We have reached a dangerous time in the Christian faith. For with all of our technology and access to information, many Christians are coming to the conclusion that they no longer need to be part of a weekly local fellowship. I once reached that conclusion in my life as a pastor, and once I was free of the control and religion, I felt a freedom that I never wanted to give up.
Many longstanding Christian families have made the same decision to walk out of organized religion. And like me, there was a season where we felt great as the yoke of religion and control was removed from our lives. Yet with every decision we make, there are consequences for our actions. Why did we leave the Church? Some of us have watched our churches change with the culture while others were stabbed in the back by Christian saints. Others have left because of false teaching or because after years of going to church, we still felt an emptiness or hole that the church could not fill.
Listen carefully… There are many great reasons to leave the established church. Our hurts are real and the spiritual dryness that we feel is not in dispute. We are not alone. However, the longer we walk alone in our faith, the easier it is for the evil one to destroy us. Submitting to authority is not the only thing that we forfeit when we left our churches; we also gave up our spiritual families and our spiritual support systems.
Now listen really carefully… This is what we are finding. Of those Christian parents who have chosen to leave the organized church (and failed to rejoin another weekly fellowship of some kind), the majority of their children are now choosing to walk away from Christianity entirely. What we need to realize is that in our freedom from submitting to any authority and control, we are inadvertently bringing bondage to those we love in the future.
So why is Christian fellowship so important? The wisdom literature of the Old Testament can help us to find the answer. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 states, 9 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10 For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
No fellowship is perfect, but fellowship is necessary. In fact, if you could boil the Christian faith down to 3 very basic and important aspects you would find: Submission, Worship, and Fellowship. The holiness of a loving God is wrapped up into all three. Now in our culture, we love two out of the three, yet like an engine in a car that needs fuel, oxygen, and spark, the engine will not function without all three working in unison. For the past 5 to 10 years, families have functioned with only worship and a little fellowship. And that is why we are losing an entire generation as they see an old motor that has never truly taken them anywhere.
So, what is the answer? How do we get all of these families that have left the organized church to once again rejoin a weekly fellowship and be willing to submit once again to the authority of God in their lives? How do we get people who have so many different theological backgrounds to worship together in Spirit and in Truth? The answers to these questions are what will lead us to reform and reformation within the body of Christ.
We all know that we reap what we sow. If we remain outside of Christian fellowship and are unwilling to submit to any authority in our spiritual lives, our children and grandchildren will follow suit and will leave the faith completely. Is that what we want? Is that price worth our freedom? Oh, how prideful we are to think that we can raise our children up in the Lord without the assistance of the body of Christ. Even in my own life, I understood that the most valuable lessons I learned about God and His love were not taught by my parents, rather they were revealed as I observed Christians loving others (and myself) in the church as the things my parents taught me were ratified.
For most of us, leaving our denominational heritage has been the hardest thing we have ever done. With that said, being vulnerable once again to truly reenter Christian fellowship may be just as hard. So don’t beat yourselves up. Just realize that worshiping the Lord with other Christians is not just about you, it is about the very salvation of your children. And that makes being vulnerable worth the risk.
Reform is coming. Why not join us in bringing it about? For if I as a pastor have felt similar pains as I have left the organized church, what kind of shepherd would I strive to be for others who have gone through similar experiences? How about this… Be vulnerable to allow a pastor like me to preach the truth to the best of my ability. Pastors like myself do not seek to be in a position of authority in order to control people, rather like a father or loving uncle, we seek to help those we serve to grow closer to Christ through relationship rather than by compulsion.
God has given each of us our paths, and He uses our hurts to bring glory to His Name. Maybe He is calling you to come and to help develop a new type of Christian fellowship. One where there are no buildings to fight over, no board members to manage people, no membership that entitles some to receive special benefits. Reform is at the cusp of taking place if we could just have more individuals make the choice to worship in vulnerability with others; a loving fellowship. Let the glue that binds us together not be of organization, color, or creed, let it be that of humble submission to a holy God who manifests His presence in the midst of those who love and obey Him.
Alone, we function as one cord of rope that (yet strong) may still falter. Together, we can become the fellowship of Christ; a rope that will never break as long as He remains the true center of our worship and faith. With all my heart, I hope the Holy Spirit would reveal the need for us to be vulnerable and worship together. And I pray in humility that He would send some of you my way to help me reach others like yourselves who love Christ but have left the traditional model of ministry. Let us together show how simple fellowship can change the world as we put aside the worldly aspects of “doing church” and allow God to truly be our provision. Help me to show the Christian world that we need to get out of the entertainment and self-help business and once again seek the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and strength. For that is where we will find ourselves in His presence.