The Sin of Forsaking Fellowship

Lonely_Bird_by_MsJimmy

As of roughly a year ago, I have quit going to church. Permanently. My reasons aren’t relevant to this post, but it wasn’t a decision that I came by easily or quickly. There were many questions that plagued me throughout the time leading up to my eventual departure, but I wish to inspect one of them in particular: What was I going to do for fellowship?

“Fellowship” is something held in very high regard to Christians. It probably should have been included as the 11th commandment. It goes like this:

“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” – Hebrews 10:24-25

Oh, man! I certainly didn’t want to be one of those “SOME people”.

I was troubled: If I were to leave, how would I be able to keep this command? How would I be held accountable in my walk with God? Who was going to be there to correct me when I was out of line? Certainly God, by the Holy Spirit, wouldn’t do this himself! I was terrified that if I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer to this question that I may slip and fall away from the faith. I had heard rumors of Christians that didn’t go to church, though I didn’t really know any of them personally, but I was pretty sure the few I’d met were probably not very serious Christians.

Person after person would plead with me to reconsider. If I had to leave the church I was at, or even take a little break for awhile, then that was partially understandable… so long as I didn’t just give up on church completely. These people were genuinely concerned for me (and still are), and I was genuinely terrified for both myself and my family. The last thing I wanted to do was lead them off a spiritual cliff.

The Edge of the World

Once upon a time, the world was flat. It was full of sea monsters that devoured entire ships that ventured too far, and ships that ventured even further were in an even greater danger; they would fall off the edge of the world.

And so it was with my understanding of Christianity. Attempting to follow Jesus without a Pastor or at least a group of other Christians to keep me in line was almost certain spiritual suicide. I was never to leave the safety of the church’s harbor. Still, I wondered if perhaps there was something else that had become of those ships that fell off the horizon. I had recently been doing a bit of sleuthing of my own, and come across the stories of other ex-church explorers that had not only survived, but kept their faith intact.

And then, one day, I had an epiphany…

I live in a country that permits me the freedom to serve any God I choose in pretty much any way I choose. I can go to a Christian bookstore and buy another Bible for my collection any time I like. I have the freedom to pray in public. I can turn on my radio and listen to Christian-themed music (not usually a fan, actually, but I COULD). I can go online and read the thoughts of an endless sea of Christian authors for free, or watch a favorite preacher on television (again, not usually a fan, but I COULD).

But I compared this to what I know of Christian history in the first century, and continuing even today. People are threatened with violence, but they follow Christ. Their own families turn on them, even seeking to kill them, and still they choose Christ. They are starving, and impoverished, yet still they serve Christ. It seems that in the days of the early church a Christian would be killed, but then two more appear in their place. The Christians, the “little-Christs”, were like an unstoppable force.

And here I was, worried that I couldn’t follow Jesus in an environment where I was completely free to do so. No persecutors, a relatively comfortable lifestyle, a happy and healthy family, and I was scared the sea monsters were going to steal away my faith.

Seriously, what kind of a Christian would that make me?

He’s Either In You, or He’s Not

Imagine somebody told you that he really loved his wife more than anything; that she was the center of his life, his reason for living, and that his marriage was the stuff of fantasy. You ask him, “what’s your secret?”

He tells you all about this club for married men that he goes to every week. In this club all the men talk about how much they love their wives and encourage one another to stay faithful to their wives. He also tells you that whenever someone leaves the club, they end up in divorce. He ashamedly admits that every time he himself lapses in attending to this club, he cheats on his wife.

I don’t know about you, but I’d say this guy doesn’t really love his wife.

But is this how we see our relationship with Jesus? As being wholly dependent on membership to a club responsible for keeping us close to him? I began to see that if I were to stop attending a church service then there were only two possible outcomes. The preferable outcome, of course, would be that I would continue serving him as I always had.

On the other hand, maybe I would in fact cease to follow after him. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that if this were the case, then I really wouldn’t have been “falling away” at all. The harsh truth would be that I had never really loved him in the first place. If I were standing there before God, with NOTHING between us, and I walked the other direction to harlot myself away, then I would be exposed as a liar. What would I say in my defense? That other people weren’t there to push me back toward him against my will?

If this was true, then covering it up with a regular meeting would be the WORST thing I could do! I’d be a liar! Worse, I’d be deceived. Ignorance may be bliss, but it certainly won’t draw me closer to the one I claim to love. I realized my weekly meetings may be actually blinding me to my true nature, slowly dulling my senses until I was totally numb to how distant I actually was. If so, I’d be far better off staying at home. At least then I’d have a chance at waking up from the delusion.

Here’s the real question: Who am I when nobody is around? Who am I when nobody is there to “hold me accountable”? This is an important question to explore, because THAT’S the person God sees when he looks at me. He doesn’t care one bit about the carefully curated Sunday image. I may very well be able to fool myself, but he never falls for it.

That One Verse

But still, what about that verse! Remember:

“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” – Hebrews 10:24-25

First let me point out that there is way too much made of this verse. I have heard this verse repeated like the chorus of “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” (maybe that dates me?) You know why it’s repeated so much? Because there really aren’t any other verses to go with it.

One verse.

Not that this makes the verse invalid, but let’s really take a look at it. Temporarily move everything you know about “church” out of your head and look at it with a blank canvas. Now, paint a picture of what it says about HOW we are to meet together. Does your picture include a steeple? A choir? A preacher? If it does, you need to try again. None of that stuff was there. It just says “meet together”, without saying anything about how to do so.

Actually, it doesn’t even say that. It says don’t NEGLECT to meet together. In other words, take advantage of meeting with the believers if you can, but what if you can’t? Were the Apostles in sin when they sat in their jail cells, apart from any fellowship?

This single verse is used as a real guilt trip for those that have, for one reason or another, decided to leave their churches. These people actually tend to guilt themselves, thinking that they are doing something wrong because they’re not obeying a clear command. Despite their best efforts to try and find others in their area with whom they can meet, they are stranded and haven’t made any such connections.

If such is the case, are they NEGLECTING to meet together? It seems to me they are trying, but there’s just nothing to neglect. If the opportunity arose to meet with other believers (apart from all the religious ceremony they’ve decided to leave behind), they would take it. In the meantime, can’t they spend time seeking Jesus on their own without being judged for it?

And besides, is this really even a “command” at all? It seems the author of Hebrews is making more of a suggestion when he uses the phrasing “let us consider”. Furthermore, when taken in context, v.25a is the only portion of the passage that mentions anything about gathering together. It’s really not even part of the bigger point he’s making.

SIDE NOTE: to those that believe a “church” service to be the fulfillment of this supposed command, I would ask that you seriously consider how much fellowship actually occurs during a 90 minute service? With everyone sitting in rows, staring at the back of a sea of heads, and a small handful of people doing all the “ministering” (performing) from a stage, do you really feel this is fellowship?

What is a NEED?

QUESTION: In order to be reconciled to God, I need to have faith in Jesus and (fill in the blank).

Yeah, it’s a trick question. You can’t put “fellowship with other believers” in that blank. In fact, you can’t put anything in that blank. What is it that we NEED in order to be followers of Jesus, other than to follow Jesus? Fellowship with a community of believers is an amazing gift that I should cherish and enjoy when it’s available, and I’d be foolish to NEGLECT it, but it’s not a NEED that will cause me to shrivel up when it’s unavailable.

If my faith relies on something that can be taken away, then I’m relying on things I shouldn’t be relying on. If I’m imprisoned, starving, without a Bible, and without any friends, would I then cease to follow Christ? Even worse, would I blame it on a lack of the things I needed in order to do so? Is it not true that his grace is sufficient for us?

Even among those I’ve met outside of traditional churches, there seems to be this idea that fellowship/community/family/etc is among the most basic necessities of our faith. One of the most common questions I get when people find out I don’t go to church is: “what do you do for fellowship?” It’s spoken of as though it’s water for our soul.

It troubles me that we’ve put this on so high a pedestal. ALL we need is Christ. He is everything. He is our bread, he is our light, he is our portion. If my faith would crumble without fellowship, or a pastor, or even a Bible, then there are idols in my life that I am leaning on instead of Jesus. I need to ask that he take those dependancies away.

But For Those Still Curious…

All that said, I AM personally fortunate enough to be able to gather regularly with some amazing friends. I count this as an enormous blessing; I have spoken to many out-of-church Christians that aren’t so lucky. They desperately long for such a group, but God just hasn’t lined that up for them. These people love the Lord, and have in no sense “fallen away” as a result of being disconnected from local believers.

I remember the time immediately following my own departure from institutionalized Christianity; It was so very bittersweet. I felt God’s hand in a way I never had before as he held me close. In the absence of anything else to lean on, he taught me to lean on him. At the same time, I was very lonely indeed. For a time I was depressed, really. Up to that point, my life had been entirely wrapped up in the church system, so leaving meant I had unfortunately been cut off from almost everyone I knew. It was a confusing season. It was honestly too much to bear at times, but God was there to carry all that I could not.

Eventually God was gracious enough to permit me the company of an incredible family of believing brothers and sisters. They mean so much to me! We get together every week and usually spend anywhere from 6-9 hours together, and sometimes more. These relationships are far richer than anything provided by the comparatively cold meetings of a religious ceremony.

And while I’m grateful that God has allowed me this family, I hold them completely open handedly. They are a treasure, but not a need. God may at any time decide it’s best for them to move along, and best for me to be alone again.

But if this happens, I know that he is still more than enough.

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28 thoughts on “The Sin of Forsaking Fellowship

  1. Thank you for what you shared. When my family set out from our traditional church (several years ago) we had been attending for years we became very disheartened. I was always told that to be a true believer we needed to be in a church and going regularly. As life’s activities has pulled us away from the traditional Sunday church we were plagued with guilt from ourselves and pastors. I have tried, with great difficulty, to find that church and that fellowship of believers to find no real connections anywhere that had time for another friend or understood us and the path that God has put us on. This gives me something to ponder because maybe I am in search of the wrong thing at this time in my life.

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    • It breaks my heart to think of people “outside the walls” that feel guilty for “forsaking fellowship”. That’s the primary reason I wrote this. It can be debilitating!

      The truth is, Tammy, that we are free! It is not a building or program or even a group of wonderful people that causes us to follow Christ. If we are his, then it’s Jesus himself that does a work within us. We are compelled to follow him! If we don’t have that urge, then perhaps we aren’t actually who we think we are. Perhaps there is some soul searching to do.

      The point to everything, always, every time… is Jesus. It’s not about fellowship. Seek him first, and everything else gets added later ;)

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  2. Hey Dan, great article. There are so many of us out there that feel the same way. I know for my wife and I, we thought we were the only ones who felt like this, but we are finding there are many who feel like this. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Hello Dan. As usual, this post as others prompts all manner of thought for me. You note many valid points as well as several religious misconceptions and pitfalls many fall prey to in this age.
    Personally, I would consider fellowship a scriptural command and despite the common use of Hebrews 10:24, 25, by no means is this limited to that verse. (not that you are saying as much).

    In Hebrews 3:13, 14 we find this command:

    “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end…..”

    The warning is serious and a neglect of it can lead to disobedience (unbelief) as this passage shows. It more than merely “falling away” due to a lack of fellowship- the unbelief here refers to a holding on or reverting back to the old covenant from what is plainly superior in Christ. As those who can at times still be plagued by Adam’s nature within, we dare not trust ourselves and what “we think” without proper “guidance and counsel.” Note these words in italics closely.

    First, let it be known that I am not a supporter of church in any manner as you know. I left that system more than 15 years ago never to return- first out of frustration and ultimately because I believe my Father told me to. I spent the majority of that time alone and only twice was I actively involved with regular fellowship with other saints as I am now. That was not by accident but due to my need to actively cultivate my relationship with God above all other things/people. In this instance and many others as your own, it was not sin but rather a necessity for God to draw us unto Himself in a deeper manner. Doesn’t He cut many things off in His desire to teach us new things?

    What we have today are professing “Christian” leaders in institutions who are continuously withholding the truth from “their” people- they lie to them. They lie about their need to go to church, they lie about their need to tithe and that church equates to fellowship. They lie about a hundred things which have nothing to do with God, His people or the purpose for which Jesus came to die. The only way God can both correct these errors and teach His children aright is to remove them from the people and places that suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Under the present circumstances that is the safest place to be- in the arms of Jesus, alone.

    In time, and after the necessary preparation, our Father may bring us unto other believers with whom to share real scriptural fellowship. We really do need each other, though not in the manner we have so often been taught by those in church. When one is devoid of Jesus’ life, they go to church looking for something for themselves- to be fed some spiritual nourishment. This is backwards. Our spiritual sustenance must come from Jesus, then and only then can we properly fellowship with others. Do we fellowship to get or to give? Are we not each commanded to encourage one another?

    When Jesus is my life individually, then corporately our lives, I’ll have something to give and so will you. That’s both the testimony that stimulates one another, AND testifies to a dying world so desperate to see the real thing in Him.

    Is real fellowship found in Church?
    “It takes courage to ask the right questions, even more so if one intends to obey God’s answers”

    Thanks Dan. Another great study.

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    • What you shared in your the last part of this comment reminds me of Ephesians 4:11-16:

      11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 12 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ–16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

      We left church because the leadership was not appointed by God and consequently was not equipping the saint for the work of ministry. Instead the leaders of the church were the very ones whom we are warned against in this passage. When we are led by men of God, appointed by Him, we will be built up in our most holy faith and encouraged to grow in Christ. Then we will reject all error and speak the truth for the building up of the body of Jesus Christ in faith and love. I long to be in fellowship with saints who are so led by the Lord Jesus Christ through godly men who are called by Him for their work of service. The compromise and apostasy is deep wide and leading many astray. God bless us.

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  4. Truly as you pointed out “fellowship” is not a command but a very wise exhortation. My teacher many years ago said that truth (as in a command) should have at least two or more scriptures to establish it. Look at the Lordship of Jesus, scripture upon scripture all though the bible declares his majesty. We are commanded and exhorted to love on another over and over in scripture which leads to true fellowship. There is very little fellowship in churches and very little brotherly love. I believe God has led the “outers” out so they can experience the real love and fellowship in the bond of Christ.

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  5. Hi Dan,

    I appreciate the time and thought you’ve put into this post. I had one preliminary comment, then a general reply. My preliminary comment is that I immediately felt wary of your perspective based on how you started the post. You wrote: “As of roughly a year ago, I have quit going to church. Permanently. My reasons aren’t relevant to this post, but it wasn’t a decision that I came by easily or quickly.”

    As an author you can certainly choose to include (or exclude) whatever material you wish. But it’s one thing to write “I won’t be discussing my reasons for making this decision,” it’s entirely another to claim that such reasons aren’t relevant. Of course they are relevant! Particularly as you did not write an academic / exegetical post, but a personal post. So as a reader, when I sense something incorrect in the approach I naturally also become suspicious about the content.

    That said, I chose to take your comment in the sense of “I won’t be discussing my reasons.” Okay. Not sure why (especially when you’ve made a “permanent” decision), but okay. Are you going to discuss that later? Or have you already? I, for one, would be interested to know your reasons.

    My general reply is in several parts. First, I agree that the comments Hebrews 10 are often misconstrued in our churches (I’ve written about that here, if you’re interested). Second, however, I think the fact that this is taken “as a command” and yet there is only “one verse” is both an error and a flawed attempt to present something that was normative within first century Palestinian communities (and which we, as 21st century Western people, have essentially lost).

    This is the notion that family is everything. In antiquity (first century Palestine) the family was the basic unit and it was inviolable. Bruce Molina is a biblical scholar who has done a good amount of research on the familial and cultural norms of this period, and his work identifies the prominent role of “honour and shame” within the cultures of antiquity. Further he notes how, throughout the gospels, Jesus is constantly trying to re-orient his followers to a new family—what Molina calls a “fictive kin group.”

    So Jesus point when his mother and family come searching for him: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (Lk 8: 19-21 NRSV, also Mt 12:46-50 Mk 3:31-35). Thus the relationships between Christians are to be ever bit as strong (stronger, it can be argued) than the already powerful familial bonds in the current culture .

    Please don’t get me wrong:

    I left not only the church but rejected Christianity in 1992/3. In 1999 I re-embraced a rather Christianity, following new understandings and new experiences. But I have only spent about 3 years in church between 1999 and the present, despite nearly a dozen attempts. So having spent so much of my Christian life outside of the church I am certainly not suggesting that your course is flawed.

    But I do think that we need to be clear on a couple of points:

    On the one hand, the original audience would not have needed to be reminded to gather together—their fellow believers had essentially become their family, and in that culture the family unit was everything (indeed, only the very rich could hope to live without maintaining healthy ties to some sort of family unit). In other words, there is only one verse because it addresses a theological misunderstanding specific to the greater context of the book of Hebrews. Otherwise, we may simply assume that Christian believers were gathering together (with the how, where, and other questions being the points at issue).

    On the other hand, why Christians choose to abstain from church-going is crucial, for this type of information helps others who are less certain / experienced in these matters make better choices. For myself, I left not just the church but Christianity, and one of the great contributing factors toward this choice was that the Christianity that I previously held (and that was either taught or “embodied” in the churches in which I was raised) was terminally flawed. As such, having returned to Christianity by virtue of having new understandings (of God, myself, and the world around me) and new experiences (of the same), I could not with honesty participate in a church where I was not able to be open about my understandings and experiences.

    Stated differently, I believe that there are certain minimum standards that must characterize any gathering such that it is “Christian.” These include standards of interaction (i.e., fostering dialogue and not dispute), standards of care (i.e., loving others such that we value their perspectives and manner of interpretation as our own—loving the other “as myself”), and standards of purpose (i.e., seeking truth above tradition, security, etc. and doing so on the basis of the evidence of facts, not the eminence of persons). The standards to do no prevent critique but rather ensure that critique begins with listening and sees truth and love standing on even footing throughout.

    Without these standards of interaction, care, and purpose no gathering of people can hope to welcome outsiders which, where Christianity is concerned includes atheists, Christians who see things differently than we do, and especially God (who is both know and Wholly Other).

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing this. We left the institutionalized church almost a year ago. Your analogy about the club for married men hit the nail on the head. I had a lady from our former church tell me recently that we should be in church because “where else could we fellowship and give our tithes?” I have no desire to go back even though we have not currently found anyone else to “fellowship” with. We are growing and learning, and our relationships with out teenagers have improved 100% since they left the youth group culture that was dragging them down.

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    • How is it that people can’t immediately see the flaw in assuming “fellowship” can’t occur outside a 90 minute Sunday production? For that matter, how is it that fellowship CAN occur in such a production? It might happen before or after, but never during. Fellowship with others is SO much richer in smaller, conversational venues. As to tithes, don’t even get me started… but I’ve got a couple posts on this blog that I’ve written that might help address that concern. Worth noting in the question of “where else could we give our tithes: Jews don’t tithe. You’d think if anybody had an understanding of the importance of tithing today it would be them, but there is no temple and there is no reliable documentation on Jewish lineage, so we don’t know which people are Levites. Tithing to anybody but a Levite would be a sin. The truth is that even IF tithing were a New Covenant requirement, it’s literally not possible to do so in the way prescribed by the law.

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      • I agree, Dan. I dealt with the tithe issue many years ago and came to the same conclusions you did in your blogs on the subject. It just seems sad to me that this lady could sum up her reasons for attending the institutional church setting in such a sterile manner. I have seldom found true fellowship in that setting (I attended for 44 years) and can give money under NT principles anywhere….Not just a building where most of the money is not even used for the actual needs of people.

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  7. Thank you Dan, for your good article on this topic.
    Please check out the book, The Vast New Covenant Transition by George Davis & Michael Clark.
    HERE ARE A FEW EXCERPTS & YOU CAN FIND THE BOOK ONLINE AT:
    http://awildernessvoice.com/VastNCTransition-Chapt03.html
    If it is not new and living it is not a New Covenant assembly, regardless of how many people are gathered under one roof. The epistle to the Hebrews is a warning and an exhortation. Its author repeatedly warns that those who draw back from this heavenly way to return to the old religious traditions risk failing to enter into the fullness of God’s intention. The question is, do we have ears to hear this warning?

    It’s clear from this epistle that the early Jewish believers were dividing into two camps. Some were forsaking assembling in this new and heavenly way and were turning back to the earthly forms of the old religious order, refusing to heed the high calling of the sons of God. They were forsaking the assembling together as His living body, just as surely as unbelieving Israel at Kadesh Barnea grieved God and did not go in and inherit the land of promise.

    T. Austin Sparks, writing about the Book of Hebrews, explains.
    Well, all this constituted this crisis of whether they were going to choose this or that, the one or the other. Go back to something earthly from the heavenly, to something tangible from the spiritual, to something temporal from the eternal, something visible from the invisible. And it is quite evident I think, in this letter before you’re through, that a division was coming about between these believers. They were dividing into two camps. That is the point of the exhortation “forsaking not the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is”. Some were saying, “We’re not going on with that any further” and they were having their own meetings and their own circle and not going on, not going on in this way. A division was taking place; two companies. Here were those who had seen the heavenly calling and the heavenly vision and were going on with it; here were those who, if they had seen it, were letting it go, were drifting away from it. And what a forceful word that is! It has a nautical meaning in the original, as you know. It’s the picture of a ship approaching its moorings on the current and missing its moorings and drifting away and onto the rocks. Lest we come up to this and miss it and drift away and as Israel at Kadesh Barnea were wrecked, we should be wrecked. It’s a warning, it’s an exhortation.

    Those who refuse the new and living way by turning back to dead religious forms are forsaking the general assembly and church of the firstborn. Those who refuse to go on in this heavenly way and return to sitting mutely on a pew are the ones who are forsaking the proper assembly. The author of Hebrews later tells us of our heavenly calling and assembly, which should not be forsaken.

    For you are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as an animal touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a spear: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But you are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, who are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel. See that you refuse not him that speaks. For if they escaped not who refused him that spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape, if we turn away from him that speaks from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Hebrews 12:18-28 KJ2000)
    Will we forsake this assembly, the assembly of the firstborn with the spirits of just men made perfect? God has a much higher standard than the religions of men. Will we embrace the new and living way? Will we allow God to shake all that can be shaken in our lives until all that is left is that kingdom that cannot be shaken? Will we cling to the heavenly Jerusalem, the general assembly and church of the firstborn, or will we turn back to the shadows of earthly tabernacles and carnal ordinances with carnal men? Will we accept this vast New Covenant transition or continue to reconstruct old temples and block the way into the Holy of Holies, the heavenly Zion, with our dead traditions? Will we be guilty of the very thing that Jesus accused the Pharisees of? “…you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither allow you them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13 KJ2000).

    Our meetings cannot be heavenly until we are first seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in the general assembly and church of the firstborn. All who do not first gather in that heavenly sanctuary which God pitched and not man, around God the Judge and Jesus the Mediator of the New and lasting Covenant, will be shaken and scattered by God. God desires His kingdom to be in earth as (or exactly like) it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10), that all things in earth should be after the heavenly pattern. Just as He did with Herod’s temple, He will not permit anything but the heavenly pattern to continue in His name. He resists and scatters everything else in order to preserve the integrity of His work in His children individually, least they come into a unity that is earthly in nature and propensity having lost sight totally of the His eternal purpose.

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  8. Great thoughts and comments.Ironically,those who keep the “command” of “church attendance”,are breaking another by allowing themselves to be burdened with a yoke of bondage…per Gal. 5:1,unable to worship in spirit and truth as Jesus says we should. The churches I have attended all my life,always had sunday school before church,and while there was some real fellowship there,with heartfelt prayer and discussion,for the most part it too was dominated by a few and dis agreement or questioning of something “the church believed”,was shot down with no genuine attempt to consider it.Minds were made up. For me,minds were often made up wrongly and so why would I continue to go somewhere that practiced things I believe to be wrong and felt completely uncomfortable? I do take seriously my job as a father and leading my kids spiritually(and reject a lot of the guilt heaped on dads who aren’t leading their family by taking them to “church”)….Please pray for me to do the right things.I am sure many others who are no longer attending church,have faced some uncomfortable situations,and i am now,so i would specifically ask prayer for that…that God will help me be gracious,yet bold.Thanks

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  13. I realize it has been a number of months since you posted this article, but I just wanted to share what an encouragement it has been to me. We left the man-made church building scenario a year ago last month. It was, like it is for so many, a long process of prayer and bible study and personal thought. This decision seldom happens overnight, regardless of what those who remain in the organization of church think. Your words have encouraged me when I have felt lonely and frustrated. I told a family member that it would be nice if he would simply listen with an open mind instead of automatically assuming I had lost mine. I was accused of simply wanting to leave to selfish reasons and finding scripture to justify my “sin” in leaving. After 44 years of being in the “system” (my entire life), I feel that was plenty of time to make a thorough decision. No spur-of-the-moment decision here! It really was about, for me, leaving church to FIND my faith. Anyway, your words help. Thanks for the thought-provoking articles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jewell, I just read your comment to Dan’s blog. What you said about having to leave your church to FIND your faith reminded me of a quote from Lenny Bruce, “Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.” How true! My wife and I quit going to Sunday service 25 years ago and at first it was like going through withdrawals form a drug addiction, but as we got our minds back on Christ instead of what “the pastor” said, we found that Jesus was REALLY all we needed and that His Spirit truly was able to lead us into all truth just like He said.
      May you continue to grow in Christ as you seek His face, dear sister.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks! You are correct in that it is like withdrawal from a drug. I think the hardest part for me was the feeling that every Christian friend I had who still attended the building looked at me like a back-slidden sinner who was straying far from God. It is hurtful to know that I looked at others like that in the past when I was still attending and they left for various reasons. It seems like Christians can hurt each other WAY more than any unbeliever can.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Jewell, you are right, Christians can attack you and shun you and often do when you leave their little church club or dare to hold its practices up to the Light. But we have been warned by Jesus that the same treatment He got from his own people is what we can expect form ours.

        “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:20 KJ2000)

        And if one asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your back?’ he will say, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends.'” (Zechariah 13:6 RSVA)

        Like

  14. When I got to this bit in bold,

    “He’s Either In You, or He’s Not”

    I cracked up laughing out loud.

    So true. Hahaha

    So so comforted to see someone completely is on the same page. I tell myself I am on the right page, or I must be completely nuts.

    This blog means I am on the right page, or there is now someone else who is nuts like me!

    God is good.

    Screw the system. Life stealing, joy stealing, money grubbing system of religion which usurps the authority of Christ and stifles his Spirit.

    freedom!

    To spend my day of rest at the beach with my kids, enjoying His awesome creation.

    Instead of sitting in a pew secretly wishing I was at the beach instead of listening to a cleverly crafted sermonette from a hireling who would be God.

    Like

  15. My ex pastors wife once talked about a family that stepped away from the church and ended up divorced and his kids now hate him. I was thinking about this as I read your post. Who’s to say he wouldn’t have ended up that same way or worse if he stayed in the church? He probably would’ve ended up with a bunch of do gooders all up in his biz. I think that I heard a statistic that something like 50% of church members aren’t even saved. So if that’s true and from what I can tell, it seems like a fair assessment, are you really fellowshipping with saints and fellow heirs? Seems unlikely. Even if there was some actual fellowship going on. Which there isn’t.

    Some of the sweetest moments for me is when i’ve been lonely and have spent time with Jesus. Yes I’d love to have true friends and iron sharpening iron but for now, I walk by myself. My husband is religious from what I can tell and sadly we don’t talk about theology or church or our love of God. So I have had to go it alone but it’s still more than I have ever expected and more than enough. God is faithful to us if we seek him.

    Liked by 3 people

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