Been there, done that.
YMMV (your mileage may vary). Your experience may vary. Your attitude may very vary. Your reasons may vary. Wherever you go, there you are.
All people in all places sin. Miss the mark. Wound. Unless you keep things surface. Distant. Or on a positive note, perhaps for the most part they’ve shared the same experiences, pains and came or come to the same conclusions as you. Which means you are correct and all others are just not “in the Spirit?!!!”
So what is this post- a “Go to church peons!” diatribe from an old pastor? Nada.
It’s life experience from hearing stuff in both ears, pro and con about every sort of gathering of believers/Christ-followers all over the planet for the past 45 years of my life.
Ok, I will start The Church of Chipotle Habanero Beef Jerky and EVERYONE should attend. This is THE Hottest church and will save you from the coming fire! Snacks every service… no, non-service, we meet in a guy’s basement at 2pm on Thursdays.
By culture, lifestyle, music, message, whatever, I have been and remain a relative outsider to most groups and in some I suppose, an insider… but that’s only due to love for Jesus or shared music or subcultural issues. Or maybe at times I can be kind and gracious and most people appreciate that. Some are of course, suspicious of even that in our present world! Not my issue, so I must carry on doing what I think best regardless of acceptance or rejection and I am frankly, fine with that. Nothing new under the sun!
I have met the most loving, godly, intelligent, feet-on-the-ground but not pharisee/legalistic/nasty lovers of God and people in just about every local gathering whether it seemed “churchy” or “street”, “pub” or “living room”, high or low tech, and etc.. And full-on knucklehead jerks in all these places.
On any particular occasion, you and I likely fit in either or both categories.
So let’s talk about habitually if not 100 percent consistently ornery, nasty, harsh, judgmental, arrogant, unteachable, lording-it-over people, defensive, conspiracy theorist, lazy, self-focused, whining, brash and loud or deathly quiet, nice gossips who pick and choose who to share their puke with. OR… habitually if not 100 percent consistently kind, grace-sharing, courteous, humble, teachable, open to fresh ideas, team (plays nicely with others), always-thinking-the-best-about-peeps, Christ and others focused, non-trash-talking about others who pick and choose who to do life and serving together (“church” is an assembling together of Christ-following disciples).
Traditional and non-traditional believers who come together can simply keep things surface, merely a social club. Both hipster and died-in-the-wool 1950s church groups can play the “We all agree, keep it ‘don’t rock the boat/I’m o.k.-you’re o.k.'” games… and do.
Culture and group clusters don’t automatically equal Jesus’ stated desire for His followers. For instance, see the Gospel of John chapters 14-17 for details that will rock your (have mine!!) world regardless of your chosen lily pad.
So in light of all this (and what sparked this blog post) a friend in another city chatted with me about a book a family member had read about no longer attending church.
How you or I define “church” isn’t the issue if we truly seek to follow the risen Christ of The Bible. How HE defines it is.
The trend to choose disorganized over organized religion is nothing new. My preference is balance, but you may prefer an extreme. I find pretty sick peeps and truly loving disciples in both places. The issue is what He and His Book says about all this, not what someone else says, not what we may “like, pick and choose”, though of course there are more choices than ever for the sort of “fellowship” we might link with… or not.
So as clearly as I can say it:
What you got ain’t THE DEAL for everyone else.
It is common though immature to tell the world that what YOU GOT is THE EXPERIENCE of “church” ALL OTHERS REEEAAALLLLYYYY ought to get into because you have found THE LIGHT, THE BEST OF THE BEST experience and the rest just don’t get it, or are stubbornly caught in their own rut of experience, or all the other forms of doing church are simply a joke, a waste or perhaps, just plain old nature/flesh or even demonic and YOU GOT IT!! Frankly, I doubt it. Because…
Wherever you go, there YOU are.
And wherever, no matter the form of gathering though you and others may love that particular assembly form better than others… wherever they each go, they bring themselves along with them.
I would say the key issue is not form but substance, attitude, fruit of the Holy Spirit and whether others are encouraged to grow in Christ or trash-talk “the others” who “don’t GET it like WE do”?
Sometimes the new church is as messed up and caustic as the old?
Because one of the reasons people leave one is due to the fact those people think THEY are the ONLY ones who get it right. And now you think the very same as they do… only it’s YOUR methodology and form? Errrr…
Form isn’t substance though I personally like the feel and weight of Strats compared to Les Pauls (guitars). So WHY DON’T YOU PLAY A FENDER STRAT YOU MORON?!!! Not.
You may like form A vs. form B or C, or the other way around. No problem. But whatever it is, it ain’t any more nor less a group of people in need of Jesus… even if they’ve (you’ve) already found Him. We all have a lot to learn and need plenty more spiritual growth in our individual lives, no?
I have experienced the grace and blessing of God and the stupidity and self-serving foolishness of flawed humans in every form or non-form of church gathering you’d care to discuss. I suggest we each get better quality mirrors.
Mercy triumphs over judgment indeed. Thanks be to God!
Perhaps worth considering in this New Year.
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn