Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Crowd Or The Cloud: Part 1

As most of you know, although I write often, I'm not an avid reader myself. I do however enjoy reading short articles now and then. I recently ran across a small piece that caught my attention.* The main topic that it was addressing was not one that I personally find riveting, but some points made within the topic struck a chord with me. I found that several of the writer's explanations, when viewed through the eyes of how I view moving from "mainstream Christianity" to the narrow path, made some things clearer to me, even though he was not addressing this particular issue. For weeks now, I've really been asking the LORD what is going on in the spiritual lives of the people that I'm in relationship with. I've had some pretty deep discussions of spiritual matters with most everyone that I'm in relationship with, whether they are family, friend or acquaintance. Sadly, few seem to desire to grasp what it takes to leave behind "wide road Christianity". When you align the written Word of God beside what is taught and executed in "churches" today, there just is simply no debate remaining. I have experienced this time and time and time again. So why do so many who, when seeing it for themselves in the Word of God still choose to remain in the clutches of religion and traditions? How can one see the error, acknowledge it for what it is, see how God's plan opposes so much of it and then still remain a willing participant? This question just baffles me.

The article that I referenced answered, if only in part, this question for me. The heading was simply titled, "The Crowd or the Cloud?" That alone speaks volumes to me. The crowd of popularity and "normalcy" has replaced the cloud of God's holy presence. As I've stated before, the veil has been sewn back together and man has chosen to live separated from God. The Body of Christ chooses to reside in the Old Testament law of rituals and traditions of men rather than walk as sons and daughters of the Living God, set free to intimately live empowered by Christ daily. Only those who have chosen to walk outside of the gates and see what is out there know the freedom that exists. Only those who once made their abode in the city of religion and bondage, and have been set free to become who they are in Christ can truly know the reality of this level of intimacy with the LORD. So why do so many choose to remain within the city walls? Why do the majority settle for the cold chicken nuggets when a bountiful buffet awaits them? For some of you, this may address where you are currently residing. Do you ever consider stepping out of the religious system but are not sure what you'd do if you did? Do you ever wonder if there is more? Do you ever wish that your Christian walk looked differently than it does? Do you ever wonder why you remain in a religious system that never really seems to go anywhere? Perhaps the following points might help us all address why we are prone to stay where we are and never ask questions.

* I have included a few lines here and there from Charles Jennings' writing, but for the most part, I just used his main points and adapted it to explain the issue of why Christians often choose conformity.

Ignorance/Misinformation. Simply put, the lack of knowledge. Many people will just go along with what anyone who is in a place of authority tells them. Sadly, many Believers rarely open their Bible's and study to show themselves approved. How can one personally know what God approves of and what He desires of us if we never study His Word? Topical reference and formulated Bible studies replace in-depth study and greatly limit personal revelation. In a corporate setting, if a pastor/teacher should teach false information to the "laity", and the "laity" do not weigh it against the Word, the false teaching is adopted, embraced and passed on to further generations. I personally believe that this has been the single greatest detriment to the Body of Christ throughout all of history. Traditions and doctrines have become gospel fact. Catch phrases and denominational doctrines have been passed down as Truth and it should not be so. The fruit of such fallacy is plainly evident today in "church services" all across this nation, and in fact, the world. It is time to stop the cycle and return to the written Word of God.

Prejudice. Judgment before investigation. Over the past few years, several people have just blatantly told me that there is no way one can be a growing, active, affective Christian unless he or she is involved within a "local church". The error here is that the definition has been defined incorrectly. The "local body" is not what it is promoted and thought to be. The Body has nothing to do with attending services together, but being unified followers of Christ. One cannot ever be open to something new until they are at least willing to look into it for themselves. Sadly, many write off withdrawing from wide road Christianity because they have had bad experiences or even because of hear-say regarding others who "abandoned church". Of course it would not be in error to assume that many have left organized religion wrongly. Hurt feelings, bad relationships and incorrectly handled situations have likely caused millions to become disenfranchised with the Body of Christ. One must understand however that not everyone who leaves the "church" is angry, bitter or vengeful. Many, as myself, see it as displeasing to the LORD and that is the absolute foremost motivation. The question is, will one be willing to at least personally look into the matter before judging it. Most importantly, what fruit is produced from it? I would, without wavering or excuse, state that those who I know that gather as the Body outside of organized religion produce significantly more Kingdom fruit than those that I know within the institutional "church" (and this is quite a large pool I have to draw from).

Uneasiness. The acceptance of new information disturbs one's comfort zone. Most Christians are comfortable in their religious environment and ecclesiastical shell that they or others have created for them. We are a people that if we don't like it, we simply won't do it. This is dangerous my friend considering we are to live sacrificial lives of dying to ourselves. When one begins to move out of what the majority defines as right, it will not be easy. Sitting in an easy and comfortable environment where you're seldom ever even challenged to move reeks of conformity and complacency to me. I believe that a growing, maturing Believer will continually run into "uncomfortable" situations where they must fully rely on the LORD for guidance, ability and assistance. God is more interested in our submission than our comfort.

Part 2 of 2 will be posted in a few days..



Harriet said...

I do indeed remember having my "comfort zone" messed with too many years ago either.
It wasn't pleasant. But change rarely IS for me personally.

I can't go back to the institutional church anymore.

on a side note..
Frank and I enjoyed our time with you and Kristin last night!("church" was GREAT!) ;)
Thank you so much for your friendship!

NINA said...

Great beginning. Love the title. I was just thinking about how there is nothing new under the sun. The very reasons why people choose the "in- crowd" over the cloud is the very reasons why Jesus was crucified.As you said, prejudice,ignorance and uneasiness. I always say that it was thew unwillingness of people to receive a fresh revelation. But it's all the same. What traditionalists don't realize is that they are crucifying Christ over and over again when they deny the freedoms we were given and refuse relationship with him. I find it interesting that when people were asked should they release Jesus or release the murderer they chose to release the murderer. This is because murder was something that they were familiar with.I don't have to even point out the similarities because I am sure you already can see a few.But the point is that before people would come out of their comfort zones they would rather deal with potential death than that which is unfamiliar which can bring new Life.Jesus was no threat or harm to anyone and He came bringing blessings.But people did not understand so they chose to deal with that which was familiar.Anything that is not growing is dead and it is impossible to grow past a certain point spiritually without relationship or as you said choosing "the cloud over the crowd". We as believer's must learn to choose life and contrary to popular belief,there is life past "just" salvation.Great blog.

Joel Spencer said...

Harriet: Regarding Body gatherings, when I find myself in uncomfortable situations, I try to ask myself, "will it cause me to grow and rely upon the LORD in a greater way?" If so, within reason, I'll usually attempt to dive in and get over it. Growth and victories often come outside of our comfort zones. Now I'm sure not suggesting one throws out discernment or wisdom, but much that is spiritually good for us dwells in the unchartered territories.

Nina: Interesting points. Those in the time of Jesus surely did not desire to embrace the "new", you're right. In our case today, the old (original) is what needs to be the "new". Following Jesus, the Christ alone is just not acceptable in the clique-ish oriented Christian circles.

I choose one identity, in Jesus Christ.

Harriet said...

oh I understand.. I don't LIKE my comfort zone messed with..but I allow it to happen and listen closely to the Spirit for guidance and comfort during the "ride".

Valerie said...

"Most Christians are comfortable in their religious environment and ecclesiastical shell that they or others have created for them. We are a people that if we don't like it, we simply won't do it."

How true Joel. Don't ask them to think for themselves. Also many don't want to pay the price for what it involves in walking in relationship with Jesus. The world has a grip on them and to leave that behind is unthinkable. Give me Jesus anyday over the world. I say with Job "though He slay me yet will I trust Him." (and no I don't have it easy!!)

Anonymous said...

I didn't like my comfort zone messed with either, but the more it happens, I am growing to adjust to it more and more. it hurts but it feels good at the same time. I guess it is a little like I am burning flesh and that always hurts but when it is gone, Chirst has space to take over.

Joel Spencer said...

Harriet: I hear ya.

Valerie: The thing I'm trying to remember is how hard it seems from the inside. The how's, what if's and many questions make it tough to venture into the unknown. Nonetheless, no excuses will suffice. We must continue to follow Christ alone over ways of men.

Anonymous: True. Even in the process of struggling with change, there is a joy and peace in the expectation of the results. After all, we are to "be conformed into the image of Christ" which, at its very heart resides in change.

The way I see it, we'd better get used to it. :)

Anonymous said...

The term 'buffet' infers that we can pick and choose the parts we like. Sounds like Burger King to me: I want it my way, the way I like it. Me, me, me. I get my feelings hurt if it does not play into my arch of understanding.
There is great danger in this. Organized religion, in and of itself has many flaws, but wheat and tares often grow together. Why not let the Lord remove the fire fodder and not hurry the process along.
I'm all for present truth. Just not at the expense of being a lone ranger or an elitist snob. Community is important. Just as honor, loyalty, submission, trust, and faithfulness.
Fear has everything to do with it, for sure. Many are afraid to think on their own, within the boundaries held in place by God's planting.
House churches are cool, for sure. So much more comfortable, I mean your refrigerator is right there! lol Perfection is expected. Holiness is still required and maturity still meanders through a lonely path, no matter how you try to rush it.

PS-to Nina:
Jesus was no threat or harm to anyone and He came bringing blessings.-Might want to re-think this: Matthew 10-I did not come to bring peace but a sword. He was intolerant on the Pharisee and the Sadducee denominations. Three woes were given. He did mess with their theology and upset their apple carts on many occasion. Jesus WAS Mr. Controversy.

Joel Spencer said...

Anonymous: You misunderstand the "buffet" analogy greatly my friend. It is a vast land of bounty that is not fed to you by someone in position. You eat of what the LORD has prepared for you. I'd encourage you to study the Scriptures that reference "the great feast" or "wedding suppers" in order to grasp the deeper meaning. Partaking of this feast is no selfish event.

Another misunderstanding is your reference to "house churches". I don't attend "house churches". I gather in homes and live out New Testament gathering of the Body of Christ. House churches can just be normal church order in the confines of a living room if the origin is errant.

And it is not "comfortable" if it is genuine. You see, most deem comfort as what chairs we sit in and how the lighting is and this is not correct. The spiritual atmosphere is challenging. All are in a place of transaparency and this is far from comfortable for many, even myself at times after years now. One must experience it to understand.

What is "community" that you reference? Is it just gathering together? I do not just desire "community" because millions of people gather together in community in the name of anything. I desire biblical unity and that is a much deeper level of relationship. Community is simple - anyone can hang out together. Unity requires Christ at the Head and the Body in submission under Him.

I find it odd that you label Jesus as "Mr. Controversy" yet are seemingly debating my desire to also stand up and question religious authority.