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Church Relationships: Are You a Geese or a Sparrow?

Church Relationships: Are You a Geese or a Sparrow?

do-we-need-churchDefine Church

When you mention church, most people either think of the institutional church (IC) organization or a building, a place you have to go to fellowship if you are a Christian.

The Bible defines the church as Christ’s body; a living organism, it cannot be defined as a building or an organization because it is neither.

Thanks to the influence of the Greeks and the Romans (and eventually the Roman Catholic Church), Americans have church buildings that we believe are both biblical and necessary. We falsely presume that true spiritual growth and fellowship cannot happen without one or both of these church institutions.

Jesus said, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). The how, when and where of that “coming together” was not defined, so if you get together with two or three Christian friends that you spend time with regularly, you are assembling together as directed in  Hebrews 10:25.

Authentic Relationships: The Lost Art of One-Anothering

I recently had an interesting conversation on Facebook about church buildings, and the loneliness that can follow when you leave the church institution. Then I remembered this from the book “Authentic Relationships: Discover The Lost Art of One-Anothering” by Wayne and Clay Jacobsen:

Isn’t it interesting that you can spend all day wandering through the busy streets of Manhattan without anyone noticing you, and yet anyone you pass on a hiking trail will not only notice you but usually will pause to find out where you’ve been and where you are headed? The street is anonymous—people passing in a hurry to get somewhere else. There are far too many people to even consider engaging in a conversation. You would never get anywhere.

Loneliness flourishes in large crowds. But I have yet to pass anyone on a hiking trail who didn’t stop and talk at least briefly. The camaraderie of the trails is immediate, even if you are not likely to see each other again. For those brief moments the help and insight two people can share can make a huge difference.

If your Christian experience is a living journey instead of a plodding ritual, you will find the same thing to be true. When my Christianity was more static—consisting of attending services, doing church work and trying to be good—my fellowship with others stayed shallow. I remember coming home many nights frustrated from having spent an entire evening with other people but somehow having been unable to move the conversation beyond the weather, sports, family and current movies.

I wanted fellowship, but every time I would try to bring up something about God or Scripture the conversation grew stilted and awkward. Only in the last few years have I come to recognize that Christianity is a journey into ever-deepening levels of relationship and ever-widening spaces of freedom. When you’re on that journey you will naturally talk about it in virtually every conversation you have, and when you connect with someone else who is sharing that journey, your conversation will be the best. Sharing the journey is as natural as breathing.

Geese or Sparrows?

Relationship vs religion wayne jacobsen

Watching a flock of Canada geese fly over in precise V-formation is an enthralling sight. How do you suppose they do that? Do they attend V-formation flying school when they are young? I can just see an older goose projecting a Powerpoint presentation against a birch tree and explaining to the younger birds that they must fly two feet to the outside wing of the goose in front of them, one foot behind and eighteen inches above its flight path so it will impress the humans below.

No, geese fly in a V-formation because flying in that exact spot allows them to fly in smoother air with less effort. If a goose falls out of position it immediately feels the added stress of flying on its own and moves back into position. Scientists estimate that by drafting on the wake of the goose in front of them the entire flock is able to fly 71% further than each of them could fly individually. To accomplish this incredible feat the stronger birds in the flock will rotate the lead position so that no one bird wears out. According to NASA, “This allows a flock of birds with differing abilities to fly at a constant speed with a common endurance.”

The reason you never see a flock of sparrows fly in V-formation is because they are not going anywhere. They flit around the yard from tree to tree, but at the end of the day they are in the same area. They could try to learn to fly in a V-formation, but by the time they got the formation together they would already be to the next tree and not need it. The same is true about fellowship.

If Christianity is about rituals, routines and morals, our fellowship will suffer. We can rearrange our groupings or try a number of novel small-group techniques, but they will be as awkward as sparrows trying to fly in formation.

When Christianity is a life of growing dependence on God through the joys and challenges of our life circumstances, pooling our wisdom becomes as natural an extension of that life for us as it is for geese to fly in formation. When God is more real to you than the weather and the events of your day, you’ll find him filling your conversations and fellowship will be immediate, powerful and alive.

finding churchFinding Church by Wayne Jacobsen

If, like many other people, you have questioned whether there is something more to Jesus and church than the religious institutions we’ve inherited after two thousand years, you ll want to read Finding Church. Here is straight talk from a man who has sought authentic New Testament community for more than fifty years and who has discovered it in the most unlikely places.

Now Wayne wants to help you find this incredible bride Jesus is shaping by looking at the church as God sees her and by recognizing her as she takes shape around you. His church is a living temple, springing up in individual hearts and then knit into a worldwide community of people whose very relationships put God’s glory on display. There’s no way human effort can build it or sustain it, which is why our attempts fall so woefully short.

Church is the fruit of a new creation of men and women who live beyond the human conventions of society and share a life in Jesus that satisfies their most ardent hunger.

Wayne Jacobsen asks a compelling question in the title of his latest book, and he continues to ask the reader to consider the questions so many Christ-followers have long pondered, posed, or simply been too afraid to ask. If the resonance and comfort found in this query were the sole reasons to read this book, it would be enough.
The deep sense of identification one gains from joining Wayne on this journey is a salve to the heart, cheering the long-held dream of finding a church that is so much more than a steepled edifice on the corner.
In fact, there is much more to love about this book, and I found myself engaged immediately, as Wayne brings clarity to the growing trend of disengagement from the traditional church, “the departure of the nones” as it has come to be known. But rather than lambast those leaving or criticize those in leadership for not addressing this exodus with compassion, he helps readers understand the many pitfalls and trappings of contemporary Christianity, pointing more toward the ecology of church structure rather than the frailties of the human heart. This might just be the holy fire needed to inspire a generation of believers worn out by the unfulfilled potential of the church the kindling needed for the family of God in the 21st century. Stephanie Bennett, Ph.D. author of the Within the Walls trilogy West Palm Beach, Florida –Foreword to the book
For that endless stream of people I meet who love God but either cannot bring themselves to re-enter the institutional church world or who are feeling great pain from abuses they cannot understand at the hands of leaders who subverted what we call church, Wayne Jacobsen’s book will be a great encouragement. Without overlaying a new structure, he reminds us that living for and with God is far simpler than we ever imagined and that God still knows our address. Rare is the invitation to relax in God’s love and love others, and it is enough. Gayle Erwin, author of The Jesus Style Cathedral City, CA –Front page endorsement

Finding Church is a riveting and challenging read that prompts its readers to seriously reconsider the definition of church. With courage and compassion, Jacobsen states what millions of Christians intuitively know but can’t admit, while sharing his passion for a church that every believer craves. Derek Wilder, executive director of Life Transforming Group and author of Freedom: How Grace Transforms Your Life Now Front page endoresement

About the Author

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.06.12 PM

WAYNE JACOBSEN served as a pastor for twenty years and was also a contributing editor to Leadership Journal. He now travels the world helping people learn to live deeply in the life of Jesus and share it freely with others. He has written and worked with others on a number of books including Free Ebook

So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore

If you’re tired of just going through the motions of Christianity and want to mine the depths of what it really means to live deeply in Christ, you’ll find Jake’s story will give you hope for your own. This book probes the difficult questions and offers some far-reaching answers. It just might turn your world upside-down as well! Read the free ebook So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore

Church Without Walls Resources

  • The God Journey -Podcast by Wayne Jacobson and Brad Cummings
  • School of Christ: Free Ebook Library 
  • Outside of Religion and Into His Life by by David Yeubanks – Organized religion is man’s organized, inventive, structured attempt to please God on man’s terms—and for this reason it will always remain utterly futile where true spirituality is concerned.
  • No Fellowship – No Problem – The purpose of solitude in the spiritual desert is to get you to see that Jesus is enough. You’re not going to die from lack of fellowship, but if you don’t learn that Jesus is enough, then spiritually speaking you’re dead already.
  • Churchianity Today – We must always be sure to distinguish between the Lord’s invisible, universal, spiritual church (the ecclesia) and the non-profit religious organizations that meet in buildings with a steeple on top.
  • Forsaking the Assembly – We Christians tend to throw around a lot of terminology as well as operate under a lot of religious mindsets that are, quite honestly, the primary product of human tradition rather than biblical design.
  • Dismantling the Religious Machine – “Do what you’re told. Push this button, pull that lever, flip that switch.” Keep producing, keep the Machine running. But there’s a human toll being exacted on the people who are running the Machine.
  • Escape From Churchianity – Contrary to popular belief, the Lord Jesus Christ does not live within the matrix of organized religion.
  • Leaving the Church to Find the Church? by Len Hjalmarson – Many have indicated that one of the greatest barriers to belief in God is the church itself.

When we traveled to homeschool curriculum fairs someone would always come up to me and whisper the question, “What about church? What do you do?” The problem is bigger now than it was then. Many homeschoolers don’t feel comfortable in churches. Putting your child under another’s authority (like Sunday school or youth groups) is not always safe and often includes a lot of bad influences.

What do think? Do You Need a Church Building to Fellowship? What do you do?


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  1. Kim Laminen

    Comment on Facebook by Kim Laminen:
    My husband and the other leaders of their homes gather together regularly, when there is a need, as above, we all get together and pray. We have prayer meetings, provide for one another, not a committee, but family to family. Who is qualified to be an elder? Who did Paul appoint? Was it someone local, apart of the local church, one of them? I can not believe he hired someone to do the job or hire them of a recruitment list. just thinking, any thoughts?

  2. Christie Inocencio

    Comment on Facebook by Christie Inocencio:

    I have been in this issue for years. One time, a friend said I should go to her church again. I told her that no one notices anyone, there is no fellowship. She didn’t understand. So, my husband, son and I went to her church (we are very close friends), and stood just inside the front doors and waited. Not only did no one in the church greet us as they walked by us, my friend and her family also walked right by us. When she was a ways into the foyer, I called her name. She was stunned.

    I am not a follower of people, or a church, or a statement, or thought. I go where God tells me. I fellowship with those He has placed in my life. I witness for Him out in the world. I had to explain to another friend who was worried about my lack of a church family that I had a church family. I have amazingly devoted to Jesus friends who I gather with continuously to fellowship with, learn with, and grow with.

    I am surrounded by Titus2 women, and am a growing Titus2 woman myself. I asked her what the difference was. She said, “you’re not in a church, so you can’t be surrounded by like minded Christians.” I reminded her that all the women we know together are like minded, yes? She agreed. I am definitely not a conformist. It has been hard to only listen to God and follow Him, as many criticize and wonder. But, the rewards have been amazing, so I will continue to go where He directs!

  3. Hi Robin..yet another thing we have in common..our agreement about the true church not being in buildings…as you will read in my book I too, am a victim of spiritual abuse. But God used it to lead me to a very personal and intimacy with Him I would never have had otherwise. Also, Wayne J. is a friend of mine that actually came to our home not too long ago to share with those who are like minded. Love his books and they were very instrumental in my walk as well…God Bless you my fellow sojourner on this journey in His kingdom!!!

  4. I too agree that simply going to services is not true fellowship as Christ intended for His people. True fellowship can take place in a church building and outside of it, or in neither place. Our family has experienced it in both places. We have good friends who read “So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore” and stopped attending any church services. Their intention was to fellowship on their own with others outside of church walls. Unfortunately we have seen their family slowly lose the passion they had for Christ and move to a more and more “godless“ lifestyle. It seems once church became “unnecessary” so did many of their basic biblical beliefs that they had previously built their lives on. They do still believe in Christ but things seem to have become grayer and grayer in their belief system. No longer do they reflect a family after God’s own heart to those around them. Their “fellowship” is about spending time with people but as a close friend from the inside I can say it has nothing to do with Christ. The conclusion I have drawn is that true fellowship with Christ and others can take place within church walls or outside of them, but forsaking the assembly can definitely have detrimental effects on a person, their family, their belief system and their walk with Christ.

  5. So, i get what you are saying, and there is a time i would have agreed with you 100%, but, and this is my opinion, i think that NOT fellowshipping corporately should be a last alternative. It is my opinion that believers should TRY to find a church that they can function in. Primarily because going to church ISN’T just about fellowshipping. Its about being part of a larger group that AS a larger group is better able to 1. build up the body of Christ, 2. facilitate the body in living out the great commission. Also, and i’m NOT speaking of YOU, at all, Robin, but also, i’ve noticed a lot of anti-church Christians are very into themselves. I think that the service that is likely to happen in a healthy church is humbling and the frequent living out life together is also humbling. NOW, I know its easy for me to say this, since i DO attend a church that respects my husband’s headship, that’s really good at doing life together, and has been instrumental in helping me heal from major life issues, in addition to having spot-on doctrine. (Mars Hill, Seattle) It did take a LONG time for us to find this church, twice… long story 🙂 but I’d encourage you to persevere, to keep looking for a church body that deserves you. I think you have a LOT to offer, and I think they might just have a lot to offer you. I spent much of my life wishing we could be mormon. In spite of the whole polytheism thing, they sure get church body doing life together right 🙂

  6. 🙂 we are just becoming a part of a ‘house church’. the history of the church in scripture is so new to me! sad.

  7. I really dislike my church – and have been praying for direction to a new church, or a new way of thinking about church. The teaching is poor, and sometimes Scripturally inaccurate. I don’t feel liked. I don’t feel that my acts of service are appreciated. I am lonely, there are few people my age in our church, many older, some younger. I am older than the hip pastor and his hip wife, so I’m not part of the “in” church crowd. They are all democrats, so I disagree with their politics. When I mentioned that I was going to be homeschooling, they literally stood there with their mouths hanging agape! It would be easy for me to be seduced away from the idea of church with this book list you’ve put together.

    But church is not really about me.

    God desires that we come together to worship HIM. It is not about being noticed, or wooed into feel-good fellowship. It’s not about gathering with people who are just like us. He wants to graft new believers of all nations into his family – we will not all be alike. He commanded we gather for new moons, and festivals to give thanks and worship HIM. The early church gathered in large homes yes, but also in the temple, and in synagogues. We can often do more for others in assembly. How was Paul able to raise money for the poor in Jerusalem? Because there were groups, (larger than a few couples with groupthink) who gathered for Scripture, to sing hymns together, pray and worship. The prayers of an assembled group have a certain presence with the LORD.

    I do think we need to be vigilant. If I move to another church it will be because of the teaching and not the personality issues. I have waited a while to make sure I’m not just leaving in a huff, and frankly, I haven’t felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit yet, so I wait, and wait upon the LORD.

    And we certainly need to bring our church-inflicted hurt straight to the throne of God so that we can figure out our part of it, be healed, and with the help of the Holy Spirit forgive and move on in Christ.

    Remember that epistle of Paul where he talks about all of the pain he has endured for Christ’s sake? And yet he never gave up on the church – 2nd Cor 11:22-29.

  8. We actually do. It grew out of necessity for us. First, let me say that I completely agree that most “churches” are more about ritual and keeping tradition alive than about Jesus and reaching the broken. But there are plenty out there that are like us.

    We began our fellowship in a home, and as others were drawn to our sincere love for the Lord, our intensive study of His Word and our action-based faith, we grew and we quickly closed in a garage so we would have more room to meet and a separate place for the children to be. Soon, the Pastor who’s home we were meeting in moved to a larger home with a larger garage and we were actually able to squeeze close to 50 adults in there for our services.

    But it became obvious that the facility was too small for the needs of the body. (This is the opposite of churches that exist to support the facility and staff, rather than the facility and staff existing to serve the needs of the people.) So, we got a Church Building.

    So, because we now meet in a building, are we not authentically serving the Lord, ministering to the broken and having a true relationship with Jesus? Of course we are! And I would propose that there are many Fellowships that have began with the same intentions and now open their doors to whomever would come.

    I understand the heart behind why you have been posting these articles and blogs around this subject. But you have overlooked genuine fellowships like ours that ARE out there.

    I have so much more to say, but I do not want to appear argumentative. I just believe that you have great influence on a great many people and you have not represented the entire realm of possibility for those searching.

  9. Hi Robin,
    Our family has also been a victim of spiritual abuse in a so called church that was actually a cult. The Lord got us out of there – amen!! For a while we just didn’t feel led to go to any local assembly.
    Then we started a home church. We were able to keep it going for 3 years. Hubby is a teacher and we simply could not keep it going with his job. So we had to stop the gatherings. We evangelized and discipled 30 people in that time. We have told them to ask the Lord where to go from there since we stopped the studies. They were very grateful for the time we were able to minister to them (without asking for any kind of monetary help, by the way).
    I am not obligated in my spirit to go to a so called church with (many times) wolves in sheep’s clothing pretending to be pastors but are actually evil inside.
    I have seen many of these false Christians in churches. They make me ill to my stomach since they give Christians a bad bad name.
    At this present moment, the Lord has called me to go online… I believe that we can also gather virtually (through the internet) with God’s people. And in these end times this is what the Lord will be doing.

  10. You’ve got some awesome advice as well as insight.

    would you mind checking out my friend’s blog? With the sort of things you write about, I’d be surprised if you don’t find his stuff intriguing, to say the least.


  11. telson

    The fellowship between Christians is an important issue according to the Bible. This can be seen in the words of Jesus below, where He urged to fellowship and His prayer that refers to the same issue. He spoke about this just before leaving this world:

    – (John 13:34,35) A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
    35 By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.

    – (John 17:21-23) 21 That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me.
    22 And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
    23 I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me.

    The Bible teaches about fellowship that it is based on birth, i.e., that people have been born to be children of the same God. It is not so much a question of cooperation but that of similar views, but the fellowship of believers has a supernatural foundation. We “have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13), and the same Holy Spirit lives in us creating fellowship. People who were formerly separated by race, social status, sex, or similar issues, are now through Christ sisters and brothers, members of the same body and they have the same Spirit of sonship.


  12. friend

    I got hurt so many times and even wrote online about my pain and received no comfort. “Just seek the Lord” they would say. AS IF I WASN’T???

    In suffering at the hands of rejection by fellow Christians, I learned that in the pain that I was feeling, it was like bleeding on a cross. My love through crushed vulnerabilities is proof of me taking up my cross and following Him. Woe to them who caused it.

    Never leave or forget fellowshipping, being reconciled, or lose hope.

  13. christiewaden

    Fellowship among Christian strengthen the bond of being Christ like, it has been said we should not be equally yoke with the unbeliever, so this is it. Fellowship is an essential part of building a great covenant to God.

  14. I agree! Fellowship is an essential part of building a great covenant to God. Absolutely. God made us for relationships.

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