In the West we live in a Post-Christian Society and Christianity is seen to offer if anything, only very little to my generation. Not only are people less likely to happen upon church, just as many are leaving or have left – myself included. Red flags anyone?
It’s a scary thing to hear of someone “leaving” the Church, it sure gets the ole alarm bells ringing and we automatically think that something has gone wrong here, Jesus is being abandoned and she/he must be going AWOL – I assure you that is not my truth.
I still love Jesus. I still love God’s Church. I still love being in Christian Community and offering myself as a part of a whole – these are all essentials to a wholeness in one’s faith – and I’m also pretty sure that I will be planted back in at some stage, but for this season I have been called to continue (not be separate from) church in an expression outside of the walls.
If I’ve caught you off guard, I promise you that I’m not some rogue “New Age” Christian with a loose grip on my faith and I’m not a liberal disaster with no respect for tradition, so as I unpack my story I pray you hear my heart out.
I want to be transparent about where I stand in my faith journey, especially to those who read my blog, and you should want to know whether I’m safe? That’s wise because we should be discerning and not frivolous about who and what we allow to influence us and speak into our lives.
No Room to Grow
I seriously have no qualms with my church of 15 years, I owe so much to God for the roots he laid down for my family and I there and it was a blessing to have a “church upbringing” that I have little to recover from.
We were a family, a small community church with fruits a plenty and with leaders that introduced us to the simple gospel; to Love God and Love people. To be fair, I didn’t really leave my church it was more a case of – as I was on my way out, the doors shut – because April this year our Pastors were called to a new venture overseas and we had our final service.
The closure was recent, but I had been clocking out emotionally over the 2-3 years prior. I started to feel like I was in a box that I just didn’t fit into anymore and I was bursting at the seams. For a while that box, the walls, the structure gave me a sense of security and it provided me the right conditions for growth, but as I matured I felt a bit stuck? I had become stagnant in my early adult years and I had no “go to” from here.
The model of the modern church simply does not allow for every member to be activated the same, we can all enter discipleship but we don’t necessarily have equal opportunity to reach our full potential within that setting.
It’s probably not intentionally that way, it’s just the way things are because it’s the way things have always been. But imagine if how we “did church” supported a model more intentional about really seeing every person operating in their gifts and abilities – Imagine a church fully mobilised! Perhaps then, we would be a church equipped to bring a move of God on the outside?
“The Church is not a religious community of worshippers of Christ but is Christ himself who has taken form among people.”- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Call for Christ-In-Us
Not only had I outgrown the physical model of church, I also felt like my spirit was seeking something beyond Sunday Christianity and cups of teas with biscuits after the service. I get it. We know how to church; Welcome – praise songs – atmospheric worship songs – weekly notices – offering spiel – communion – intro speaker – sermon – closing prayer – “See ya next Sunday folks, have a blessed week.” Sound familiar? We know how to DO CHURCH, but I think we’ve forgotten how to really BE the CHURCH.
We don’t have to look far to see that the world around us is deteriorating faster than we can keep up and the “same old same old” may need to undergo a bit of a makeover, not so that we can appeal to modern culture, but so we are ready and available to give an answer to the unanswered questions of TODAY that many are dying for, literally.
If we took a moment to concern ourselves with what is happening just next door and turned our focus outward, we may actually be accessible to our neighbour in need? If we are ever to point anyone toward Jesus, we would at some point actually need to get up out of our seats – and regularly.
What ever happened to The Great Commission? How casual we have become in our call as God’s Church and how comfortable we have become to remain inside when Jesus beckons our hearts inside OUT, moving us to go beyond ourselves and our comforts to affect the World for the Kingdom of God! Has the gospel lost its sting? I think not.
People still need to hear the old old story, our culture though counter to Christ still seeks something real, a new hope and a peace that only God can provide. They still need to hear some GOOD NEWS, the liberating, chain breaking and powerfully healing Good News of Jesus and we need to keep telling it relentlessly!
We need to tell the story of Jesus with our mouths, our hearts and in the way we live and love, so that every living person can have their most basic need met; to have fellowship and relationship with the living God! We must be the church to exude the very presence of Christ-in-us and our hearts so transformed that it has a multiplying effect in our society.
We must return to the simple gospel; loving the unlovable, lifting the oppressed, giving generously to the impoverished, being a friend to the friendless and a home for the homeless. We need to return to the all-inclusive family heart of God.
“Not for yourself, O church, do you exist, any more than Christ existed for himself.” – Charles Spurgeon
Stripped back Worship
Having spent months now on the “outside” I feel I have grown in a way that was just not possible in the environment and conditions I had been in for so long and being replanted in an open field is less about feeling free and more about feeding the personal call of God on my life.
Being exposed in openness to God, myself and others has revealed where I had divvied up my trust (in agendas to tell me how and when to worship, atmospheric songs to cue me to “go deeper, “etc..) but being stripped back to the bare minimum has realigned my trust in Christ-alone and in authentic fellowship and meaningful relationships with other believers over meals, celebrations, spontaneous prayer time and actually sharing our real lives.
I no longer need the noise and the entertainment and the schedules as a vehicle to near me toward God, I have learned to do that now in the quiet, and the still and in the most plain of atmospheres and environments. The Lord has rewired me and retuned me to his voice and made me sensitive to his spirit and his direction because I have little distraction. I no longer need the aids and enhancers to “go deeper” I arrive there every morning that I wake now, it’s where I live and not just a place I go to.
I’ve been visiting churches since moving to Sydney (mostly for community) and despite some beautiful encounters and experiencing some seriously well-oiled mega church machines, I feel this discomfort within the pews and I’m not quite sure when and to what capacity God will call me back in, that’s up to him.
I’m still in amazing community with faith friends and family through social media and have regular face to face fellowship with our Aussie encounters. We each have accountability relationships and are checking ourselves constantly, so we do still have “church” remembering that it’s not a building, but a people.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ” – Hebrews 10;24-25
A Great Work Ahead
I’ve become so dissatisfied with being a spectator and I still feel this increasing sense of responsibility to live out a faith that has legs (and guts too). Right now, I feel to continue to deter from being complacent and sinking further into my chair, getting fat and full while there are people starving for life, for truth, for an unconditional love and for a peace that can only come from a heart touched by God and I want to leave myself available to respond to that however God would have me do so.
I love The Church – God’s people, and I am by no means calling the conventional church out nor do I want to depreciate from the wonderful work they do and have done over the years, but the harvest is plenty and the workers are few, we have a massive work ahead and so we need to be willing and able to see Kingdom Come!
Whether we are inside or on the outside of the church walls, there is absolutely no time for passive, apathetic, Sunday, pew sitting Christianity. We are to be a city on a hill, a lamp on its stand, a bright light in the darkness and a people to bring a mighty move of God – So what are we awaiting for?!!!
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Jesus
Kayla H xo