Meaning in the Mundane

This month marks two years since I decided to walk away from organized religion. It has been the most wonderfully adventurous two years of my life, full of surprise and revelation, and I am grateful beyond measure for what God has taught me in that time.

But it hasn’t been easy. The months immediately following my departure were overwhelmingly lonely and confusing. I struggled to understand the nature of my relationship with God outside those four walls, and what it meant to truly be part of the Church, yet apart from the system that has claimed her name.

At first, I felt an intense need to do something for God; something to both legitimize and give meaning to the decision I’d made. Perhaps I needed to give more to the poor? Feed the homeless? Maybe I needed to become a missionary? Maybe I needed to become more active in community events?

What did God want from me now?

Not to suggest any of those things are bad ideas, but I eventually realized that I had a real problem; not in what I was or wasn’t doing, but with the false connection I’d learned to make between the things I did with my life and my role in the Body of Christ.

It was in the struggle to reconcile this dilemma that God taught me what I think might be the most valuable lesson I’ve learned so far in this journey:

What it means to “abide in Christ”.

How to Build a Body

To abide in Christ means to live in him, although the phrase itself used to strike me as sort of mystical and weird. It’s one of those “Christian-eze” phrases I’d heard many times in church, but it never really had any clear meaning. In order to understand what it means to abide in him, I had to first come to a different understanding of what it meant to live as part of the “Body of Christ”, because that defines how we live in him. Unless I had left the church system and come to better understand what the Body of Christ actually is, then abiding in it would never have made any sense to me.

So, what does it mean to be a part of the Body of Christ? Although the Biblical analogy mentions the larger, more visible parts of our bodies, such as eyes, ears, hands, and feet, I’d like to consider something much, much smaller.

You and I, although we normally consider ourselves to be single, complex organisms, are not. We are actually large collections of smaller and simpler organisms. In some ways, we’re more like living, breathing ecosystems of smaller organisms. The things we think of as “us”, such as our movements, feelings, and thoughts, are a collaboration of individual organisms working together as a collective.

What amazes me the most about this, however, is that this collaboration is completely unintentional. Our cells are not TRYING to build a body at all, and yet everything they do is perfectly coordinated to accomplish exactly that!

This is a pattern found in literally everything that exists, from what is seen with the naked eye, to those things seen through microscopes or telescopes. Everything, no matter how large or intricate, is comprised of smaller and simpler things, and those smaller things are also comprised of even smaller and simpler things. The pattern seems endlessly recursive, and there are no exceptions to it in all of nature; it is completely pervasive and inescapable… even for you and I.

But as amazingly complex as creation is, that complexity is not produced by the deliberate, coordinated efforts of it’s members. Instead, it is the deliberate work of an amazing creator who stands outside what is created.

A flock of starlings, for example, behaves as a single organism, morphing, twisting, and undulating in ways unplanned by the members that comprise it. The actions of the individual starlings are simple, and yet what emerges from that simplicity is stunningly complex and beautiful. That’s the pattern: complexity emerges out of simplicity, and the parts of the whole are often unaware it is happening at all.

The starlings are not TRYING to coordinate this; They are actually being orchestrated by something, or someone, outside themselves!

Could it be that God orders the Body of Christ in a similar fashion? Perhaps “building the Church” is not something we are supposed to be thinking of doing at all! I’m personally unaware of any Biblical command to do so. In fact, Jesus explicitly said HE would build it himself! (Matthew 16:18) We’re told that we, “like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house”. (1 Peter 2:5) The stones are not attempting to build anything; they are being placed by a builder!

I recently listened to a brief talk given by Wayne Jacobsen where he put it this way:

If he says he will build it, what does that mean for you and me? What does it mean? Don’t! If I’m going to get the coffee… if I tell you “look, let me get the coffee,” what are you going to do about that? Just sit right there! I’ll go get it and I’ll bring it to you, right? Jesus said “I will build my church.” I think he really meant that.

So, how do we build the body? WE DON’T!

In fact, we can’t! The Bible tells us that he’s the one who is building it, not us. If we belong to Christ, then we are living stones being positioned by the builder into a design of his choosing. The blueprint is exclusively known to him, and not us. What would be the point of building without a blueprint?

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

He Works Together ALL Things

God doesn’t limit himself to using only our success, either; he works in our failures! Whether we are attempting to serve God, or even intending to oppose him, God is invisibly working it all together for his purposes (Romans 8:28). When Joseph’s brothers intended to do evil, God was actually intending their actions for good (Genesis 50:20). After this, God hardened the Pharaoh’s heart so that Egypt would be destroyed and the Hebrews would go free. Romans 11 tells us in great detail that God purposed Israel’s rejection of Christ for his own purposes, too. Even Judas, in his ultimate betrayal of Christ, seemed to be working in accordance with God’s plan!

Consider these proverbs:

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

“A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way?” (Proverbs 20:24)

We like making plans, but those plans are always part of his plan, first. When we make plans and fail, he’s at work. When our plans succeed he’s also at work, although often in ways entirely different than we assume! For example, my own departure from organized religion was a direct result of people trying to “be successful” in ministry, though it was not their intention. They might see that as an unfortunate loss on their quest for success, but I see it as great personal gain, while I am unimpressed by whatever success they feel they’ve had since. Our perspective is so small! Whatever the intentions were of all people involved with that situation, including myself, I’m confident that God worked through it to bring greater revelation of himself.

Like cells, we are always unintentionally part of something bigger than we are capable of even being aware of, and definitely greater than what we’re capable of “building”. We should have faith that the body IS being built, and that it is not because of our plans. Yes, it is being built when we accomplish our “great works for God”, but it is equally accomplished when we fail miserably, or even make no plans at all! It is done when you feed the homeless, but also when you simply feed your children. He works through what’s done both in the spotlight and in the shadows, in the productive times and the wasted time, in the “sacred” places and the “secular” places.

If there is something to do, it is only this: to genuinely love the people around you. God’s work is done outside of, and yet somehow through, the carrying out of our routine lives; we are unwittingly a part of it every single day. There is great meaning in the seemingly mundane.

Abiding in Christ

My friend Michael Clark once told me that God made me “a human BEING, not a human DOING.” At the time, I had no idea how to just BE God’s son. Years of servitude in a broken religious system had inoculated me against understanding that.

Churches are very good at feeding this misconception. They create an odd mixture of relationship, which is NEVER about performance, and institution, which is ALWAYS about performance. As with any business, the more active you are within a religious institution, the more you’ll find favor among your peers. Promotions and accolades are always given to those who best contribute toward the success of the organization. This can sometimes feel relational, especially if you’re good at performing, but it is an unhealthy relationship at best, and an abusive one at worst.

We aren’t supposed to perform for Christ; we’re supposed to abide in him.

“Abiding in Christ” simply means living out your day to day life knowing that you’re in him. It’s not mystical or mysterious, other than it means believing in faith that he is the one working all things together, even right now, at this very moment, and without your permission.

A single cell living in your arm ABIDES in you; it does not TRY to abide in you, it just DOES abide in you. When you move your arm up, it moves up, too, and may not even be aware; It’s just included in the movement. So also, if we are counted as part of the Church, we will be moved when God moves. We won’t be able to help it, and may not even know it. Abiding in Christ means that there is meaning in every moment, not just the “spiritual” ones; each moment is inherently spiritual.

I’m no longer interested in changing the world, leaving a legacy, or making a mark. I’m not interested in learning how to build a bigger church, and I’m just as uninterested in starting a home/simple/organic church. I’m not interested in “starting a ministry”; I just want to live life. I love the simplicity of just LIVING, completely free of those agendas, and knowing that somehow, far beyond my understanding, God is working through it all for his own purpose.

I love being unabashedly “mundane”.

I love being a husband and father. I help my friends and family members when they need it, but I don’t think of myself as useless when they don’t. If no “ministry opportunities” present themselves, I don’t have to go hunt one down in order to feel like I’m serving God. Instead, why not just rejoice in times of relative peace?

Be still and know that he is God, and that he is working invisibly through the things you’re tempted to think of as nothing. Visit the lonely, encourage the downtrodden, and speak up for the outcasts. Show genuine compassion for those he brings in and out of your life.

There is no greater work than love.

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26 thoughts on “Meaning in the Mundane

  1. I love your points herein Dan, and no one can argue that Jesus is ultimately the One who builds His ekklesia, not one man or a combination of men. But can I ask, “What place do our actions have within the body of Christ?” We are called to be obedient are we not? We are called to very specific roles due to the manner we have been gifted aren’t we?
    I think your experience has been very much as my own, from the confusion of not knowing what to do, to the fear of doing the wrong thing to ultimately doing nothing. I’m not questioning the very process of what Jesus has brought you through and to, nor am I questioning the value and necessity of abiding in Him. I want to question whether we are actually builders or not with God, and whether we have very specific responsibilities along these lines.
    My Bible says in 1 Corinthians 3:10:
    “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.”
    Whether or not this is a command for us to build, it surely was a calling of Paul himself and members in the body as well. Verses 12-15 makes this clear. We are builders with God.

    This is how I perceive these verses in conjunction with what you have offered in this post, none of which is contradictory at all. You are correct in that we cannot build His ekklesia (what you call church) and everything from men building edifices called church, hiring paid professionals to run it to having an open door policy proves this to be true. God has not, and never will call anyone to do such things for He isn’t even doing such things Himself! For He is building something spiritual, something organic, something before and behind the scenes that often we do not and cannot see. But here’s what I believe the text above states: That we are building into one another’s lives, that the focus of our actions is as the law summed up; we love our neighbors as ourselves.
    I would think every real Christian would long to part of a local ekklesia in the geographical location in which they live. Don’t we long to share our lives with other saints? Don’t we long to share our hurts, pains, struggles and triumphs with our brothers and sisters as we learn to live by faith? Isn’t this the design we find throughout the New Testament Scriptures, even in the book above just a few chapters later?

    I long for that expression- and so do you. But what we are learning is that in order for such a body to function properly, not only must all those saints be abiding in Christ regularly, God Himself must fashion the body parts in His way and in His time. It is not enough to simply create the proper expression or function of an assembly- something many, many people have attempted to do and failed miserably. Life must be present in individual Christians first, not going somewhere to get something (as in church), but prior, going to give out of the overflow of Christ in our hearts even as you have done through this writing. It is not a fabrication, but an overflow of who it is you are becoming Dan, the edification of the saints through whatever avenue He presently chooses or allows through you.

    The fact is, each Christian already is part of both the universal expression of Christ AND a local expression whether they realize this or not. As much as I want those body parts in my life without delay, My Father knows what is best and the when and why of it all. Trusting Him, my calling is not to force His hand or make others act prematurely, but simply rest in Him (abide) and allow Him to direct my life as I lay it down for my friends- however and whenever He may lead me to do so. (daily and spontaneously)

    Do I build His ekklesia for Him? No. Do I build into the lives of others who comprise His ekklesia? Yes I do, and yes, you do too, as do all the saints. We help prepare each other for the place He has for them locally and throughout eternity. A teaching here or there, an admonition, a rebuke even- maybe even a blog post on the value of the mundane! Nothing is wasted provided it originates in Him. Awesome!

    To recognize the fact that our Lord actually allows us to participate in eternal things is a special privilege indeed. To be able to witness the reality of our obedience unto Him in a tangible local way is even more blessed. But contrary to our natural desires and inclinations, those to whom God has withheld such a local blessing may be blessed even more. For these alone are forced to find their all in Jesus and Him alone, living firsthand the pains of His loneliness, rejection and suffering, waiting patiently for a heavenly inheritance that far surpasses any blessing we could enjoy on this side of eternity.

    Our hope resides in Him, not in anything we might do for Him or He for us.
    Thanks my friend. Keep investing in the mundane, you’re not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We probably agree more than disagree on what you’ve said. There are so many things missing from what I’ve written, because I frankly don’t have the time to write the book that’s in me! My hope is that some of those things could be discussed here in the comments, though, so thanks for kicking that off. :)

      I agree that we “build into”, or edify/encourage the living stones of the Ekklesia, though even in that I’d hold that it is the Spirit doing so through me. There IS a work to be done, and that work is love! Plain and simple, we love one another as Christ loves us. And yet, again, that love comes not from me, but rather through me from him… and ultimately back TO him! “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” (Romans 11:36)

      If I have the ability to love at all, then it is from God, as is every other good and perfect gift. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do this “work” of love; we are commanded to do so! I’m not suggesting that we refrain from feeding the hungry, providing for the homeless, loving the widows and orphans… are even that we stop “going to church” (not my cup of tea, but to each his own). These are all fine things if you feel compelled to do them, but not if it comes from a place of needing to “do something significant”. We should not view these things as accessories to our “success”, and I think we all do this more often than we’re able to admit to ourselves.

      As I wrote this, my mind is on the person out there who doesn’t “have a ministry”, or doesn’t have a “local church”, or whatever, and feels down on themselves for it. I’m learning to just love the fact that I’m a husband and father, and a friend (hopefully) to those God puts around me. This is not “less than”, it is the work of God!

      As to my thoughts on a “local expression” of the Ekklesia, I think I’ll have to write a separate post about that someday. I have no problem with people doing this in any form, but I’ve come to appreciate the beauty in the unplanned discussions that happen with people over coffee. I’m not an advocate nor opponent for creating a “spiritual meeting” (Bible study, song time, prayer group, or whatever), but I don’t personally “long for that expression”.

      Actually, let me rephrase that: I have that itch, but I hold a different view on how that itch gets scratched than many in the home/simple/organic church “movement” do. I’ve stopped trying to scratch it, and have found it just gets scratched on it’s own. I know other Christians and love being around them. When we get together for any reason at all, there’s a pretty good chance we end up talking about what God is doing in our lives; this is not because we’re trying to be “spiritual”, but because we are spirit, and his spirit is in us, and we can’t help but overflow a bit. There’s nothing better than getting together with someone for no reason but to be with them, and then to find yourself, without plans, in the middle of a discussion that’s dripping with life. I love it!

      Thanks for chiming in!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dan, you put it so well as to where I am these days. As I have finally become content to just rest and abide in the Vine, the branches that He puts me with as we grow are where I find fellowship in the Spirit. We have no organized meetings and meet “by chance” more often than we do by plan, yet, I see God’s guiding hand in all.

        I have a grape vine growing up the outside of my front porch. if you follow a branch from the root you find that it crisis-crosses other branches and entwines itself with a number of them as it grows and pretty soon you can’t tell which branch is making which fruit, but the fruit is plenteous and no one branch gets the glory. Only the Vine gets the credit for the fruit as it should be for it determines what kind of grapes grow as well as how many.

        “…this is not because we’re trying to be “spiritual”, but because we are spirit, and his spirit is in us, and we can’t help but overflow a bit. There’s nothing better than getting together with someone for no reason but to be with them, and then to find yourself, without plans, in the middle of a discussion that’s dripping with life. I love it!”

        I love it too!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. “I’m not interested in “starting a ministry”; I just want to live life.”

    I love what you have shared here! Just over two years ago, I wrote this:
    “We are urged to do big things for God – to do great things for God. Is it just possible that the biggest, greatest thing many of us can actually do for God is to simply live our ordinary lives with love?” http://livingliminal.blogspot.com/2014/03/ordinary-christianity.html

    I remember that I kept coming back to what it meant for Jesus to build *his* church. I suspect that this is common part of the journey of discovering faith outside the institution. After being in performance mode for so long, learning to abide – to rest in the work that *God* is doing – felt so strange. And yet it was also incredibly liberating – to realise that neither my success nor my failure mattered when it came to what God had purposed to do. It has left me free to get on with living with love. That’s ‘work’ enough for me! ;)

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Dan, thanks for sharing this. The further we get from the words of Jesus in the Bible, the more things get complicated. It does not get simpler that John 15 when speaking of what it means to be members of His body and how dependent we are on Christ, the Vine. It is so hard for us to simply abide in Him as His branches and let Him produce His fruit through us. FAITH! And oh how so many of us lack it and manifest our lack with our dead works and fail to enter into the Father’s rest.
    Thanks again, Dan, for the gentle reminder.
    I love you, my brother!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for your blog; nice to be reminded there are other people “out there” who don’t find it helpful to attend a Sunday morning gathering. I actually find the fact I don’t attend brings freedom for people to be real and talk honestly about their faith, struggles and fears.

    Loved the comment “Churches…. They create an odd mixture of relationship, which is NEVER about performance, and institution, which is ALWAYS about performance.” SO TRUE!!
    I work for an institution, but don’t attend, and I regularly see performance fragmenting relationships.

    Appreciated the visual pictures of our cells, the universe and the starlings too. So much energy is put into protecting the “11th Commandment – thou shall attend Church”, and its not until we take a step back that we can see a bigger and more amazing picture. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Dan and greetings from NZ!

    Thanks for this post, I appreciated it and read a few others on your blog too; all good stuff! :-) I always find it so encouraging to see/hear what Father is teaching and revealing!

    When I read your “Sin of Forsaking Fellowship” post, I thought you might be encouraged by something Father showed me about this. He called us out of the church 20 years ago now (hard to believe it’s been that long!!!) and one of the things He taught me early on was to ask Him what /He/ meant by what is written in the Bible, because of course the Author always knows what He intends, but readers may not! He has often taken me back to the Greek and Hebrew to show what He intended since our English translations have so often missed it. I don’t know either language and am no scholar, but He assures me that He knows Greek and Hebrew very well ;-) and has often shown me what He wanted me to see through using lexicons etc.. That was the case with the Hebrews 10 verse. I’ve written about it in an article called “Assembly Required” http://www.unveiling.org/articles/assembly.html I’ll cut and paste the relevant portion here:

    *

    Being Assembled Together

    *

    At this point you may be remembering the “not forsaking assembling together” verse. This verse is usually completely misunderstood and is often misused for trying to convince people that attending church meetings is essential and Biblical: “Let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up to love and helpful deeds, not forsaking or neglecting to/assemble together/as is the habit of some people, but admonishing, warning, urging and encouraging one another, and all the more faithfully/as you see the day approaching/”//(Heb. 10:24,25 TAB).

    Firstly, the word commonly translated as “church” is/not even in this verse/, even though some Bibles would have us believe that it is. For instance The Living Bible interprets this verse as: “Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do…” But that is nothing like what the original Greek says.

    The Greek word used in this verse for “assemble together” is not “ekklesia”, but “episynagoge”. This word means “gathering together in one place”, “gathered with others already assembled”, “a complete collection”. The word is used only in one other verse in the Bible: “concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our/being gathered together/to Him” (2 Thess. 2:1). We need to see that Christ IS the one Place where we are gathered together with those who are already assembled – both in the context of 2 Thessalonians, AND in the context of Hebrews 10!

    If, as many people do, you take those verses in Hebrews to apply to a literal, physical assembly or church meeting, then how is it possible for us all to be physically/episynogoge/- gathered together in one place – when we are scattered all over the world? The answer is that it is very clearly NOT speaking physically, but/spiritually/: we ARE being gathered and assembled together in One Place: CHRIST! This is not about attending a place physically here on earth, but/being gather//ed in One Place (Christ) spiritually/. This is the “new and living Way” that the writer of Hebrews had just mentioned.

    Another interesting thing in this verse is the word translated as “manner” or “habit”: “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the/manner/of some is” or “as is the/habit/of some people”. That word in the Greek is “ethos” and it means “a custom, rite, or institute that is prescribed by law”. Now, does that sound like what God is building, or what/man/is building? Does that sound like something spiritual, or something religious? Could it be that this verse has been interpreted as the exact/opposite/of what it really means? Perhaps the author was saying, “We are not abandoning our being gathered together in one Place (Christ) even as is the custom and rite of some (in their institutions and religions that take the place of Christ)/but/…” and then there is another interesting word: parakaleo, translated in the KJV as “exhorting”.

    Remember how “ekklesia” is made of two Greek words: ek and kaleo, this word is also made of two words: para (near, beside) and kaleo. The first meaning of the word is “to call to your side, to summons”. The secondary meaning is “to call upon in entreaty, comfort, and instruction”. Remember that the author of the book to the Hebrews was challenging/everything/that the Hebrews had known and believed was right in their religion and was instead emphasizing the spiritual and not the physical; just reading chapter 9 brings all that is in chapter 10 into this spiritual context. In that context, it makes sense that this verse could be interpreted as: “We are not abandoning our being gathered together in one Place (Christ) even as is the custom and rite of some (in their institutions and religions here on earth)/but/instead we’re calling one another alongside us (with Christ in the heavenly places) and encouraging others even more as we see the Day approaching”.

    Hope that encourages you! :-)

    Love, Lynette

    Liked by 4 people

  6. So many thoughts!

    First off, thanks for writing, there is so much in your head and at times it may feel painful to get started because really you’re trimming off very important points.

    That being said I’m very very interested in your post about “every real Christian would long to part of a local ekklesia” — feels like a guilt trip to me. And frankly some of our fathers of the faith did not have a local ekklesia (Abraham, Moses, Joseph, etc).

    So keep it up, keep writing a chapter at a time of that book! (even though each chapter brings more fallout!)

    I’m intrigued how you went from abiding in Christ as cells abide in us to the mundane. I had never heard it put that way and was predicting that you were going to end this post with a very spiritual “I meditate and read scriptures” to abide in Christ. Instead you switched it up and went the VERY real route of the mundane. That living life, running errands, being a dad, wrestling, playing, watching movies together, eating ice cream, loving on your wife… these are all the “mundane” where you can choose to realize your role in the larger body, and rest, trust, abide that God will move you with or without your knowledge.

    Alternatively you could constantly be trying, trying to earn something, favor, approval, love, acceptance. These attempts all mask themselves as good spirituality but in reality are rooted in a striving.

    Living in Mexico I see the antithesis of the puritanical work ethic of always striving to do or be more or better. There are plenty of people here who just are. Who just live. We’re programmed to look down upon them because they’re not striving for self improvement. However I think they might have a better idea of what God desires from them than we do.

    Cells in our body that multiple too rapidly (read:ambitiously) are a literal cancer and need to be cut out. — Perhaps an analogy taken too far ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Paul! Yeah, I do obviously enjoy time spent with other believers, however I don’t see that time as essential to my relationship with Christ. If my relationship with Christ can be diminished by anything at all, then something is out of balance. If not having fellowship with other believers, if not having a special meeting, or not singing songs, or even not reading my Bible (gasp!) causes my relationship to falter, then I am dependent upon things that I shouldn’t be.

      Every one of those things can be a benefit, of course, but I should not depend on them. I should be able to be locked up in jail, ostracized from my peers, and have my Bible taken from me without being affected. Our fellowship with the Spirit is not based in head knowledge obtained from a holy book (although, again, it can certainly help), but in a daily walk with him.

      I don’t just mean when we pray, but thinking of (or talking to) him while we buy groceries or while we drive. I enjoy being with my wife, even when we don’t talk at all. I love it when she’s willing to just ride with me to the post office, even if we don’t talk much. My relationship with her is about sharing my life with her, both the exciting moments and the mundane ones.

      I’m learning to enjoy my life WITH God, each day. I find that when I’m doing yard work my mind wanders onto him and things he’s taught me. I’m not even necessarily praying, so much as just thinking about him. My heart longs for him. I look forward to leaving all of this one day and just being with him, but for now I’m learning to be aware of his presence in ALL things.

      I agree with you about the different work ethic, too. In American culture we prize the wrong things, and then make ourselves feel good about it by devaluing the people that don’t. It’s craziness, and I think it’s killing us. We are definitely like cancerous cells; I’ve actually used that analogy many times myself! Cancer cells aren’t like normal cells; they focus too much on rapid reproduction and consume far more than their share in resources, taking it away from other cells. They’re all about quantity rather than quality, and they aren’t good for anything but removal…. but not by me. It’s God’s place to determine what is a healthy or cancerous cell, and it’s his role to build up and tear down, not mine.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Hi Paul and everyone else. It was actually me not Dan who wrote the following: “Every real Christian would long to be part of a local ekklesia” and I stand by those words, unless of course one does not understand what a local ekklesia comprises. Without getting way off the subject matter of Dan’s post can I simply summarize what I meant by “local ekklesia?”

    I’ll just assume we all know ekklesia means a called out assembly of people. In our case called out Christians by God (the authority) and for very specific purposes.

    The Greek word “ekklesia,” which came to mean church, was originally applied in the classical period to an official assembly of citizens. In the Septuagint(Greek translation of the Old Testament, 3rd and 2nd century bc) the term ekklesia is used for the general assembly of the Jewish people, especially when gathered for a religious purpose such as hearing the Law. (Deuteronomy 9:10, 18:16)…. Encyclopedia Britannica

    By ekklesia, I simply mean Christians being called specifically by God in order to share their lives one with another in geographical locales. The reason I added that last part is due to the fact the in the New Testament Paul specifically references (not calls by a name) the geographical areas in which various saints met regularly. He obviously was in the habit of both writing to and visiting those assemblies of people on a regular basis. Within these assemblies and through these assemblies is where all real Christian service started, continued and came to fruition. Without writing a book myself, here are just a few of the reasons why these local groups of believers are so important and I believe prescribed by God for all time-

    The local ekklesia (What Paul the apostle calls the household of God in 1 Timothy 3:15) is the pillar and support of the truth. As the verse also states, there is a specific manner in which each individual saint is commanded by God to conduct themselves in this environment. In many places Paul calls both these truths and behaviors “my ways” (1 Corinthians 4:17), in other places traditions (1 Corinthians 11:1) and commandments as well 1 Corinthians 14:37. Some of the very specific commandments to a local assembly when meeting together are given in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40.

    Within the context of such assemblies all “ministry” (service) took place. Without going into pages of detail, everything from raising up local elders who oversaw the assemblies, mutual submission by all saints, spontaneous sharing of spiritual gifts, older saints teaching the younger by example, mutual sharing of material goods, the breaking of bread and daily fellowship and prayer were just the beginning. As these believers shared their lives in proximity, they became for their neighbors to see, literally- a spiritual city on a hill.

    Local assemblies of people (regardless of where they meet) are the container (crucible) that our Father uses to both melt the dross and mold each of us into the image of Christ. This is not hard to see, the whole of the NT teaches this.

    No I won’t go on and on. I do that on my own site. But I firmly believe because the majority of professing believers have abandoned God’s way above, all manner of substitutes have arisen such as religious institutions and churches. It’s easy to point out the faults in those places. It’s much more difficult, much more cutting, much more scriptural, to beseech the Father to use us in being a vessel that learns to live in the manner above (not in our own efforts, time and strength) but as He leads and directs others into our paths. That’s how I live my life.

    I’ve been out now many, many years and have lived out a season or two with other brothers and sisters along these lines. I can honestly testify before all men, that far from being a guilt trip, these were the greatest years of my life. Not because I was or became anything or anybody, but because only in this setting is Jesus truly seen in His fullness and among His own, and only in this setting is our Father’s good, acceptable and perfect will for His children ultimately accomplished.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I really needed to read this today:” I’m no longer interested in changing the world, leaving a legacy, or making a mark. I’m not interested in learning how to build a bigger church, and I’m just as uninterested in starting a home/simple/organic church. I’m not interested in “starting a ministry”; I just want to live life. I love the simplicity of just LIVING, completely free of those agendas, and knowing that somehow, far beyond my understanding, God is working through it all for his own purpose.”

    1) thank you for commenting on my blog. Nice to meet other free thinking Christians. 2) This post literally made me tear up. After I hit publish on my post today, a friend emailed me and said some things about fellowship and I started doubting my original thoughts. The truth is, I have fear at times that God is gonna judge me for not being apart of a fellowship. And as an introvert, I don’t always find connections. I’ve always struggled with that. So I feel a bit like I’m going to become a recluse and not be effective as a Christian. Anyway your post put into words what I needed to hear. Thank you!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Elle! You are definitely not alone in those feelings, though it’s pretty normal to feel that you are. When I first walked away I was VERY alone. God’s been gracious in helping me to make some really cool connections with others in the past couple years, though. There IS life outside the church box; one full of life instead of conformity. He’ll be there with you regardless of which path you take!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Elle, as I read your comment on Dan’s blog the Spirit spoke this verse to me…
      “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1John 1:3, KJ2000)
      “That which we have seen and heard…” What did John see and hear? His fellowship was with the Father and the Son! What he saw and heard from them is what he shared with others. THAT is fellowshipping in the Spirit, my dear sister, not looking at the backs of 500 plus heads while the man with the biggest ego in the church building lectures all of you.
      Keep your fellowship going with the Father and the Son and you will eventually find others who have their fellowship with them as well. A few of them are on this blog. :-)

      God bless you in His love, dear sister,
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Elle. Thanks for liking my comment.
      I’m a little odd, but there are some quality folk around here and most of us some time ago gave up trying to live up to the expectations of religious men. Whether one is a teenager or an individual seeking God in some religious institution, it’s just plain hard trying to be someone your not in order to fit in or seem cared about.
      I think my friends here would agree that it is a great advance in ones journey as a Christian to simply stop attempting to “do things” for God. More havoc and chaos has been wrought from such attempts despite Jesus saying plainly that that He did and will do it all. I can no more change another persons heart nor direction than I can make the sun shine. But this I can do: I can cultivate my friendship with Him, I can choose to be decreased (which your comment shows you are learning to do), and I can allow Jesus to have this vessel to do as only He can do.
      The verse that came to my heart as I read your comment was this:
      “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject to a yoke of slavery” [Galatians 5:1]
      This is not to minimize the truth, toss aside the obvious commandments of God nor a license to do whatever we please. But for those in the know (those having a true knowledge of the Person of Christ and His work)(2 Peter 1:3, 4) true freedom is found in obeying God and placing our entire confidence and trust in Him- for everything. If you go to the site acalltotheremnant.com you will find an article called Maximum Freedom that explains this well.
      As the others here have said, stay close to Jesus and everything else will fall into place in His way and time. His way is perfect!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much. The thing I have found is that when I’m at a church, it seems as if the church becomes its own God. One could argue I am the one who makes the church an idol, but with all its programs, serving, giving money towards the church and it’s programs, counseling, ect., the church is advocating for its people to serve it and not God. It’s actually quite scary to see it from this side of things. The church sucks up so much of your heart, soul, and mind. When I was at church, I’d always worry if “the church” was gonna approve. Isn’t that sad? The bible clearly states that I should be more worried or concerned what God thinks. Again it probably could be said my own heart is wicked for placing the church so highly. But don’t they encourage this? Aren’t they saying “serve God and love its people” but then asking you to give all to a church building??? It’s clear madness. And I’m done. Just have to send my husband over here. We aren’t on the same page. I did send some friends of mine here and they were so encouraged by the posts and comments. I feel like this blog along with all the comments confirms what I already believe to be true about church.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. We left a different church 9 months ago. We had been there 3 years and during that time, I basically changed everything about myself to fit into the church. And they were the most unloving, dare I say “abusive” people I have ever met! They’d attack me on Facebook for saying I didn’t like baby showers. Apparently that makes me a woman hater and baby despised even though I am a woman and have my own 3 kids lol. They’d gossip and the pastors all seemed to know a whole bunch of crap I never told any of them. Prayer requests anyone? I used to have some posts about it on my blog but didn’t want to sound like a bitter church hater so I removed them, but it really jaded how I saw the church. Still, 2 months ago we went to a new church and while I don’t think it’s awful–it’s just not for me. I’ll go check out that post. Thanks!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Our Father is stirring the hearts of many people these days. I couldn’t agree more that the more He allows you to see the more scary things seem to become. So much of what I see today I never would have believed could be possible or that I could have been so deceived in relation to the truth.
      I think the site below will confirm what you wrote above. Please keep in mind that Jesus is calling individuals- in salvation and in separation from what they once thought was truth. Many, many people, in fact the majority will never accept these things, almost always because they either have an agenda through religious institutions or are deriving some kind of benefit from them. I often have wonderful conversations with younger people about what the Scriptures really teach, yet rarely a 5 minute conversation with someone who has invested their time, money and life in a form of religion. I only say this to warn you of the response you will receive if you steer people toward these truths.
      This is my friend Mark Finger’s site. We’re very close and he is much more concise than I which is why I haven’t steered you toward what I’ve written. Most people can’t make it to the end of one of my posts/articles/books….ha

      churchisalie.wordpress.com

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sometimes I just come on your blog and stalk you..ha ha. No, really…I read your posts because I feel so lonely and then I’m encouraged by what you say. I can really relate to this once again (seems like my heart goes through different stages and feels differently than other times).

    This month marks the one year mark of leaving our last church. I can relate so much to this still:
    “At first, I felt an intense need to do something for God; something to both legitimize and give meaning to the decision I’d made. Perhaps I needed to give more to the poor? Feed the homeless? Maybe I needed to become a missionary? Maybe I needed to become more active in community events?
    What did God want from me now?”

    Maybe it’s because from time to time I’ll get a text from people from my old church wondering where I’m at…or in other words, being nosy. I sometimes feel like they think I’ve failed and I somehow have to prove them wrong. It would be easy if I was in another church or doing a ministry type thing, but I’m really just living my life and trying to understand where God wants me. Anyway, thanks again. I will keep coming here whenever I need a pick-me-up. These words are such an encouragement to me!

    PS I left facebook just so you know. I didn’t delete you! I just needed to get off that negative merry go round.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Elle! Eventually you’ll hear less and less from the people trying to illegitimate your choices, but it never goes away completely. It’s not their fault, they really don’t understand anything except for what they’ve bought into, and they really feel they’re trying to help you. It’s difficult to get past the hurt and forgive them. This doesn’t mean you let them berate you of course, or that you even seek out ways to hang out with them, but don’t let the pain of their ignorance totally rock your world, either. They really don’t know what they’re talking about. Shake the dust off your sandals and go enjoy life.

      You don’t have to justify any of your decisions to anyone not standing in your shoes. You know where God wants you to be? Wherever it is you’re at. He’ll have you somewhere else eventually, but in the meantime just enjoy him where you are. You don’t have anything to accomplish. If that was the nature of our relationship with him it would be a pretty broken one. Most Christians pay lip service to this idea, but their actions and judgements against people that aren’t doing what they approve of only shows that they are still wrapped up in “doing”. My friend Michael Clarke, whom you’ve chatted with in comments here before, has told me that we aren’t human “doings”, we’re human beings.

      Just be :)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks Dan. It’s kind of eye-opening how much crap is in the church these days. I signed my kids up for a “youth group” nearby and soon regretted it. I mainly just wanted them to find some friends, but it turned out to be the same old stuff with cliques and groupies. Meh. I asked my 14 year old about it and she said she didn’t want to go anymore and I had to apologize for putting her in it in the first place. I keep falling back on what I know. They had some youth events scheduled for the summer like camping trips that I thought they’d really like, but she said “I’d rather just go camping with you and Dad and our family. You guys accept me and I can be myself around you.” She’s 14 and she gets what the church is. It’s a social club of people who think alike and if you don’t, you aren’t one of them. Sad really. For all the good they claim to do (and they do some good in our community for sure), they sure don’t understand how hurtful and damaging they are to a lot of us “nobodies” in the world. I’ve really been thinking about this a lot lately and I agree so much with you on just “being”. I think I feel like I have to fill some void, but that is where we get all messed up I think. If God isn’t leading the charge, we are just working ourselves into some works-based religion mindset. Thanks for sharing your heart as always. I appreciate it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • There’s a quote i read by a non-Christian and it was actually about introversion but it applies here — I don’t owe anyone my serenity. In other words, I don’t need to explain my life to anyone (except for god, but he already knows all things about me!) That saying has helped me on many occasions when I need to say no or set boundaries. I think it’s a true statement to use in this situation too when other people say dumb things. I don’t owe them my serenity. Carry on!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have 5 kids myself, and totally understand the youth group thing. Our oldest, who is turning 14 this month, tried attending a youth group for awhile for social reasons, too. It eventually was a bust for the same reasons. He just couldn’t deal with it. On the other had, our two oldest girls, who are 11 and 12, enjoy the social aspect of it enough to ignore the other stuff. They’re old enough and have seen/understood enough of what drove us out of that system to grasp all the silly stuff, but enjoy seeing other kids. There’s no one size fits all answers, even amongst kids from the same family. You’ll figure it out though, I’m sure.

        And yes, serenity might be best appreciated alone. I used to try a lot harder to share the wonderful thing I’ve found with others, but the truth is most people hate it. That’s fine. I think there’s still a place for public comment, such as blogs and other social media, but I’ve backed off a lot. Trying to learn more about just living my life with the real people God puts me with. I want to learn more about just being loving, and not so much about trying to save the world. That’s God’s job. I just want to love people, as best as he permits me to, in the way Jesus taught. That’s difficult enough!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Elle and Dan,
    As I read your exchange on here I could really relate. I remember all the heartache our kids went through in church youth groups. I also remember the time after many different church cliques had rejected me when I cried out, “God, I don’t fit! I JUST DON’T FIT!!!” To that He replied, “YOU are not supposed to fit!” THAT was an eye opener for sure. It seems that my kids were not supposed to fit, either! And you know what? None of them grew up to be atheists, either. They all have a heart for God and understand that organized religion is a big social club at best and that WE are the church, not some some Old Covenant monolith made of stone and wood with the paid professionals preforming inside. We are His temple made of living stones and “IN HIM we live and move and have our BEING.”
    Love to you both IN Him,
    Michael

    Liked by 2 people

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