HOW MODERN CHRISTIANITY VIEW CHURCH
WAKING up this morning, I quickly picked up my bible and had a time to meditate on the Lord’s teachings. This wonderful act had been erased from my heart years back when activities replaced my passion for God’s presence. I had narrated everything that Sunday to my wife but she laughed uncontrollably, explaining that I went to invite Oliver but my intentions ‘re thwarted: I was the one who was being lectured.
For sure; as always as it had been years back, each morning I spent in God’s presence was always relieving. ‘Sometimes’, my day didn’t seem to go bad. I wondered if I misunderstood all that Oliver enlightened me on that day. It sounded good though, but something extra was missing. Within the next two weeks, my faithfulness in meeting the Lord every morning was wiped by excessive work at church. I wondered if I was getting distracted by church activities and if it had caused all those enigmatic experiences upon me. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore, so I had hurried quickly one Monday morning, which was five months since I had talked with Oliver, and I found out that he wasn’t at the coffeeshop where I first met him.
Expectedly, the overall leader of the church raged at me for my unseriousness and lack of commitment to the institution. He further explained that he’s going to withdraw my paycheck from been given me. I had no word in mouth. Though, it sounded like a threat, I had something in mind – I had to talk to Oliver before things become worse. And frighteningly, it had gotten to three months after the incident which occurred between the pastor and me. Weeks had added again, and here I was scanning every place just to find him before I gave up the thought of finding him, in awareness that he might not be real. Was he really? Or was that my impression?
Really I was wrong. Oliver had gone to Oxford from Alabama to spend the holiday with Carlie, his wife. Later he returned after 3 months and already, had freshen up. With some interest and furstration welling within me. I searched for him and found him in the home of a couple who ceased to attend our church. Rumors had spread that they never attended any church again. Maybe Oliver must have lighted them all!
“What are you doing here, Bob?” he asked with such broad smile.
“Not good, Oliver,” I replied. “Everything went bad and I don’t know what next to do.”
“Perhaps, you think you don’t,” he expressed, increasing my frustration. “But, what happened?”
It took me a long while before I became free from that frustration; then, I began explaining the events which occurred in the last 5 months.
“It was that bad?”
“Yes it was. The pastor cautioned that since I ain’t ready to work for God, my monthly payment won’t be given me and I would be withdrawn from being senior pastor. It somehow makes me frustrated when I imagine that such little mistake could lead to such fatal punishments. When I apologized, he said my sin was exactly unforgivable.”
“Whew? It was even worse. I confess I was provoked and decided leaving the church would be a very good option.”
“When you explained to him that you would abandon the church, what did he say?”
“Nothing else!” I replied. “He only said he would find someone else to do the work better. It seemed like I aint capable of working for God.”
“Does that sound like a work for Christ’s sake or mechanical assignment to work harder for a pay?”
Oops! The way Oliver asked that made me a bit uncomfortable and I had no reply for it. He waited me out in silence. I finally found my mouth to speak what I thought was best.
“Maybe the man is just looking for someone to place guilt on!” I guessed. But Oliver didn’t still say anything. My mind explained that I hadn’t answered him yet. So I said again,
“It looks like forcing someone to work harder to pull God’s hand – ”
“Which in the true expression is mechanical,” he interrupted, completing my unfinished sentence. “The life of the church is filled with unforgivable errors, yet Christ forgave us all. The hurt which you caused doesnt look like a hurt to me. That which Dale said was unforgivable was in preparation to something great. The more you think that God’s Spirit is limited to one particular system, the more your inner restlessness will increase.”
“But how could someone who’s meant to live an exemplary life not forgive?” I questioned, feeling very confused.
“One who can’t forgive isn’t having Christ in him. He’s just got his mind set toward the carnal-management system: if you work for me, it would be fine between us and if you don’t we will be caught in one shoe. Organized religion is that way, Bob. It makes you work harder just to move Father’s hand. And unknown to you, just a simple whisper he does hear.”
“Why a carnal-management system, Oliver?”
“Today’s system of church is just that way. It’s often convincing people to think that’s the best way to serve Father, while they hide the basic truth that Jesus is the only way to the Father. Anytime people realize God moving, they often think he’s calling them to build structures and begin to get a crowd to teach. Well we can agree that not all are as destructive as yours. Most large organized groups try bury the spiritual gifts of those amongst themselves. They may sometimes find a longing to exercise it, but they are made to think that those spiritual gifts are limited to the structure.”
“I thought it can only be exercised in church.”
“Of course not, Bob. The Spirit is free to do the Father’s will anytime, anywhere, not necessarily in the structure. I believe that it’s possible and you should also understand that you seem to see your gifts as something limited to the church structure. And I can explain that it makes you frustrated. Remember the apostles exercised their gifts anywhere and anytime it was needed not necessarily the temple. Look at this: going out on a certain day, you prayed to God, Lord if there’s anyone whom you would want me to bless with this gift, bring them my way.’ Don’t you realize that’s how free you can be to exercise those gifts?”
“Should that be the reason why most people I had met try to be part of the organized system again after years of leaving church?”
“It’s even worse,” he chuckled. “I believe that can’t be enough reason to have them do so. Most people who struggle to go back into the system often do so because they aren’t finding enough believers who share the same hunger which they do, or they aren’t getting the encouragement which they should have got since the non-churchers are quite interested in convincing other non-churchers not to relate or meet with those who attend. Anything could do. When we conclude that encouragement isn’t needed, we will have more believers who will become discouraged. Some may even fall away.
“It’s not necessary to be part of any organized group before you know you will get the encouragements you need. Father sends us these encouragements even while we are outside the system. It could come through many ways. Don’t just try to think God sends the encouragement through no one because you will that moment be killing yourself. Don’t even think he only sends it through those who do what you do. You would be depriving yourself an amazing gift.”
“If it is that way, Oliver, then how will the church meet?” I asked, feeling sure of myself. I knew he did notice that.
“That’s the rob, isn’t it?” He questioned, lifting a brow. “We think of the way we can gather people, perform a certain spectacle, but we can’t see that it’s less of helping people live Father’s life. The church can meet in many ways. He has opened the eyes of many people to meet anytime, anywhere he makes way for them: some once in a week and others everyday. Some are constantly with each other for encouragement. It doesn’t matter where they may meet but how they live in him.”
“But it would be very hard to have relationships with other believers if we don’t have a place to gather together.”
“And you think constructing a building only to get a group can help make the life of the journey to become really shared?”
I didn’t know where he was having this headed but I am very sure that I wished I hadn’t come to find him.
“I don’t know for sure; but even if structures are constructed that doesn’t mean the life to be shared ‘ll be shared,” I said.
“Exactly,” agreed Oliver. “And that’s why it produces men like Dale who are good at trying to control people instead of equip them for the important work ahead and the life of Christ they’re called to live.”
“When I studied the part where Jesus explained that he would build his church,” I shared. “Something drew my heart. I wondered if it is the church we’re building in order to gather people into them, preach certain sweet sermons. Later on I found out it’s not, since Jesus said the church is his body: flesh and blood, not something woody. Am I right, Oliver?”
At this moment, I couldn’t believe what I was saying. Going to church seemed out of the way this moment; the most thing made me wonder what the Lord meant. Maybe Oliver would also see what I saw, I thought.
“Of course, you’re, Bob,” he agreed. “The church isn’t what many believers today call ‘church’. It’s not those organizations/institutions or structures which men try to build together. We can’t build this incredible church by our efforts; we can by his grace build divine relationships with each other. The building of the church isn’t ours to do but his: ours is to do what he assigned us, and see him change others. Then he would effectively build it through us.”
“I don’t still understand why Dale is angry with my small mistake? I can’t succumb to his control!” I exclaimed in deep frustration.
“Or do you think you made a mistake?”
I didn’t understand what he meant. Was he questioning my actions? Or he must be right, it wasn’t any mistake. “Perhaps God must have arranged that meeting between you and me to answer my many questions. If I had missed it who knows what’s next? And I keep wondering why those thoughts came to me to pursue you.”
Oliver became silent. I saw as Charlie, the daughter of the couple ran toward us and he patted her head, asking her about school and many important things. I confess I still believe it that I saw him as a different kind of person from that moment. Then he turned back to me,
“The kid loves Jesus more than I thought a person would.”
“Yeah,” he replied. “She’s a very good view of how the Church would be. Her parents got tired of going to church and decided to abandon being Christians. That’s when I found them and helped them up. Happily, I find their relationships growing.”
“They attended our church once before, but they left later on.”
“Hmm. Why did they leave?”
“For the same reasons which I am about to leave. No encouragements; burying of gifts; no real relationships; and most times, some just want to try get something from our friendships to satisfy their own ego. I am already planning home meetings. At least, such things can’t happen there.”
“Did I really hear that, Bob?” he asked, not sure what he was talking about. “No doubt, Bob, what you’re trying to do is no different from making it even worse. You’re trying, instead of trusting God to fill up the vacuum of your heart by helping you discover how much he loves you.
“Encouragements and other interesting things we can find on the journey could be much lacking when the idea is transferring the meeting place to homes just to maintain a certain organized system that doesn’t produce any help or encouragements but just trying to control people to act under certain laws; rules and regulations.
“The “where” is the exact mistake we have been making thinking the church life is limited to a certain specialized structure and can’t go beyond our buildings. Don’t think constructing a structure or moving the church into a structure will make that life really shared. It wont. It would make things become even worse.”
Then he looked at me with such grief. “Or what do you think?”
“If it’s that way; how can a Christian live without going to church? At least, they need something to motivate them.”
“I don’t think churchgoing does that, Bob. Jesus is the one who always has.”
“Okay. Maybe I get that. But how do they get someone to teach them everything they need to know if they don’t go to church?”
“How would they learn those things if the Holy Spirit was put aside?” God! I was shocked to hear that! “The further you keep seeing church life as something in an organized system, you’re sure to miss a very big part and expression of it. Or do you think Jesus didn’t mean what he said? He taught that the spirit ‘ll teach us all things. Brothers and sisters are needed alongside each other to shapen each other’s vision, but bear in mind that it mustn’t replace the work of the spirit in our lives.
“He’s a teaching spirit. We can only rub the surface and have others drink of it but if the spirit teaches through us, we will teach a true gospel. The deepest teachings about Christ are found in him.”
“That means that we could have people focused on doing church instead of living his life in the awareness that we are the church?”
“Then how would the church be maintained if someone doesn’t maintain it?”
“The church doesn’t need any man to maintain it.”
“How do you mean, Oliver?”
I couldn’t trust what I was hearing. Rearranging my views was the hardest thing I experienced on my journey.
“Who then would maintain it?” I asked again.
“Look, Bob, the way you think the church is, is what affects. The church I have been talking about from the beginning isn’t the usual structure we know it for. It is much more than a so-called institution. Its meetings or get-togethers is just like a network unmaintained and uncontrolled by our efforts. It’s God to maintain them, not us. You can encourage someone to know him but you can’t be their mediator, Jesus is.
“Why do you think Dale’s reaction was based on your performance and obedience to him, instead of God? Because he thought the church was something he could control and manage.”
“Do you believe I haven’t thought of that?”
“Not everyone ‘ll, unless Father helps them to!”
“I just can’t give off the thought of ‘leaving the church’ to find ‘another church’.”
“What good will that do?”
“I just thought something different may come out of it.”
“Understand one thing we rarely realize. Two years ago or so, I talked with a friend who’s trying to find out more about Father’s life and how the church meets and shares the life together. He was sorting out answers to the feelings arising within him. He finally complained he was leaving the church which he had settled in. However, when he discovered he could live free without being tangled, he abandoned his thought of leaving. At present he’s concerned with helping others get free from their impressions on guilt and manipulation.”
“Did he proceed with abandoning the church?”
“Absolutely not,” he replied. “Bob, I helped him understand that ‘leaving the church’ isn’t possible unless we want to abandon Christ himself. If we think that it’s the church we are leaving, let’s have it in mind, it’s not. Since Christ is the head, we are the body and when the body is away from the head, it’s dead.”
“Then why do people use that so often?” I said in amazement at a new discovery.
“Perhaps, out of ignorance, Bob,” he answered. “My friend, Andy finally discovered that we can’t abandon the body as long as we are part of it. Abandoning the body, we must first abandon the head. However, the church is the body of Christ and when we leave Christ, we leave his body. Since the church is what we are and not where we go to, how can we leave it? Don’t you think separating ourselves from other believers all in the name of ‘this is my group which I worship with’ is so foreign to Jesus? By that many are excluded by those who think they are most qualified as a group. It’s a fallacy to think yourselves right and others wrong.”
“I think I understand you now, Oliver,” I confessed. “It simply must have been that I had been blindfolded from seeing this. Then if we speak about ‘leaving church’ we are not talking about the church but the institution in which we are.”
Oliver gently nodded, glad at the realization of what he meant.
“Well, it doesn’t make sense being a renegade, I bet.”
“Who ever said it is? Being a renegade, church hopping from one religious spot to the next in search of that which Father said he would add, doesn’t help anyone at all. What matters most is that we follow him closely than we ever think we can”
“Well, since ‘going to church’ is wrong, what should I do?”
“When did you ever hear me say that?”
“I thought that’s what you meant.”
“I don’t think I’ve anytime today. I was only helping you discover that it can’t easily help you on this journey when you think it’s all about attending, meeting to grow the institution or any thing else that doesn’t bring positive effects in others’ lives. Such collaboration may many times hinder our walk with Jesus and affect the way we treat others.”
“Yes it has been that way with me,” I agreed. “You remember the last time we talked, I told you I was going to have more attention directed toward my relationship with God?”
“Yeah, Bob, I do! What about that?”
“Nothing good. I really had focused more attention on it but it didn’t seem to last. My activities would creep in. No time for God, so it seemed! Sometimes, I came to him because of my desires instead of knowing and loving him.
“It wasn’t long before Diane noticed this change in me; always looking for the time to hit the exact moment so I could have my time with him. The glory of all that was no more when I was back on repairing this machinery,” I continued, “I certainly was wondering if it was this same institutional Christianity that the apostles cultivated during their day and passed down to us.”
“They had no props, devices. Nothing else but the Anointing.” Then he looked at me carefully investigating my face.
“May I ask you something?”
“You said you scanned each moment to find out if your time with God was near. I believe you know better than that. You’re still caught in the ‘doing’ thinking his presence is in some certain place you could hide to discover it. It’s not. You find his presence as you know his spirit in you. Do you think there’s any difference between these point of suggestions: ‘come, let’s go to church’ and ‘come, let’s go to his presence’? They’re just no different from ‘doing’. You’re just trying to find him in regiment of rituals which means you may never stop trying to find him. Believe it that he’s in you and this makes his presence in you. His presence isn’t what you do, where you go or even what you discover in your memory. It’s in God’s spirit.”
“Which means that God’s presence is about him in me, in charge of my life.” I said at the sudden realization. I had been missing it so long. “Does it mean we shouldn’t have some time with God?”
“You’ve to,” he answered. “It’s important to spend time each day with him. But it’s really risky to think we find his presence in our memory. That’s why some find such moments to be boring. They feel it’s no different from attendance. In, they feel it; out, they don’t.”
“Yeah, I know that. No wonder Donna Woolf had quitted this same thing. She confessed she found no life in it and questioned believers if they found it biblical or if Jesus had instructed anyone to build any machinery called ‘church’. What a mess! Everyone was pretty angry and warned her to rethink everything which she had learnt. They said that if Jesus didn’t want it, he would have destroyed it long ago.
“I know such people could become very touchy especially about those buildings which they manage. However, all that matters most, Oliver, is if we’re pretty right with him or not.”
Oliver faced his head downward and in minutes raised it again. He had seen this whole thing happen in so many organized groups and the dissatisfaction which often arise from those involved affects him in ways I don’t know.
Confidently, and with a smile, he cocked his head and stared toward me, expressing the calm features of a good American.
“What else did she say, Bobby?” That was the first time someone pronounced my full name.
“She didn’t condemn the congregation or their leaders but concluded that she hadn’t found God’s life in it. The religious collaboration seemed to have done something worse toward her that she abandoned the institution.”
The certainty of all I was saying became even clearer to me that I was the one whom this message was for.
Oliver proceeded, “Donna was correct when she discovered that all our attention need to be focused on Jesus, not church. Living the opposite of true life will turn us into believers who are just alive but are suffering inside. He didn’t teach his disciples to be religious maniacs, nor does he praise anyone for being structure-projected collaborators. The teachings of Christ has been interpreted by many to suit their selfish purpose.
“For instance, I was talking about an important issue when I heard someone saying, ‘Yes, the building isn’t the church but we call it that because it’s comprised of people.’ That doesn’t sound like something straightforward, does it? In Israel, there were temples but that doesn’t mean that was the church. Of course, the believers often met there to share Father’s life and encourage each other but those temples in the real sense wasn’t the church. The focus wasn’t the obligations, rituals or the building but Jesus. The superior motive wasn’t managing a system but building close relationships with each other and helping each other grow into him.”
“If living as his church is this way, who then can?” I asked in bewilderment.
He replied, “By God’s help, we will live as his church. The journey has never being easy. In these days, what we need most is how to help people live his life, not how to have them do church.”
He continued, after wiping his brow, “Just be however he puts you and you’ll find things sorting out than you’ve ever thought. However, live away from his will and plans, then you will find yourself struggling on what kind of church principles make more sense.”
With that he apologized for having to leave, promising me that God had his eyes on me, with excellent thoughts. Then he left, and I remained with the couple, rethinking all I had heard today, praying to live them. From then on, my plea was that I would never live a life outside him.
This is a fictional work expanded after been taken from my walks with Jesus in 2013.
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