For many years I have heard vague and on occasion detailed and thoughtful reasons for not regularly gathering with other Christ followers in a local church. People (those who seek, love and follow Jesus) ARE the church, this is absolutely true! No building is synonymous for “church” as the very word means “an assembly of called-out ones.” But don’t pass over that term “assembly”.
Sure, there is a famous verse in Hebrews about not forsaking the assembling ourselves together in the local body of Christ- but with whom to do what?
How often to gather, what form/s, traditions old or new, etc. must be considered -and not without good reason.
Good OR bad reasons may include merely trying to escape a person or group of people, or defend one’s self. Perhaps various issues of theology, doctrine or methodology are both points of fellowship and let’s be honest, reasons we dis-fellowship and/or why others may send us packing. To repeat, this can be good or bad, it’s not an automatic deal regardless.
Removing oneself from actual abuse, continual neglect, a sense of forced doing X, Y or Z that is not sourced in Jesus Himself nor solid and clear truths from His Gospel, the Word of God do make sense. Equally let’s also face that one can be as deceived by one’s self as by any gathering of professing Christians.
To link with friends on occasion when we feel like it, a coffee shop or fellowship more to our personal taste and liking may in itself not be sin but does it replicate what the early church shared together? Can it?
Years ago I was invited to a meal with five or six other believers in a local restaurant. One was a person who stated they had stopped reading The Bible for a year at that point in time because of a lousy home and church experience to the extent “every time” they “opened the Bible, all [they felt] was condemnation”.
Getting tired of being mentally/emotionally “beat up”, then experiencing the freedom and feeling of an antidote to the pain made sense to them. I get it. I also fully disagree with their chosen self-medication though I can understand that all of us should and can seek healing from such traumas and I can validate the journey.
People do at times get horrid medical help so quit going to hospitals. A marriage turned out to be bitter and combative so after a miserable divorce “I’ll NEVER marry again!” is the chosen stance. I’ve met countless former pastors, former never-in-leadership attendees who not only disdain brick-and-mortar assemblies but think most people who link in them are full-on Babylon- “it’s ALL of the devil!” As if the devil and demons don’t know where they live and whom they -do- hang out with?
How often do we hear “They’re ALL like that!” Of course in truth “they’re” NOT.
Empathy for hurting people may even convince us to stop offering to drive someone to a hospital. Yes, there are excellent and lousy hospitals, great and terrible doctors, truly loving, nurturing marriages, churches and etc.. There may come a time all you -should- do is pray and stop talking or trying to convince someone.
The dilemma is often that we –need– to accept the pain we’ll experience at the decisions and hands of physicians to relieve and sometimes actually solve a much greater pain, perhaps even death if we don’t allow someone to help us take that journey.
It IS our choice as to any path we do or do not take.
Literally millions of people can say they suffered and loved ones died in hospitals who were maltreated, who were hoodwinked into allowing doctors and nurses to “treat” their illness. Therefore dump, ban, reject ALL medicine, physicians, reject ALL science because of harm done?
There are many illustrations we could easily find in life to clarify the foolishness and self-destruction such an attitude and mindset creates.
It is in my view and experience exactly like this re. gathering together on a regular basis with God -and His people-.
Unless one decides nothing of the following is edifying or educational as to how we in 2020 and beyond could best live our Christian life and fellowship with others, I suggest close, careful and likely UNcomfortable comparison to what you and I (not the church down the street) live out today:
ACTS 2 AMP (with my italics added for emphasis)
42 They were continually and faithfully devoting themselves to the instruction of the apostles, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread -eating meals together and to prayers.
44 And all those who had believed [in Jesus as Savior] were together and had all things in common [considering their possessions to belong to the group as a whole]. 45 And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing the proceeds with all [the other believers], as anyone had need. 46 Day after day they met IN THE TEMPLE [area] continuing with one mind, and breaking bread IN VARIOUS PRIVATE HOMES. They were eating their meals together with joy and generous hearts, 47 praising God continually, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord kept adding to their number daily those who were being saved.
ACTS 5.12b And by common consent they all met together [at the temple] in [the covered porch called] Solomon’s portico.
In conclusion, here are a few questions to consider:
When you gather together with other professing Christ-followers, do you:
And/or read or quote Jesus’ words, other words of scripture?
Do you sing, lyrically share “vertical worship of Father/Son/Spirit” together?
Do you in your gathering of friends –serve– those society and at times even the church deems “the least of these” (Mt. 25)?
Does your gathering of professing Christian friends discuss how to actually do and then act out practical service reflecting the Words of Jesus
Sharing verbally the Good News of Christ?
Does koinonia (Bible term: “fellowship”) for you and those you link up with who seek to follow Jesus include any or all of these?
If that’s your personal (shared) “norm” I’d say you are being and doing church locally. I personally could care less about the form because form never automatically equals substance.
Jesus calls all of us to deny self, pick -our- cross daily -not merely Sunday though that day is as much a part of our life and week as the other six days. He calls us to follow HIM. He continually in the four Gospels as do other of His disciples via Old and New Testaments call us to do so -together-.
Those who choose to not link with other imperfect and at times maddening Christ-followers unless and until they find the perfect (by their own reasoning) church are not healthy. All lose spiritually including those in who NEED their very gifts and presence to grow in Christ and in carrying out HIS call to our shared mission. It is not only for ourselves but for others God calls us to gather together.
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn