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?
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.
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.
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
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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