Welcome to this MY CHURCH JOURNEY - BEING THE CHURCH - page
On this page you will find clips from my blog posts, of the lessons Father has been teaching me, and the journey He has been taking me on, since I've been released from "going to church" and am now gradually learning more and more about what it really means to be His church.
FREEDOM FROM "POLITICS"
I feel relieved about the whole "church thing" like I felt a year ago when You released me from the whole "school" thing. I feel I can still be friends - maybe even "family" outside the "system" (hopefully), be part of things You lead me to - but not be "obliged" I guess... and not wrapped up in the "politics." (When we set up an organization, with a political kind of framework, I guess we're just asking for politics... )...FATHER WORKS WITH MANY EXPRESSIONS OF HIS CHURCH
We drove past "the church" while the "congregational meeting" was on, and it looked like a big turnout. I was glad I didn't go: I would have probably been tempted to speak up. And I would probably have gotten stressed... and probably would have thereby become part of the "politics" .... and I just can not go there anymore.
In the past, You really showed me how Your people can be found in all different "denominations" (and "non-denominations" too), with all kinds of different "liturgical styles" and with different "distinctives." And then, between home schooling and Christian school-ing You also showed me that "traditional" ways and methods and even "philosophical positions" aren't necessarily the "right" ways (or at the very least, not necessarily the "only" ways). And for awhile I got very "anti-system" - unfortunately to the point of becoming personally arrogant and even very judgmental of others, I'm sorry to say.RELEASED FROM GOSSIP, TOO
But now... I'm thinking that You are very patient, and very creative, and You use use many different ways and means to accomplish Your eternal, unchanging purposes... and even with our weaknesses, and us trying to do things our own ways, You do bring good - and You do fulfill Your purposes! You do!
I got tangled up again inside about some "church" issues, and started to gripe about them to others. But You have quietly but very clearly reminded me, "You are released.." And it struck me that I'm not just released from a place or or a system or a formal group or organization or "politics" - but also from "talking about" things, either not at all if it's best to keep one's peace, or if it is worth/ needs discussing, not in a way that is griping - and "gossip."
ORGANIZED OR SPONTANEOUS ACTIVITIES
What's the difference between organized, programmed activities; and the things one does as opportunities present themselves? For example, regularly helping out in a church's "kitchen ministry" vs keeping one's eyes and ears open to what's happening in the neighborhood, among friends, etc and then just filling those needs (like babysitting for free for a tired mom, or making meals for families with illness or recent loss, or inviting lonely-looking people to join your picnic or whatever?) One thing I've noticed is that in some ways the organized way sure seems easier or more convenient or whatever: a regular, set time; more likely to have others "sharing the work;" seemingly safer (would you really want those soup-kitchen clients in your kitchen at home?), more "fun" maybe to be among friends than strangers... but....
DO MY ATTITUDES ABOUT CHURCH AFFECT MY CHILDREN NEGATIVELY?
Have I possibly been too open in front of my kids (and others) about my own doubts, wondering, questionings? Would they have had less doubts of their own if I hadn't expressed mine? If I had "protected" them from my own spiritual struggles?
It seems to me like when I was growing up, expressing doubts about your beliefs, or anything related to them (what other people expected you to believe, the rules and regulations supposedly required by those beliefs, the interpretation of scripture presented by the church group you - well, your family, that is your parents, and you by extension - belonged to, and so on)... well, expressing doubts or asking hard questions just "wasn't done." I remember when I was in university, and learning a lot of different ideas and philosophies and such, and I was attending a church-based Bible study, and was asked to no longer come, because my questions might upset the faith of others, especially new believers.
On the other hand, that "we don't mention our doubts" attitude did not seem to stop me from having doubts and questions and struggles... and it didn't seem to stop a lot of the rest of my generation... many of whom simply "dropped out."
Anyway, I guess it’s not really surprising my kids are confused and hurting. And what maybe worries me the most is that I’m probably not being much help to them, because I’ve been confused and hurting too. And I haven’t been able to give them “happy, happy, joy, joy, simple answers” but instead I seem to have passed on my own pain and confusion (so maybe theirs is my fault to a large degree).EAVESDROPPING AT THE LOCAL CHRISTIAN BOOKSTORE
And at the same time, it seems like I haven’t been able to pass on much if any of the amazing love I’ve found in You (and actually in a lot of Your people too!)… the amazing “knowing You” that has been coming out of my past pain and confusion. (Maybe because it’s too late? … after they’ve already grown up and moved out…)
Or maybe after all, they actually need to get to KNOW YOU THEMSELVES! … and all I can do is keep loving them, praying for them, and sharing You (and Your love, Your amazing reality in my own life) when YOU give opportunity – in Your way, Your timing… Your will and purpose and plan!
I have been wondering what to do about "going to church" now that I don't "have to."RECOGNIZING FATHER'S OPPORTUNITIES
I did go out for a walk mid-day. It was beautifully sunny but kind of chilly. An interesting thing happened. I stepped into the Christian bookstore (which I haven't done for a long time). I was "browsing"... and "eavesdropping" on the owner and and another man having a conversation about the church and about so many people "dropping out" ... and the store guy says that it seems like an awful lot of the "drop outs" are far more dedicated to really following Christ wholeheartedly than the ones who stay.
They were talking about the "economics" of "the church" too... and were saying that churches are finding it harder and harder to cover their budgets these days... and that a lot are having to downsize or to close down "ministries" because the building and pastoral salary costs take up all the income... and that the majority of the giving now comes from those aged 60 and up.
And they were also talking about how churches are finding it harder and harder to find funds to hire associate pastors like youth pastors... and that it seems like the "criteria" for affording a youth pastor, for example, is the number of youth that turn up to youth group. And that it seems this "cost effective factor" is leading to "successful youth groups" that are more and more the ones which provide "safe entertainment for teens" versus providing spiritual guidance and discipling. Some very "popular" programs even use secular music and videos etc rather than "Christian" ones.
The store wasn't very large, and I had "browsed" the entire place about 3 times by the time the conversation ended (it was getting a bit embarrassing going round and round!). But I was really glad I heard it (even if "eavesdropping" isn't exactly cool...). Sometimes I feel like nobody I know wants to talk about these things. I was thinking it would be so great if the owner put in a few chairs or a couch or even some cushions on the floor so people could just come in, sit around, and talk about the Lord and the church and such. I think it would be a good place, because people from all kinds of different "Christian backgrounds" go there, and it could be a good way for the "church at our city" (shades of the NT churches) to meet informally.... not to mention the non-believers who drop in there out of curiosity.
I do sometimes feel at bit “at sea” without predictable, planned “programmed” events. I’d really like to have (or go to) a house gathering (Sunday-soup style, but visit after, share, etc)FEELING LOST WHEN OTHERS ARE ALL EXCITED ABOUT THEIR CHURCH PROGRAMS
Or maybe You just want me to be patient and take it day by day, and keep my eyes open for the opportunities You send? (Which obviously I haven’t even been recognizing and appreciating in many cases till hindsight kicks in… like all those unplanned fellowship times I enjoyed this past week).
At coffee time this morning one person was telling us about this mega-church in the States that has 8000 members and an enormous “campus” with a whole big wing for childrens programs, including several nursery rooms full of cribs. It sounds like they think this is a really good thing. And all I could think was, “So is it really good? What is so good about that? I’m wondering what kind of “family of God” it is that puts all the babies out of the way like that?OLD HABITS, AND WORRYING ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE THINK
Every day I am just feeling more and more called out of the whole organized, structured-like-the-world church thing. But other people seem so excited about it all. So maybe God just works with different people in different ways. I feel kind of lost when everyone around me seems to be excitedly buying into the whole building-and-programs approach to doing church (rather than seeking to maybe find a way to BE church instead.). (But they really do believe that the way they do it is a legitimate way - maybe even the “right way” - to be the church….)
Yesterday at "church in the park" breakfast time I admit I felt kind of nervous. ___ was the only other woman there, and she is so quiet (and peaceful!). Me, when I get nervous, tend to motor-mouth, and then I'm embarrassed. I wasn't nervous about the people themselves - as hubby says, they are "real people!"
But I think I am struggling with all my thoughts about "church." And I end up feeling like I should be "doing something" to "make it church" instead of just letting You lead in Your own way. Which is totally where I do NOT want to be, but 50 plus years of that kind of experience is hard to shake.
Anyway, then we didn't go to our church morning service, and as the day went on I ended up with my tummy hurting bad, which it hasn't done at all in the past week as You've released me! Oddly enough, I can't stop thinking about what "other people... church people" are thinking. Of course, no one has called me to see why I've been away from "church services" lately. So I'm thinking they can't be very worried about it! I guess that all my life, "going to church" has been one of the biggest RULES of my existence.
I do believe it is important to be part of a church, of a group of believers who gather regularly (even daily!) with You in their midst; to take part in Your body, Your family, Your work (in whatever ways of gathering that You lead them to be part of).ASKING SOME HARD QUESTIONS OF FATHER
But at the same time I'm totally skittish about being dragged back into programs and structures, into that scaffolding that obscures and interferes with Your relationship with Your people, and with Your work in them and through them, as You really intend.
I want, at the same time, to get beyond this... well, what is beginning to feel like an "obsession with the whole church question" which I sometimes feel lately has been kind of taking over my life, obscuring my view of Your working, and obscuring my relationship with You and with Your family. I see the enemy taking a good work You are doing in my life, and trying to turn it into a distraction, so that I lose sight of, and relationship with, You! I must be vigilant! I do not want to lose sight of You no matter what! I want my heart to be always one with You.
Is it really “the church system” that is the problem… or is it that at some point I wandered away from the “adventure” and got drawn, dragged, into the “system?” Is it then possible to be “in the system” but “of the adventure” (like “in the world” but “of the heavenly kingdom”…)? I really, really long for relationship with You AND Your family. But if Your family (that I know) are pretty much all hanging out in the system, should I then be “in the system” in order to be with them, and (hopefully) manage to stay connected to You, living the adventure of Life with You?
Okay, this is a serious question I have, but have been scared to ask, because somehow it seems like it might be construed as “heretical”: is it possible to be in relationship with You (Your Life, adventure, reality), while at the same time (at least for a period) pretty much “disconnected” from “the body/ the family?”
And – why is it so hard to find others who are far more interested in Your life, Your way, Your adventure, than in any “system” that supposedly supports it? No wonder people don’t want to leave the system (besides that they’ve been taught that the system is the way to Your life – there can be a difference, can’t there, between “Your way” and what people say is “the way to You"). Anyway, people don’t want to leave the system because they are afraid they’ll be lonely and alone. Sure, they’ll have YOU. But they might not have other, human, flesh-and-blood-people to be with. And it does seem that You have made us to need others: that whole “body” metaphor. Okay, maybe this is another horrible thing to say, but there seems, to me, to be something incomplete about a head (YOU) and a little finger or whatever (me). Is that a horrible, wicked thing for me to say?
Oh dear, now I’m going to say another horrible thing. If YOU are so incredible (and in my experience, You are), then why do so few people seem attracted to really “following You” like the disciples did? (Well of course there were only 12 inner-circle-disciples, and one of them wasn’t, as it turned out. And while thousands were attracted to the fish-and-loaves perks, most of those eager followers evaporated when You started talking about eating-Your-body and drinking-Your-blood and taking-up-Your-cross. But then You sent Your Spirit, and Your church grew by leaps and bounds. But then there were all kinds of system-loving people wanting to do the Judaistic-rules-and-regs or the Greek “secret-knowledge” or whatever. I guess things don’t change much….
And why is it so easy to lose “first love?”
What if a lot of people who consider themselves Christians – Your followers – really aren’t? What if they’re just following a system? You look on the heart. You know if they’re doing that because that’s what they’ve been taught. So can’t You draw them closer to Yourself? Or?
Does anyone else wonder these things? Do they even matter? Is it just the enemy trying to distract me? (I’m pretty easily distracted by mind games, I’m afraid…)
Okay, so enough already with my questions… I’m going to Your Word (the NT part!)… and to You… to hear what YOU have to say! I’m SO longing for adventure for You…. I’m totally tired of wherever I’ve been lately.REFLECTING ON EZRA AND THE TEMPLE IN RUINS
I’m feeling “in ruins” these days, having a really hard time being “the house of God,” being in relationship. I know I’m not alone when I’m with Father, of course, but I’m feeling so disconnected from the rest of His family.ARE THERE ANY GATHERINGS OF GOD'S PEOPLE WHERE THERE ISN'T TROUBLE?
I’m skittish about “leaders” these days. And it seems like most people don’t want out of “Babylonian captivity” anyway, like maybe they don’t want to actually “see” the ruins. Maybe it’s just easier to stay in the land of exile than to face seeing the rubble, and having to make a decision to face the truth of it, And to see that the “new temple” doesn’t look as “grand” and “big” as the old one. Wanting to be able to “physically see the grand temple” than to realize that the spiritual temple is what is really important, but it’s often much harder to see.
But maybe if the gathering place really was destroyed, made into a mound of rubble, and we were to be exiled, would be good, because then there would be real longing for the true city of God and the true gathering place. As long as the “old temple” remains standing, and the rituals continue, even if they’ve pretty much lost all real meaning, maybe there’s no real desire to truly meet with and know God.
There's this question that keeps nibbling at the corner of my mind: “Do you really think you’re going to find a gathering of God’s people where there isn’t trouble?” And I hope it’s just the enemy nagging. But my experience says otherwise. Because of course if I am there, there’s going to be trouble. So is it then better to just stay where one is and try to “fix it from the inside”? But I don’t see that helping either. Of course I’m awfully short-sighted.DO I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING TO SERVE GOD?
I still find myself thinking, “I have to do something to serve God, to be a good Christian, to make the church people – and my family, even – happy, and apparently, to make You happy, by extension."US CHANGING THE CHURCH - OR YOU CHANGING IT?
But I don’t. I just need to be sitting at Your feet. And You will use me along the pathway of Your love, our love, our relationship, in the daily pathways of life. Like Mary anointing Your feet in love and humbleness, and being remembered forever for her simple deed of pure, unadulterated love for You!
I had been thinking that the only way to really "cure the ills" of "systematized" churches (and other "Christian" institutions and organizations) is to first destroy all the scaffolding that surrounds them and holds them up, raze it to the ground, and then start over on the simple foundation of God alone, with the freedom that provides.
But I wonder: if people could learn to live in the flow of Your Spirit, Your life, and "lead" others into that place in a truly "shepherding" way, a "BEing" way; and then they in turn lead others... maybe if that really happened, the "scaffolding" would just naturally fall away because it is no longer necessary. And if some aspects of such scaffolding, which in their present forms have come to function as a prison - maybe they would be freed from man's "doing"/ control to allow God Himself to use them freely as He chooses.
Maybe purposeful "razing" could end up being a "DO-ing" in itself, and inevitably become precursor to just another "system."
Father, I don't know the answer or method or whatever. But maybe that is good, because maybe it means, finally, that we have to do just asYou said in Your Word: live YOUR life: in You, the Vine, in Your Spirit, in Your love, being in Your Oneness, Your unity. BEing like Jesus...
And as we walk with You, in relationship with You, we will live Your Life and Love. And others will see us, observe, listen, question, participate - a natural leadership that happens, develops, grows, spreads, passes on; rather than a programmed, trained, systematized, controlled method! In fact, the leaders are not "formally trained and set in position" or "appointed" or even "self-proclaimed," but are simply recognized by the rest of the body/ believers (even by those in the world) as people who are already Living Your Life, in the flow of Your Spirit (by Your plan and provision, right?). And people see that, recognize, and want to be there too, so they follow, and in their following, those they follow are leading them as they learn to be leaders of others too.