I'm pretty sure that everyone who has moved out of the institutional (legacy, traditional) church system has asked themselves at least once, "Should I go back?" It might be only a fleeting thought, or it might be something you have seriously considered, or even done.
There are lots of reasons you might consider going back. There are all your friends back there, some of whom are still your friends, but many others no longer are. Maybe they were just "friends" because you happened to be doing the more-or-less same thing. Or maybe they really were friends, but the step you've taken has shaken them, and they don't understand, or may even believe you are doing something heretical. Maybe you miss the communual worship music, or some other aspect of the institutional church that you really did enjoy.
Maybe it seems to be taking a long time to find other believers who really want to walk centered in Jesus, and you're feeling awfully alone. Maybe you miss the perks of being useful and recognized by
others. Maybe you feel you've been alone in a wilderness for a long time, and you are getting more and more discouraged and lonely. Maybe you just miss those delicious after-church fellowship potlucks!
Whatever your reasons, maybe you have indeed asked yourself, "Would going back to institutional church solve my feelings of loneliness?"
I read a post awhile back, "loneliness and the journey," by Wayne Jacobsen, that has really helped me to realize that the only real solution to any of my "problems" related to "church" lies in my
relationship to Father, as His Son lives in me and His Spirit reveals Jesus to me. God - Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit - loves me (and you!) completely and He is working out His eternal purposes in each of His children, individually and together as His church, His family.
Wayne puts it far better than I can, so let's hear what he says:
Sorry you’re having some difficulty finding some folks to travel with. And believe me, I know how lonely it can feel. But fellowship is not to fill our loneliness. That ultimately can only be swallowed up by a loving Father as he continues to makes himself known to you and shows you how to follow him. He knows the fellowship you desire and he will bring it into your life as you simply begin to love the people God has already put around you. They may not even be believers yet, but as you simply grow in learning to care about them and recognize those God’s wants to give you a friendship with.
That doesn’t mean you can’t try out fellowships, or look on line for others from your area. All of those can be helpful in this process. You may even find some in a more traditional congregation. Not all congregations are harmful. There are some out there who help people get to know Jesus and provide some wonderful relationships. Let him
lead you and try not to be anxious. Sometimes it is better to go it alone with Jesus for a bit and learn to live in him rather than try to do that in a religious setting that trades in guilt and performance.
But be assured of this, Father knows the fellowship that he wants to bring into your life. Look where you can, but beyond your own abilities, know that he is at work. Right now I suspect God wants you to learn dependence in him so when others come along, you can find the friendships that trust in him allows as people encourage each other to live loved. It is a process. I know this isn’t the easiest part, but as you get through this season you’ll find it well worth it...
...it is a journey. These things work out in time as we simply live inside the love he has for us and learn to love others around us in the process.
I'm also realizing more and more that what I really need is "Christ in me." That what we as a church need is Christ in us, as our true Head. Being the church isn't about principles, or programs, or
systems, or even "looking like the New Testament church." It's about Jesus living in us, in me and in you. It's about Jesus indwelling us. It's about living by Jesus, the tree of Life.
Recently, Frank Viola gave a message at the 2011 Momentum Conference, "Epic Jesus: The Christ You Never Knew." If you have not heard this message yet, I urge you to listen to it by podcast now. Today. If you find podcasts difficult to listen to, I have made extensive notes of his talk, and would be happy to send them to you (email me at email@example.com and ask for the "Epic Jesus" notes). It is an amazing message, and you will meet a Jesus you quite possibly have never truly known. A Jesus that you will want to know.
Here are a few notes from the concluding remarks of the message:
How did Jesus live his peerless life?
"What I hear the Father say, that's what I say. What the Father judges, that's what I judge. It's not I that does the works; it's the Father that does the works through me. As the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father, so he who partakes of Me shall
live by Me. I can do nothing apart from My Father. And you can do nothing apart from Me."
Jesus lived by an indwelling Father, but the passage has moved. As the Father was to Jesus Christ, so Jesus Christ is to you. He's our indwelling God.
Definition of an organic church: It is a group of people who are learning how to live by the indwelling life of Christ together. And they are sharing that life together and they are displaying that life together. Watch what Jesus is doing through me, through you, through us.
You can live by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or you can live by the tree of Life. And we are called to do that with other believers in the Kingdom of God. That's when the Kingdom of God is manifested.
May God raise up men and women who are humble enough to learn what it means to live by the indwelling life of Christ and are bold enough to proclaim the insearchable riches of Christ to others.
"That which was from the beginning, that which we have seen with our eyes, heard with our eyes, and handled - this Life we proclaim to you so that you might have fellowship with us, and we have fellowship with the Father and with the Son." Amen.