Judging Others by Their View of Church

Being disillusioned with traditional church forms, it would be easy to fall into the trap of dismissing all that is in them – including many people – as missing God’s intent, or of little value. In more extreme cases, one could argue that one should not associate with them at all – if we think a false gospel is preached or other sinful excesses are endorsed. For example, from my perspective, any church (fellowship of God’s people) that constantly teaches we _must_ tithe to be good Christians is constantly preaching falsehood – and preaching falsehood is a pretty serious thing. I also have numerous concerns about worldly hierarchical approaches.

But if we dismiss people in churches due to these things, are we being too judgemental or divisive ourselves? Are we just contributing to conflict that will never result in reconciliation between various groups of God’s people?

On the other hand, by accepting them all, are we then too tolerant and not judging enough? Surely it is also important to state truth, though not necessarily in an attacking fashion. Some people will not hear it otherwise. (Each side promoting a different ‘truth’ would agree with that, but prefer the other side to stop.)

Here are some quotes from Wayne Jacobsen at http://www.Lifestream.org where he touches on the tension between disillusionment with traditional systems and rejecting anything and everyone to do with them outright:

I know how passionate people can be when they leave an abusive congregation, or even one that sucked out their spiritual passion with religious activities that did little to help them live the life Father wanted for them. And I know how threatening it can be for those who still embrace the congregational form as the only God-given expression of the body of Christ, to see people walk away and talk as if it is unnecessary at best and harmful at worst.

But let’s be real about it. Spontaneously and simultaneously believers all over the world are rethinking what it means to live in the life of Jesus and how the body of Christ takes expression in our world. They have wearied of religious systems that permeates much of our congregational life and are looking for more effective alternatives. It’s not enough to simply say that Hebrews 10:25 requires all committed Christians to be in attendance on Sunday morning in one of the institutions called ‘church’. They know better. ‘Assembling together’ is not a matter of attendance at a meeting, but the joining of lives in a common journey.

Many of those are still in systems their heart no longer supports, and they too yearn for a deeper reality to their spiritual life and a revival in church life. In these days we have far more to gain by keeping the lines of communication open between us all rather than by dividing up sides and rejecting those who disagree with us.

Jacobsen then illustrates why some people have left traditional churches, and why other are still there. He then concludes:

It’s Not About Church

My point is this: there are many wonderful God-loving believers inside traditional congregations and there are many who have spilled out of them. Those looking for a more authentic life in him and with his church have more to gain by staying in fellowship with each other rather than cutting each other off if we’re being led in different directions.

While I love alternative forms of relational life that are often expressed in homes and in more informal groupings, if we only change the locale without shifting our focus we will end up with the same result. If we’re focused on how we do church, even if we find more Scriptural ways to do it, instead of on Jesus himself as the Cornerstone and Head of that church, we will still miss his life. In short, finding our place in the body of Christ has far less to do with how we do church than it does with how we find our life on him.

It’s not about church; it’s about Jesus. Where he captures our hearts and draws us to himself, we will find ourselves growing in the dynamics that allow the life of his church to emerge around us. We will value people being real, rather than pretending. We’ll want to free people from guilt and condemnation rather than manipulate them to get them to do what we think is best for them. We’ll value relationships that illuminate Jesus in our lives more than meetings that often don’t. And those who bear his heart will help equip others to live the life not manage programs for others to be obligated to attend.

In this kingdom the critical question is not where you go to church or how you ‘do church’ it is whether or not you’re coming to know him and walking alongside those he is giving you at any moment to help them on their journey. And if you are, you’ll be far more concerned with recognizing Jesus’ work in others, rather than judging their place in him by their view of church.

Read complete article here – its worth it.

9 thoughts on “Judging Others by Their View of Church

  1. So that article explains why I attempt to comment on controversial doctrines, practices and false teachers (where its darned obvious!) rather than have a go at individuals within churches. My problem is, I may not have enough angst to provide the controversy to keep this site happening! Which is one of the many reasons this is a community exercise, not a ravingpente exercise. Although its interesting seeing the strong reactions that sometimes emerge even when one is attempting not to be particularly hateful towards anyone.

  2. Would you agree that blogging is becoming a really good way to get the message out about all the problems the church is experiencing? A great way to link with like-minded people who find the journey out of their church painful – especially when there seems to be a shortage of churches preaching sound doctrine.

  3. To me it’s not about a “journey” (so easy to be at the centre), it’s got to become all about Christ and as Paul says “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…”

    I don’t want to become so self-absorbed that I forget that.

  4. Yes, I agree Teddy. It was a relief to me when I found the original Signposts (though I didn’t comment there), to know that I wasn’t the only one experiencing these issues. I think its important to have somewhere to express our concerns, and to for it to be accessible to the average person. (You don’t need a theological degree to comment or understand the posts. Although education is respected!) I’ve really appreciated being able to link up with other like-minded people.

    Your point about being the ‘centre’ is also a good one. A Christ centred journey should ultimately result in us dying to ourselves in many ways, and living for him. That would mean being a lot less ‘self’ centred. I still have a long way to go here.

  5. I’m constantly challenged by “old” thinking and sometimes struggle with guilt for allowing myself to take teaching on board without running it past my Bible.

    We become victims of the charisma of preachers and overlook sound doctrine because there is perceived church growth – numerical instead of spiritual.

  6. Well you know that God has forgiven you for anything you did in the past, including not questioning false doctrines! I certainly swallowed things too easily in the past and thank God for setting me free. It’s pretty bad that I am in some ways starting again from scratch after 20 years in Pente churches.

    I find it hard to shake some of the ‘old’ teachings, particularly the ‘touch not the Lord’s anointed’ – even though I know its been badly misused. Some of the teachings run deeper than we first imagine. Might have to do a post on that one.

  7. Hey Teddy. It sounds like you need to read a bit of Steve McVey’s Gracebook series. Check out his book ‘Gracewalk’. It will really teach you about how to operate in your Christ-given nature and not in your dead fallen nature. It’s helped out my family and others I know immeasurably!

    Quick reminder Teddy, you HAVE the mind of Christ! Those are not your thoughts but the enemies words. Just don’t accept them. If I said to you ‘check out the legs on that woman’, you’d bar my words and ignore me. They’re not your thoughts but my spoken words.

    That’s how Satan’s spirits work. They’ll tempt you with their words and thoughts and then enjoy you condemn yourself because you thought it was your own mind! The fact that you hate sinning already should prove to you that you have the nature and mind of Christ. Just be weary that it is the enemy putting thoughts into your own head and you can resist. Just how Satan tempted Jesus with tempting thoughts and clever words, so does he try to test us. You don’t operate in your carnal mind when you are aware of the spiritual deceit that tries to trick you.

    This doesn’t mean I don’t stumble, but I no longer condemn myself and see myself as unworthy or un-Christ-like. Hope that info helped mate. I hate seeing people in bondage.

  8. Thanks S&P – I really do understand grace, it’s just been too many years of exposure to false teaching that I KNEW was wrong. Never felt more free in my life. One of the best things I’ve done is to research the history of the charismatic movement from all angles using my bible. Now there’s a debate! Not that it makes a difference but I’m a female.

  9. Now that sounds interesting, Teddy. Looking forward to hearing of your findings and discoveries, if you wish to do a post on the topic.

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