason for that. Of course, satan loves to highlight the fall of well known Christians in the media. You certainly don't see the love of Christians for one another highlighted there, but we know how little we can trust the media to bring a true picture of anything.

I appreciate your comments Adam. I do believe God is calling people out, but I hesitate to say that those He hasn't called out yet are tares. Perhaps He will leave some inside, and perhaps He will use them as He breaks down barriers within that institution to minister and evangelize and bind up the broken hearted.

Let's not forget that God works all things together for good, for His purposes and our sanctification. Let's not forget the "good" that has come out of this institution, i.e. much godly thought and wisdom, revivals and souls won by the preaching of God's word. He has His sheep there too, and will use them for His glory.

Yes it is fascinating to study the historical events leading up to what church is today. It would seem that "pure religion" has been twisted into something quite the oppostite to what Christ intended for His people. But I am happy to say that it ain't over yet. Let's keep praying for His kingdom to come, and His will to be done.

Blessings to you my brother.

Adam said...

Hey! Maureen,

Just some observations - NOT criticisms!!

I agree that God may tell some to stay within religion. I personally can't think of a reason :-).

You said "Let's not forget the "good" that has come out of this institution, i.e. much godly thought and wisdom, revivals and souls won by the preaching of God's word."

Well do you know that possibly more people have been trully saved in the trenches of warfare than in any modern church? But let us not look at numbers, let's look at the principle. If people are saved in the trenches of warfare, by the logic of your statement, then wars are worth having and we should have them all the time!!

Another analogy would be to say that Hitler should have won WW2 then we may have had more Corrie Ten Booms!

God does work all things to the good of those that love Him. And yes He allows satan to be caught in his own traps. The death of Jesus on a Cross being the greatest example. Praise Jesus!
So God uses satan's worst to turn it to God's advantage. So being "saved" in church is one example of this.

For every Spirit breathed Truth that has been spoken in church, how many thousand lies abound?

Only a dead or near dead thing needs reviving. The Body of Christ has never been sick nor dead.

Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God. It has come! We just need to start living in it instead of the church (Christendom).

Bless you too.

a brother

William said...

Adam makes a good point - church is not broken; it is functioning just as Satan inteneded it to. It's humming along like a well oiled machine!

Regarding your comment Maureen - that you don't understand, now, how you can be an obvious witness, since you are out of the church, which provided a label for your life -; on this, allow me to share the following points:

George Barna, the statistician, maintains that the local church has no influence on the culture anymore. That certainly seems to be true in the U.S.A. Consequently, believing that participation in church is influencing people around you is possibly, or probably, wishful thinking. Ask yourself, how much does you local body of Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses influence your personal decisions and thinking? So, does the average Christian church and church Christian have more influence? Barna says no.

In coming out, we have made a good first step, and I think it remains unclear how God will use us now as salt and light. In my case, I think my saltiness can only improve, since being a church Christian was not making me very acceptable, influential or impressive to people around me. I have long understood that about myself, but was powerless to effect change. Perhaps now, God will be free to create in me the image he wanted to begin to create 38 years ago, before I made the mistake of starting to attend church.

Maureen said...

Adam and give me lots to think about. Perhaps I struggle with the thought of so many true believers remaining in church. And the fact that I did benefit very much from excellent teaching that I received there. I am not saying that church hasn't become a structure unto itself, apart from anything God intended. I just wonder about those remaining. God does not abandon them. They are still His children, and He continues to work in their hearts and in their lives. I was myself content in "church" for some years before my spirit began to struggle against it.

So what about those who are content there now? If you had tried to convince me of these things 2 years ago, I don't think I would have given you the time of day. It wasn't until God led me out of church that I started to learn the facts around how it evolved to its present state, and I then understood the reasons for my frustration. He opened my eyes, and gave me a holy discontent. I believe it has to be His work. And in saying that, I realize why I think IC continues; it must be His will. Else wouldn't He put these things on every believer's heart? Or is it a matter of maturity, or depth of passion, or lack of contentment with religion? I am confused by the fact that there is such a huge gap between those who go and those who don't. I have talked to lots of people, and most don't get where I am coming from at all. This includes godly people, who love Jesus Christ and truly want to follow Him.

William you make good points regarding the church's ineffectiveness. I don't think any unbelievers that I know were intrigued by my church-going. In fact, I think it was a hindrance to their taking the rest of my witness seriously. Perhaps churchianity has done the reputation of Christianity more harm than good.

Thanks for your thoughts. It is good to talk about these things. They consume my thinking whenever I allow them too, and if I could I would spend more time delving into them.

Be encouraged today, as you keep seeking Truth in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Bino M. said...

I can relate to so many of your struggles. I had been to all these but I would say we don't have to make a conscious effort to be 'different' or to be 'christian'. Bible says, He is faithful to complete his work he has begun in us. It is Him doing the work and we are at rest.

Talking about church, regardless of the size, shape and location of the building, you will see certain level of bondage in all of it. There is no real solution for that. At the end of the day what matters the most is our relationship with Christ Jesus, nothing else. Faith expressing itself through love is what matters. If the building is a hindrance for it, we may avoid it.

After all, "Head" is much more significant than the "body".

Maureen said...

Thanks Bino. You are right, it is our relationship with Christ that matters. If that is on track, then His grace will be evident in our lives, and we will walk in the direction that will be most fruitful.

Anonymous said...

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, . . . ." Revelation 3:20

The church at Laodicea had to be told that Jesus was no longer inside. By now he was outside, standing at their door, knocking, asking to be welcomed back in. I wonder when he left them. I wonder why they didn't notice. I wonder how they responded when they heard this knock on their door. I hope they ran to the door and threw it wide open.

It would not be a waste of time for every church board -- elders, deacons, whatever -- to take one hour out of all the many hours they spend together and devote just one hour to these questions:

What are the unmistakable signs of Jesus' presence in a church, according to Scripture?

What evidences do we see here among us of his wonderful presence?

Is his presence as powerfully real now as it has been in the past?

If not, how quickly, how practically and how radically can we run to the door and open it up again?