Monday, April 22, 2013

To Church or Not to Church...

After 21 years and quite a few ‘pew experiences’, I am faced with a decision that seems to have me in a quiet quandary. Do I enter back into a traditional church setting complete with all the accompaniments that go with a Sunday morning service, or do I continue the way that I have become spiritually accustomed over the past few years and allow God to guide my path in ways that I could have never imagined?

I have a few Pastor friends that I have had various discussions with throughout the years and I respect their longstanding view on the subject of ‘Forsake not the gathering of yourselves together.’ I honestly wouldn't expect anything different from their vantage point. In fact, I agree. I wholeheartedly believe in being in the company of others who honor God the same as I do. I simply struggle with the idea that this setting is always in the traditional church.

From what I've witnessed and been a part of over the years, it seems that we (church folk) have a distinct habit of becoming isolated within the walls of the building therefore cutting us off from our neighbors, family members, co-workers etc… We simply seek to do and be involved only in the things that are sponsored by our local church. The problem is that this seems polar opposite of the example of Jesus, who appeared to have a strong desire and deliberate love for those outside of the religious spectrum. He walked, talked and ate with the best and the worst of them without making so much as a race, class or gender distinction. At least that’s what I gathered from reading the scriptures.

He also found himself defending his choice of ministry constantly with the traditionalist of that day. It seemed that he violated the Sabbath quite often in their strict estimations. But what I wish to emulate the most about Jesus on this subject, is that He knew distinctly what, where and whom He was called to and He did it unapologetic-ally. He did it free from accepting the sting of judgment.

I believe that today the church world would refer to Him as a vagabond or one who did not want to be under the authority of leadership and those following Him, his disciples, would possibly be deemed as mislead.  I’m almost certain that I would be amongst those judged in his company if He were here on earth today because I’m even surer that I would be considered one of the least, if He were to break bread with me.
As much as I try to bridge the correlation between the modern day church and the authentic ministry of Jesus Christ, I simply can’t always see it.

That’s not to mean that I have not experienced powerful worship, revelation of the word through preaching and healing inside those aforementioned four walls, I truly have. But it seems that in order to continue to enjoy the atmosphere and the presence of God’s people, one must commit to a level that can easily take us out of balance.

I have a strong desire to know all types of people from various cultures and backgrounds. Unfortunately, this has not always been my church experience. The overall racial division on Sunday morning still astounds me and the cost of assimilation often comes with losing touch with the beauty of one’s own culture. This often speaks loudest in the music ministry.

I want to share the love of God simply by being the love of God to others without having to hand out a flyer or insist that they visit my church. I want to share meals, music and laughter on a level that doesn't seem divided…share being the operative word.  I believe that culture is meant to be exchanged not altered to look like the majority.

The idea of taking a walk with a friend or working in Community Theater and meeting interesting people who have their own stories to tell, intrigues me. Being involved in something larger than a city block and contributing in lasting ways to our society overall is the calling that I feel is on my life.

It’s important to me that I display to my children the need to ‘walk with God’ over regular, dutiful church attendance. The voice of the Holy Spirit is much more useful in the dark places than the voice of man. And while God does use man to minister, He calls us unto himself as well.  John 10:27 My sheep know my voice, I know them and they follow me.

Over the past few years, in the presence of God, in prayer and desperate desire to grow in Him, I have seen my life change exponentially. I’ve learned to fine tune my hearing to His voice and to live free from any denominational or traditional expectations. The scriptures are more alive to me than ever and yes, my love for people, all types of people, is at an all-time high.

I have had unexpected encounters with amazing Godly people just at the times when I’ve needed them most and I have continued to keep in touch with my wise mentors and those who have known me for many years. There have been quiet days full of wonder and weeping days full of release and I can honestly say that God has been with me entirely through it all.

Habits that I thought would never break off of me have been broken and fears that I carried for years are constantly subsiding.  I believe all of this has happened because of my decision to step back from what was expected of me (which is where I learned to pretend) and simply be in the presence of God, which is where I’ve learned to be real.

I can tell by His gentle leading that God is calling me back into corporate fellowship but I’m also certain that He is not doing so at the risk of me filling a schedule of activities and meetings that steal me away from the richness of His presence.

If we insist that people must adhere to the schedule of the church, the vision of the Pastor and the needs of the ministry on such a regimented level…are we doing so at the expense of their own personal need to be one with God and complete in the presence of Christ? Are we doing so at the risk of losing relationship with those outside of the church who desperately need a touch, a hug or a kind word even if they never come inside?

Can’t we allow ourselves the balance of both being present in ministry on the inside without isolating ourselves from the rest of the world? If the light stays inside the building only to come out on special occasions (scheduled outreach events) how dark do you expect it to get before it’s all said and done?

Why not leave the doors open and the lights on at all times? You never know who needs to come in…or go out.

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  1. Bonita I have definitely been where you are and can totally relate. I asked myself these questions during my season of unchurch if you will. I have also discovered that there is a balance within the right ministry. God is literally allowing me to experience the best of both worlds now that I am open to the very existence of both worlds.

  2. Thank you so much for being inside my head and speaking what I was thinking. I joined a church looking for a 'home' and went maybe like I was supposed to but being a 'new babe in Christ' I was doing good considering I had previously limited myself to New Year's Eve, Palm Sunday and Easter Sunrise service. Sometimes I find that I can hear Him speak to me when I can focus on Him and I did't always find the focus within the walls. As a matter of fact sometimes I found them to be a distraction. I want to get to a worship and praise life that comes as easy as breathing. I know that if I keep going forward and seeking His word and guidance I'll be right there. Thank you Sis for once again being on point! Love ya!

  3. Bonita:
    I love this! These are questions that all of us should be wrestling with asking.
    How are the traditions that we have inherited helping or hurting us as we embrace God's kingdom mission.
    All of these are traditions: Sunday worship, church buildings, sermons, youth groups, 3 songs/hymns and a homily...
    For my part, I have found a fragile peace in knowing, through Larry Crabb's book "Inside Out" that my deepest longings and hopes will not be realized in this life.
    Thanks for wrestling!