Last week, I asked the question, “What caused you to start studying the church?” There were several great comments on that post. Also, because of that post, I met several new people.
One of the people who commented on that post was Will from “Rochow.ca.” As a follow-up question to one of his comments, I asked Will if he was still able to fellowship with people who are part of institutional churches.
I loved Will’s reply, and I asked him if I could highlight it here as a post. So, here is Will’s comment:
Just because I no longer attend the traditional institutional church, does not mean that I donâ€™t fellowship very regularly; actually significantly more than I did while in the institutional church. When I tell people that, the ones who most often have a difficult time grasping the concept are those who are still involved in these traditional institutional systems.
On one of my blogs I have a caveat that says that while I have no use for institutional church systems, the people within those systems I continue to love and care for as much as God enables me to (you can find those blogs on my website). But I still havenâ€™t answered your question. Unfortunately, sometimes people misunderstand and think that my speaking against an institution is a word spoken against them. When this happens, it is usually because so much of their identity is wrapped up with that â€œplace.â€ Therein is the problem; Christianity was never supposed to be about a â€œplace.â€ Jesus isnâ€™t a â€œplace.â€
Am I still able to fellowship with those who donâ€™t share my views? Not only am I able to, but I often do exactly that. The only initial difficulty, normally, is on their part, not mine. While Iâ€™m open to fellowship with whomever is interested, regardless of their background or denominational affiliation (and I totally disagree with denominationalism), they are the ones who usually tend to have issues with it.
Why? I think it has to do with the fact that many people still cannot get their heads around the fact that there are many active and God-fearing and Jesus-loving and fellowship-seeking Christians out there who no longer go to institutional churches. They rationalize that, if you are a Christian, then you â€œgoâ€ to church. I would argue, on the other hand, that if you are a Christian, then you â€œareâ€ the church. How can you â€œgoâ€ to that which you â€œare?â€
Most of those I fellowship with on a regular basis have long since stopped going to institutional churches. Having said that, there are also a number of believers who, while still regularly going to those churches, also gather with us on a semi-regular basis. I also am involved with the Christian motorcycling community, most of whom also still go to institutional churches. This has not created a problem for me, nor for most of them. We have all been saved and love to spend time together.
What constitutes a saved believer? Institutional church affiliation? Belonging to one denomination over another one? Tithing? Mode of baptism? Speaking in tongues, or, not speaking in them? None of the above. Rather it is simply, as Peter said in Acts 2:21, â€œAnd EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.â€ So the criteria for fellowship is one: has that person called on the name of the Lord? If so, I MUST be willing to fellowship with them. This is not an option. Nor is it simply a suggestion.
John 3:8 says, â€œThe wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.â€ If we are truly born of the Spirit, and listening to Him, it may be that on Sunday morning He leads us to such-and-such an institutional church. It may also be that He leads us to a nursing home to spend time with an elderly saint. It may be that God leads us to a park, because that is where He will sovereignly cross our path with someone else that He wants us to talk to. The point is, are we really open to going where he leads us to go and when He calls us to do so? I wonder sometimes.
There is a great video (about 10 minutes long) by Simple Churches. If you havenâ€™t seen it yet, it is on my homepage of my website. I think it will answer a lot of questions that your readers may have on this topic.
Hope Iâ€™ve answered your question. Sorry if this dragged on too much. I guess you never really take the sermon out of the preacher.
Your brother in Christ,
Those of you who have read my blog for a while know how important unity among the body of Christ is to me. Will’s comment is a great example of how brothers and sisters can still reach out to and fellowship with those who disagree with them.
May we all learn from Will’s example.