One of the more difficult facets about coming out of an organized and human sustained church environment is transitioning into a life more dependent on relationship with God and with the organic group of people that God has strategically placed us in.
When I received the revelation that God was calling me out of the traditional prescribed organization and into a spiritual family, I was a little shocked and heart broken. I had placed all my focus on living a certain way and working towards goals that, with a simple revelation from the Lord, changed instantly. I felt gypped. I came to the hard realization that I had wasted years of my life. The group that I had given blood, sweat, and tears for fundamentally disowned me and seemingly forgot about me. I found out that when relationships are built on common vision and doctrines instead of God’s relational bond they cannot and will not last (pain and hardship often accompany these). As much as I would want to make these relationships work, they would not. They were not being held together by God’s grace.
I’ve learned through this heartache that God is most concerned with the task of building a Kingdom, not making us “happy” socially. When I stepped far enough away I realized that there was a strong “in or out” mentality, one that was cultish in nature and one that worked against the heart of the Great Commission, the kind of Love that God had been attempting to develop in my heart. Despite my best of efforts during my time in traditional American Christianity, everything seemed to work in opposition to the gentle guidance of the Spirit. It is as if something was wrong… and it was.
To those who have begun to see the failure of systems and the way we love to organize and control the life out of things: Sorry to tell you this, but we can’t place primary blame on manipulative, prideful people, our historic church fathers, or the “devil”. The failure in our current church situation lies squarely on our own shoulders. Yes, me and you. The spiritual concept of “system” originates with our desire to save ourselves from fully dying to God. To make compartments, instead of being fully His, being FULL-FILLED
Instead of letting God organize and sustain every facet of our REAL lives, we set aside certain days and certain people to be “Holy”, spiritual, and religious around. In everyday life we drift towards “spiritual” conversations where we can impress and detract attention from the areas of our lives that we have not given over to God. We hop from church meeting to church meeting, all the while avoiding the most spiritual conversation we could have; telling another human being how we are doing on the inside, confessing our brokenness, and letting God fill us up.
In essence, we cut our lives into different manageable and controllable compartments. That’s why it was easier for Christ to minister to the poor and broken. They were not divided between wealth and prestige, religion and performance, being self-deceived and internally incongruent. The poor were aware of their neediness, with simplicity and brokenness prepared for a bath of Love. Unfortunately when we choose to serve a certain group of prescribed people and live divided, we in turn neglect, judge, offend, and trouble the ones whom God had set us in the midst of which kills the effectiveness of the Great Commission and the Spirit that is working towards that. The only way we get away from Christian systemization and all its baggage is to first look within, chose to humiliate ourselves in the power of the cross, and let the life of God fill us.
As we die to self and begin to let God have every facet of our lives, we realize that our life is not ours to protect, dichotomize, and chose how to live. It’s not ours to manage and effort to display God’s power. We must believe the Gospel and let Him do something good with our lives. Realizing that there is nothing we can do. That He is the One Thing that the world needs. As we live this life we begin to see that our homes are now open to the broken and down-trodden, that our money is better spent given away, and that our free time is not ours, but His. To the carnal part of our minds this is hard to hear, but to our Spirit, this is the adventurous life that He has laid out before us.
As a natural overflow of this transition, the emphasis on the meetings that was once our life line to God and to community is now different. The life of Christ and His disciples was life lived together with meetings as an overflow of life, not the central point. Jesus often leads people out of corporate meetings to break them of their psychological and physiological idolatry to them. In a world full of religious lure the most Christ-like things you can do at times are to stay at home, cancel the meetings, and do things to keep tradition from being an idol. Before He called me out of tradition-laden Christian Spirituality, the very real and very spiritual talks and charismatic environments often ran in contradiction with what God was personally doing in my life. He was breeding me for one thing and the system seemed to be working to breed me for something else. There is much more to say about that, but for now I’ll leave that there.
In my years of not being a part of an overly organized group, God has revealed people with whom He has called me to be “spiritual family”, the people I am called to live my life with. As a result I place no special emphasis or heavy responsibility on any broader group. Being obedient to what I know He has called me to takes up enough of my life I don’t really meander away from that. Thus Jesus has made my burden and yoke much easier, making it much easier to love and care for others, non-believers and believers alike.
An open handed invitation to walk with God through Jesus is a much more powerful Gospel when it is purely offered with no strings attached. No meetings that clutter intentions. It’s simply a whole hearted Jesus-filled life pleading with another life to return to their loving Father.
For us who have had the courage to take a step away from the system, we have moved away from an organized thing “that did everything for us”. We now have to learn to forge a strong and sustaining relationship with God for ourselves. I would say that last sentence a million times over if I thought it would help us get it. We have to reconcile and make right the relationships that we’ve neglected by being involved in the “happy” and “pretty” community that we use to call home and face our ugly and unimpressive community that God has called us to. Our real community will not make us feel famous and gifted, but we’ll feel loved and accepted, cared for in the best sense of the word. God will use them to form us into a Christ-like human being- a person who changes the real world for God. We will NEED Jesus to live this out with them.
*(previously absent portion)
This life in Christ can only be lived fully in Him. Therein is true salvation, where our lives and His are intermingled in a way that there is no longer any distinction between the two.
It may seem a bit troubling that God created this life for us that is absolutely interdependent on the constant need and dependence on Him but when we realize how comforting, soothing, exhilarating, adventurous, restful, powerful, and purposeful that this life with Him is…. we are put in awe of how genius it is. By Grace we get to be fully in God.
A few years ago I expressed some of these same concepts with a well-seasoned man, an apostle of apostles, and he began to wonder out loud if this was the “new thing” that God was doing.
I contend that this is what God has always been doing, we’ve just been missing it, exchanging truth for a partial more manageable truth.
Also, I must say that in this world of life and church being united into a life in God, things work differently. Sermons and songs become way less important. Meals, tears, and bearing burdens become primary. What used to seem like a magical craft of turning people to God, has now become a more fulfilling journey of living with others and being committed and responsible to them. In essence, it would be nice if the Kingdom was sexy, charismatic, and timed like a microwave. I believe that it’s not. It’s often stinky and it’s a slow cooker. But it is with a life fully-filled with God, an adventure of sacrifice to be savored and enjoyed.