I Like This Article…

I came across this article and thought I would share it in its entirety. It expresses my own thoughts quite well.

I lived overseas for a while. The place I was living was wonderful, but the problem with leaving what you know is that when you come home you tend to see everything with a new set of eyes. So it was when I moved back home. The things I used to think normal now bothered me. One of those things was what we call “church”.

I remember in those early days of being home, the hype and commercialism of American church life were in my face daily, screaming at me, and I experienced what some would call “a crisis of faith”. Ironically I was speaking in some churches, and as I was driving from one engagement to another, I said, “God, I don’t even know what I believe any more!” I was thinking about all the hyped-up “truths” I was hearing presented as if these things were ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY from God, when really they were nothing more than our American cultural opinions. I suddenly felt I simply didn’t want to be a part of that kind of Christianity anymore.

A still small voice spoke to my heart and said: “Do you believe in Jesus?” I was so exasperated that I didn’t answer right away. I really had to think about it. Finally, after forcing myself to remember the story of how I came to faith (which was quite powerful, and for another place and time), I answered, “Yes, I believe in Jesus.”

For months after that I felt as if Jesus was all I believed in. And because all the other extraneous “stuff” was flying out the window, I really didn’t get a lot of joy from “church”, by which I mean Sunday morning services as we practice them typically in our culture today. I was so unhappy with church life that I began to question God about that too:

Q: What is this thing we call attending church anyway? Where in the Bible does it say I have to “attend church”.

A: This is what it says:

“Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together…” (Hebrews 10:25) 
 
Wow! What a simple statement. I began to study Hebrews 10:25 with passion. What first hit me was what it did not say:
  • It didn’t say be sure to go to church every Sunday
  • It didn’t say be sure that you gather in a specially designed building
  • It didn’t say be sure you join an institution
  • It didn’t say gather in one place around one primary leader
  • It didn’t say make sure you hear a 1-hour sermon every week (or a 40-minute one, or a 30-minute one)
  • It didn’t even say how often to meet.

I began to view “church” differently. Sometimes, I would be really tired on Sunday mornings, and would not feel up for going. I would feel the old indoctrination pulling at me saying: you really should go.

(Funny, I didn’t even grow up in church, I became a Christian as an adult – grew up agnostic/pagan/New Age – and yet I still felt indoctrinated! How did that happen???)

Anyway, when the “should” came into my mind, a simple question would come each time in response: “Have you forsaken gathering together with other people of faith?” Each time I heard this question, I realized I had, in fact, not forsaken Christian community (usually I was so tired because I had been to numerous gatherings with other believers all week). Further the question itself revealed to me that it wasn’t the joy of community that was drawing me to the Sunday morning service, but a sense of religious obligation.

Please understand, I am not “anti-Sunday-morning”. I am only saying that whatever day we meet together our purpose should be to encourage and strengthen each other, and if we are doing something that doesn’t do that, then we’re not really doing “church” (which means “gathering”) according to Hebrews 10:25. I’m also saying there really is nothing sacred about meeting on Sunday morning per se, unless it’s sacred to you.

There’s a lot more to say about this. Most importantly, what does Hebrew 10:25 (and the rest of the book of Hebrews) have to say about our purpose in gathering together? I’ve hinted at it so far. In a future post, I hope to speak to this in depth.

Original article found here.

I’d like to hear your thoughts…

Thanx!

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15 Responses

  1. It’s an article that an increasingly numerous amount of Christians are identifying with, to be sure.

    I love the small, still voice that asked him, “Do you believe in Jesus?” I think that is a profound commentary: we’ve so missed the point of Christianity (the Way of following Jesus) that we’ve got to be reminded about Who the whole thing is really about. We become so religious that we lose Jesus. He’s still back there standing at the bus stop where we left him 400 miles ago. I think we as Christians would do a lot better if we repented of our sins and followed Jesus instead of repenting of our sins and following a specific institution’s or denomination’s interpretation of what it means to follow Jesus. “Do you believe in Jesus?” Perhaps the answer to that question is too risky: there’s too much extraneous, religious manure to shovel out of our lives.

    “I was thinking about all the hyped-up “truths” I was hearing presented as if these things were ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY from God, when really they were nothing more than our American cultural opinions. I suddenly felt I simply didn’t want to be a part of that kind of Christianity anymore.”

    Hmm… this makes me think that maybe our more missionally-minded churches should start sending out all of our teens and young adults to other countries to show them first-hand that our “Americanized Christianity” is B.S. and isn’t a one-sized-fits-all approach to solving the world’s problems. Only Jesus can do that: the simple, untainted, unlegalistic message at that. It seems to me that God is working in the American “church culture” in such a way as to “debase the proud and exalt the humble” – in other words, to pointedly show those of us in folly just how retarded we really are and to those of us in faithfulness just how Great He Really Is!!! I just want to know why Christianity can’t be more simple: why do we have to dress up to go to a “sacred place” on Sundays (heck, why are we still entertaining the Gnostic/Greek idea that there is actually a different between the “sacred” and “secular”; Hebraic understanding says God is Lord over all – I believe that idea is revolutionary for our modern Church itself); why do we have a static 3 hymns, an offering, and a sermon and call that “glorious, God-honoring worship” as if that is all there is to it; and to be it all, why do we all try to force our own opinions/preferences on others for how things “must” be. We must be committed to a Christianity that makes sense: one that is faithful, relevant, and life-changing for all involved.

    “I began to view “church” differently. Sometimes, I would be really tired on Sunday mornings, and would not feel up for going. I would feel the old indoctrination pulling at me saying: you really should go.”

    Wow, this speaks volumes. It’s a shame when we are made to feel guilty about something that is clearly not in the Bible. It’s a shame that we judge each other’s righteousness and faithfulness by our own personal or our own denomination’s standards (as opposed to the standards God has laid down in His Word). It’s a shame that some of the best Christians are ridiculed because, instead of being found within the four walls of building, they are found within the four corners of the earth “bring[ing] Good News to the poor… proclaim[ing] that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come” God forbid we do our job as Christians and change our dying world for the better instead of going to our three weekly church services and calling ourselves “faithful Christians.”

    I like how the article closes… “I am only saying that whatever day we meet together our purpose should be to encourage and strengthen each other, and if we are doing something that doesn’t do that, then we’re not really doing “church” (which means “gathering”) according to Hebrews 10:25.”

    I have to agree. I don’t mean to beat up on anybody in such a post, but honestly, as pertaining to my worldview, I see a lot churches just screwed up: both traditional and emergent. As an aside, I have a more critical eye towards the traditional because at least the emergents are trying to actually do something about the situation – they’re jumping out on faith and trying to do something for God (though it seems many of them have jumped off too far into the deep end of the pool and are struggling to tread water). Anyways, what I would like to see is God’s people get serious for a moment: put away as much of your biases as you can; develop an attitude that I will honestly evaluate the claims of Jesus with humility; and along with that, the idea that “I have nothing to lose – except my religion – and everything to gain – specifically my Jesus.” I believe if we could do this, we would see a dramatic change. We would actually start to see more theology than we actually hear. We would see truly missional churches reaching their communities and developing a heart for them. We would see believers being concerned with our world: from taking care of our environment, to the advancement of justice and peace, and finally to a true end to all pain and suffering through the eradication of sin by way of the Kingdom of God being here on earth as it is in Heaven (the Lord’s prayer).

    In short, we would understand just what church (community), and Hebrews 10:25 coupled with Matthew 16:18 and some other verses (John 15), meant to the disciples 2000 years ago: [Jesus said] “As long as you (the church, my people) stick together, abide in Me, and remain faithful to your calling, the gates of hell will not prevail and the Kingdom will come… and God’s will be done” (very loose paraphrase).

    I believe Jesus promised us that our world would and could change, and that we are the agents of change. 12 apostles – 12 men sold out to God – changed the entire known world during their lifetime. My friends, there are millions upon millions of us, a lot more than 12…… and, my question is……. what in the world are we doing?

  2. LOL :), I certainly hope you feel better after that venting!! 🙂

    I wish you could come hang out with us for about a week. I think you’d like what we do. It’s simple, straight-forward, and completely not figured out yet. It is life, freedom, and driven by our desire to know and expereince Jesus in the “all” things.

    It is difficult to express in words, but if you think about “church” as most people know and understand it, and then think of the opposite, you’ll be somewhat close.

    Oh, btw, we DO NOT “forsake the assembling of ourselves together”. In fact, we gather one way or another many times in a given week. Most of the gatherings are unplanned and spontaneous, and they vary in their location, but they happen nonetheless. Furthermore, we NEVER, again I say, NEVER, “GO” to church anymore. We are still working on eradicating that particular misnomer from our conversation. We gather with the church. Church is NOT somewhere we go or something we attend. Church is a gathering of the people of God. JUst thought I’d throw that out there…

    Finally, remember that it is always easier to criticize what others are doing, rather than being concerned with what you, yourself, are doing to grow. I ask you, what are you doing, my friend? Spend some time on that, because it is always quite revealing. I know that you are pursuing hard after something. Are you finding it? Is God using you to do it? Take your eyes off the horizon and, for a time, look within. Search your motives, attitudes, and deepest longings. Take them to God, and see what He does.

    Thanx!

  3. Thanks for stopping by. I read over your blog, and particularly liked what you said about simple church. We really do make it too complex, don’t we? My next installment, which I hope to publish this Sunday, will be called “Being a beautiful answer” – it’s really is about what prevents us from living the simple life of faith — sometimes those programs and institutional structures are WAY easier… in some ways at least, though not anywhere near as interesting.

    Keep asking the beautiful questions.
    http://alternativechurch.wordpress.com

  4. This is the author’s list of what Hebrews 10:25 does not say.

    It didn’t say be sure to go to church every Sunday.
    It didn’t say be sure that you gather in a specially designed building.
    It didn’t say be sure you join an institution.
    It didn’t say gather in one place around one primary leader.
    It didn’t say make sure you hear a 1-hour sermon every week (or a 40-minute one, or a 30-minute one).
    It didn’t even say how often to meet.

    But, does this verse say these things are wrong?

    In his follow-up post he spoke of things that these verses did imply about the Christian community.

    To draw near to God
    To experience forgiveness
    To help each other hold fast and to not waver in our faith
    To spur each other on to love and good deeds
    To encourage each other

    My question is this, are these things not possible within the traditional church setting?

    I think we as Christians would do a lot better if we repented of our sins and followed Jesus instead of repenting of our sins and following a specific institution’s or denomination’s interpretation of what it means to follow Jesus. “Do you believe in Jesus?” Perhaps the answer to that question is too risky: there’s too much extraneous, religious manure to shovel out of our lives.

    I am sorry if this seems harsh, but how can this statement be made?
    We each have an interpretation of what it means to follow Jesus. Mine may generally agree with a specific denomination’s and yours may not, but are they not both interpretations?

    Isaiah 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    Does this verse not apply to all?
    If “Americanized” Christianity is B.S. because of incorrect interpretations then the same argument can be made about the interpretations of “Emergent” Christianity.

    I want it to be understood that my purpose is not to attack those who disagree with me. I am genuinely confused. How can people who came to know Christ in a traditional setting come to have such vehement opposition to it. It sounds cliché but is that not biting the hand that feeds you? I know the traditional church needs to grow over time and there is work that needs to be done, but to abandon the institution that has led so many to Christ seems extreme to me.

    Maybe I can sum it up by saying this, we all live in glass houses and we all have some “religious manure” to shovel. Maybe some do have the ability to attend three weekly church services AND change our dying world for the better at the same time. Christians should be able to debate differences in interpretation without the rocks.
    Why didn’t I just say that at first?

  5. Hey Jeff C.!! Great to hear from you.

    I agree with you, while at the same time disagreeing with you.

    Many who are living faith outside of the “institutional” church, are making very strong, sometimes misdirected statements. I have. I have repented of that, too. I do not hold more institutional forms of church in contempt any longer. I try to refrain from spewing and railing against some things I consider not so good. I have been trying, rather, to reflect a new attitude of what church could be rather than focusing on what church shouldn’t be. Like I always say, I am still in process.

    This particular article caught my attention because it so closely resembles so many stories I have heard over the last few years and that of my own. Sometimes these stories are told with fists clinched and teeth grinding. Sometimes they are recounted with tears and great humility. Often, they are told with great pain and disillusionment. No matter, I think we should all listen to these cries. There is a prophetic voice ringing loud that something in our Americanized Christianity has gone awry. We have, over the course of time, drifted from the Center, which is Jesus. We have become comfortable with attending meetings, planning programs, arguing about music and clothing, tearing particular traditions apart, emerging, missionalizing, forgetting the masses who are not concerned with our petty arguments, and pretty much ignoring how to do life with one another.

    As a result, much of what we do as Christians has become quite irreverant and irrelevant to those who do not yet know the God we claim to love. They see more hate and bitterness than the love that Jesus said would show people that we know Him.

    Please understand, I do not mean to imply that “house” or “organic” churches are THE answer to all of our problems. I am not saying that everyone should leave and forsake the institutional church. In fact, I haven’t really heard anyone saying that. The point of this growing conversation is to cause us to really think about what we do and why we do it.

    Oh, btw, I think this article was actually written by a lady in Virginia.

    Thanx!

  6. Great post.

    I’ve been thinking about Hebrews 10:25 for a couple or three months. I don’t remember what got me thinking about it–I think I was talking with someone about organic church–but it dawned on me, much like it did with Mudsy, that the spirit of 10:25 isn’t that we make sure that we just so happen to be in the same place as a bunch of other Christians, nor even it that we make sure that we just so happen to listen to the same sermon, at the same time, in the same place as other Christians. It is that we make sure that we _actively involve ourselves in authentic Christian community_.

    You can attend all kinds of meetings and services if you want and never be involved in authentic community. Most church people do.

    So, what often happens is that people think, consciously or emotionally, “If I don’t go to church today, I will get dukie points with God, because I’ll be disobeying that verse the preacher quoted the other week.” And so, they go, maybe chat a little, leave, and maybe, just maybe, even go out to eat with someone, and never experience any depth of community. So, despite their intent, they totally miss the point of Heb. 10:25 anyway. Friendship is not the same as community. Having Christian friends does not necessarily mean that you are involved in authentic Christian community with your friends.

    Furthermore, just because Jesus is the subject of conversation isn’t enough. Being actively engaged in genuine Gospel community with fellow followers of Jesus means that you discuss Jesus and His kingdom, confess your sins, receive accountability (much more active, effective, and relational than mere “church discipline”), provoke each other “to love and to do good deeds” (to embody the Gospel, to be “on mission”), encourage each other and draw each other closer to God with joy and passion for His glory, and act as a functional part of the Body in all the various ways that the Body functions (think APEST).

    And if you aren’t a part of this kind of community, then you aren’t living out the fullness of Jesus’ ecclesia and global strategy. You must endeavor to pray and seek out or start a community of this kind.

    It is only an empowered, grace-oriented, intentional, missional, organic, relational, de-centralized, simple, humble, radically obedient, and passionate community with mountain-moving faith in the power, wisdom, character, providence, and supremacy of God that can change the world and finish the Great Commission as Jesus intended.

    There is no room for pride because there is no perfection in human community (prior to the coming of the Kingdom in its fullness), but God forgive us if we aren’t actively striving for these things to be true in our lives and within our influence!

    -dave

  7. Great thoughts, Dave. I really like the dookie points thing. Brilliant!! 🙂 Ah, you’re such the word-smith aren’t you!! 🙂

    This has given me an idea for a post…maybe tomorrow…maybe the next day…maybe next week…yeah, sometime…

    Thanx!

  8. * Disclaimer: * It is possible to be “missional, organic, relational, de-centralized, simple” and meet in a “church building.” But if so, then such a church is not institutional, even though it is also not a house church. It is, however, my opinion that this is a very difficult thing to pull off in our Western church-culture. I have not often seen it.

    Radical changes require radical choices. The problem is, every American Christian seems to admit “something needs to change,” but then a large majority of them also say “but we don’t want to change anything.”

    My initial suggestion: _substantial_ prayer with other believers. If you aren’t comfortable switching to a more house-church or cell-church model. That’s fine. But whatever you do, you have to enact some changes to see some spiritual change. The business maxim is true: “Your systems are perfectly designed to produce the results they are getting.” So, if you want to see different fruit in your life and in your church, you can’t just expect business-as-usual to produce them. Pray a LOT with other followers of Jesus (hours every week, seriously), read whole books of the Bible in community (Colossians, for example, usually takes less than 15 minutes), then obey what you read as if Jesus were returning next week, and see if things don’t begin to change.

  9. Another stellar performance from Dave!! 🙂

    Great thoughts, guys, keep ’em comin’!

    These conversations must happen for us to reconcile our differences and come to an understanding of perspectives. It is often too easy to jump to conclusions about a comment and rush to make judgemental statements about someones intentions. I, as well as others, have been very guilty of doing just that on this blog and others I frequent.

    We are not enemies. We are the same team, just quite often looking at a different page of the play book. Our play looks good to us in the moment and everyone else’s is just not that great, but we must understand that in a different envirnment their play may be better.

    Our focus should be on our “Coach” (to stay with the analogy), Jesus Christ, and His ultimate Kingdom agenda. Then, we can learn to work together even when we are running different offenses on different fields and accomplish His higher purposes of expanding His Kingdom.

    Sounds so profound, huh!? 🙂 Can you tell I’m getting ready for football season!?

    Thanx!

  10. Man, look at Dave lay it down on us all, haha.

    Jeff R,

    I wasn’t venting man, I was just throwing out commentary. I wasn’t mad or angry at all 🙂

    Oh man, how I’d love to see what ya’ll do, and how much I really do need to see what ya’ll do. I need to see if I can take a train or something there in December, I don’t know. But I’m going to have to talk to you about some things going on in my life soon, and I need advice and probably some mentorship on finding and performing God’s will for my life, specially for after this final year of college. But that’s neither here nor there for this post.

    Jeff C,

    No, you were not harsh at all; what I was really talking about with the interpretation thing was simply to get as close to Jesus as humanly possible, and to leave our biases at the door and not care what others (our denominations) think of us. It’s very true that we all have our own interpretations, and I would add, that most of what we proclaim as “truth” is only at best an interpretation (some of which are better than others).

    Americanized Christianity does include Emergent Christianity, and I do not agree with everything Emergents do just as I do not agree with everything traditionalists do. Quite a few of the Emergent methods are very limited in application and relevance just as some of the traditionalists methods. Not everyone is a postmodern painter and artist, just as not everyone is a modernist who likes to wear suits and carry the KJV around. I agree with that.

    You asked, “How can people who came to know Christ in a traditional setting come to have such vehement opposition to it.” To tell you the truth, I don’t have a solid answer on that. I have appreciated this independent, fundamental baptist church I’ve been going to in Bloomington, IL while I’m interning here because they keep me from going too far. They preach the truth (often harder than I personally like) but it challenges me and makes me think. However, I find myself often getting frustrated with them over things that I think hinders people from coming to Jesus: business professional dress, refusal to use contemporary worship, etc. I see them moving in the right direction, generally, but I see a lot of excess baggage slowing them down dramatically. It’s frustrating. I think I would actually appreciate that church’s support through prayer and authentic Christianity community should I decide to plant some churches up here some day. I think it would be a wise move to have such a very conservative network, to keep my, let’s be frank – liberalness, in line.

    “Maybe some do have the ability to attend three weekly church services AND change our dying world for the better at the same time.” I hope it happens, I really do.

  11. Turp, give me a shout when you get the chance.

  12. Hi, I wrote the original article. Thanks everyone for your insights. I hope you don’t mind a gal joining in the fray. Just some random thoughts based on the other comments.

    Just for the record, I’m not anti-institutional, anti-traditional or anti-denominational. I really genuinely appreciate my brothers and sisters from many different streams. I am just looking for what really works for building community.

    Another thought I had was that all the denominations we now call “traditional” were once very non-traditional, and got a lot of flack for it at the time. They became “traditional” after hundreds of years, but none were “traditional” when they began. So, perhaps we may be about due for another shift in how we view church.

    Anyway, thanks for all your comments and discussion. It always encourages me when I hear others asking the hard questions about this thing called community.

  13. Great thoughts!

    Thanx everyone for the conversation.

    Hey Jeff C., were your questions answered? Please know that we are not remotely “against” you. I love ya bro! If you need anything, please let a brotha know!

    Thanx!

  14. I know you’re not against me bro! I appreciate the honest answers. For the record, I am not against you either, I just like to ask questions. My wife says it is because I like to argue, no matter how often I try to convince her otherwise!

  15. […] thought-provoking discussion sparked by the above-mentioned posts occurred here on the blog Chaordic Journey by Jeff Rhodes (the post itself is mainly just a quote of my blog, but […]

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