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“Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;”

– 1 Thessalonians 4:1

 

One of my friends says that he, who has been in church all his life and saved for most of it, always tries to pay attention to gospel presentations during sermons, because it is so good to be reminded of these truths, to agree with them still, that we are great sinners undeserving of our Great Savior, who is nevertheless our Redeemer, Friend, and King.

 

Many of my friends, and I am often among them in this, feel that when speaking happens at church gatherings, it is rarely that satisfying, thought-provoking, insightful teaching that we long for.  We are honestly bored, and also get this puffing feeling that others might need the simple and lowly instruction offered in these messages, but we are beyond that.  I still see this in myself even though it has been some years since I realized that not all speech in church ought to be intended to teach (1 Corinthians 14:26).

 

In the New Testament, it is shown that there are multiple speaking giftings to be used for building up the Church.  Among them is teaching.  But there is also prophecy, exhortation, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, tongues and their interpretation.  In Hebrews, when we are commanded not to forsake assembling together, this comes as part of an admonition to consider one another to stir up love and good works, and that when we gather, we are to “exhort one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Paul tells Timothy to “Preach the word! …Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching,” and also to “Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”  This seems to have been a model in at least some synagogues at the time as well, that after reading from Scripture, they offered a time where those present could offer exhortations to the congregation (Acts 13:15)

 

John the Baptist, the great prophet, “with many other exhortations, preached to the people.”  Judas and Silas, prophets in the book of Acts, “exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.” (Acts 15:32) Prophecy, though sometimes an otherwise unknown revelation including foretelling and rebuke, is sometimes associated with timely and relevant exhortation: “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” (1 Corinthians 14:3)

 

When we read Paul’s letters, he often says that the congregations that are recipients of his letters have already been instructed, and do not need a repetition of the lesson.  But he still speaks to the topic.  Why?  I think it is likely that Paul was exhorting them.  Peter explicitly says, “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding [you],” (2 Peter 1:12-13)

 

What is exhortation?  First the Greek, parakaleo, often translated, besides “exhort”, as “comfort”, “encourage”, and “beseech”.  The English dictionary defines “exhort” this way: “strongly encourage or urge someone to do something”.

 

I know for me that I need reminded.  I benefit a lot from hearing people agree that doing the right thing is worthwhile.  “[B]ut exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13) So I want to receive exhortation, not being discontent because I hoped for a stimulating teaching, but rejoicing that I am in company with people who support me in good works, good words, and good attitudes.

 

Jesus exemplified this in His letters to the churches, as dictated in Revelation (chapters 2-3). Not much of it is introduction of new doctrines or ways of doing things.  He is, rather, comforting them with encouragement about what they are doing well, and pleading for them to do what they know to do.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Hebrews says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled…” In the United States, our legal system calls things “marriage” that the Bible most certainly would not. But if we only looked at that one verse from Hebrews, we could believe that the thing called marriage that isn’t, is “honorable”. We could pull in other teachings about marriage and how great it is and what it means spiritually, and encourage people to accomplish those great things and represent those great truths by practicing the thing falsely called marriage. If this stood for a few generations, most people would forget that it is a perversion of what the Bible calls marriage.

What if there are other Christian practices that this has happened to, in the forgotten past? How do we trust that what we understand to be the biblical and Christian practices of Church gatherings, pastoring, church leadership and decision-making, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, ordination, etc. are the things the Bible is discussing?

Like we can with marriage, we can compare other Scriptures to our practices, right? We can ask, “Did God say anything else about these practices? Did God address what we are doing, regardless of what it is called, in positive or negative ways?”

I believe it is possible for God to reveal corrections to us* if we are humbly seeking Him, and if He wants to at the moment. It seems like sometimes He doesn’t want to, and I’m not quite clear why.

I want to have respect for generations of believers who have been inviting God’s discernment, and to value their conclusions. I don’t see any honest way to do this without acknowledging that there have been stretches of time where Christianity (the public institution, anyway) has promoted false understandings of things, and it has taken a long time to straighten some of them out. I have to acknowledge that different parts of the Church, distanced by geography (at least) have for long periods of time held different beliefs from one another.

How much weight should we put on our own experiences? If our experiences seem to line up with a teaching, and be fruitful for the Kingdom of God, does that indicate that these understandings and practices are the things God intends?

*Who ought “us” to be, though? Is it my job, without holding a position of authority in the Church, to discern these things? For myself? For the Church? For society? Is it my job to say anything to others if I believe I have discerned that our conventional practice is wrong?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Abdicated Discipleship

 

This week I read an article at The Wall Street Journal, spring-boarding from Rick Santorum’s recent controversies about birth control to a commentary on the societal effects of contraceptives.  For my purposes, I’m going to sum up part of their report:

 

Before birth control, women stipulated that they would only have sex with a man willing to take care of any resulting children (either only married sex or sex with the promise of marriage should she conceive).

 

After birth control and legal abortion, many women became willing to have sex, feeling like there was less potential responsibility attached.

 

These women’s willingness to fornicate raised the pressure on other women to also fornicate – even when they were less able to use birth control, or unwilling to abort.  Men began expecting sex as part of a premarital relationship – and if one woman wasn’t willing to give it, they could leave her and find someone who was, without commitment.  Why sacrifice yourself to take on the responsibilities of marriage?

 

As I read the above view of history, my brain worked to find the solution.  Obviously my hope is to marry a good man who believes that sex is sacred to marriage, and hasn’t jumped on board with the trends in this country.

 

Men in the secular world pressure women to have sex or do without relationships.  Men in the secular world make marriage hard to come by.  But what’s the excuse for men in the Church?  Why is marriage hard to come by for a Christian woman?

 

The norm, the expectation, for a man living in the United States is to go through a series of dating relationships, enjoying the benefits of intimacy, eventually getting around to marriage when he’s been with a woman for a long time and has a good job to (not support her and her children; she works and there will be far less children than in marriages of the past; but:) fund the engagement ring, wedding, and honeymoon.  Men in this country are not taught self control or responsibility – nor the value of marriage and fatherhood (only obligations of the two).  They are not equipped.

 

Because our secular world doesn’t tell stories about good men pursuing women with purity, marrying them, and fathering children – our Christian men are also unequipped.  No one is training the men outside the Church, so the men inside the Church aren’t being taught the necessary life skills either.

 

Isn’t that last point part of a much bigger problem?  Since when did the Church depend so much on the unchristian world to teach and disciple people?  Why don’t we have an alternative story, an alternative school of sorts?

 

Is it because the Church has made it our goal to blend with the world around us?  Is it because we have refused to be separate and holy, refused to be creative, and refused to labor in building the kingdom of God?  We convert citizens of the world to belong to thekingdomofGod– but is our task to transform their institutions as well?  Or have we been given a different kind of material to build a completely unique society?  Are we building their culture or God’s?

 

In God’s kingdom, singleness has great value – not in avoiding responsibility and commitment, but in refocusing those virtues to the building of this other culture.  In God’s kingdom, marriage is part of the typological design, where institutions and interactions breathe testimony to and imitation of the love of God.  It is to be sought and desired by those called thereto, prepared for and invested in.  Bearing children in a stable family is made to bring the next humans up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  It is not supposed to be a regrettable consequence of giving in to lust.

 

Are there common features of the Christian community and the kingdom of the world to which the Church has lazily abdicated its roles?  Of course.  One of the powerful tactics of our Enemy (against whom we are supposed to be waging offensive war – in other words, building God’s kingdom for His purposes using His ways) is to take things that were created to be an instrument in the godly culture, and to take them out of their context and twist them just enough that they are ineffective.  By doing this, he gives people the impression that they are still practicing the good things God ordained.  They are also in little danger of those practices accomplishing what God intended them for.  And the more we get used to the twists and decontextualizations, the more the Enemy can bring the things farther away and the more he can morph what they actually are, still lying that they are the things we read in the Bible.

 

1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

 

1 Timothy 4:4-5, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:  For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Divided the Movie

 

Made by a young pair of brothers, Divided the movie is the film version of the Family Integrated Church propaganda.  Careful oversight was given by Scott Brown, of the NCFIC, and he was also interviewed extensively in the documentary.  The film follows the research of Philip  Leclerc into the fruits, philosophies, and history of the youth ministry church model.

 

Divided consists mostly of interviews.  It begins by talking to the authors of Already Gone, Britt Beamer and Ken Ham, who discuss the statistics about youth leaving the Church and at what age they stopped believing orthodox Christianity.  One problem they identify with modern youth ministry is the lack of substance being presented in lessons and sermons at events.  This leads to man on the street shots of students after a Christian concert, and surveys of various youth leaders and conference directors for youth pastors, showing the pervading philosophies of being relevant and giving the students an emotional experience – intentionally not dealing with points of Christian doctrine beyond Jesus’ love and sacrificial death.

 

Some former pastors and youth leaders are interviewed about why they left the youth ministry model (much as the filmmaker’s parents had chosen to do).  An enlightening testimony suggested that teaching the “right things,” worldviews and Christian theology, still resulted in a majority of students leaving the faith by the end of high school.  This presents a contrast to the first segment, where the flawed worldview of average youth ministry was uncovered.  One church planter stated that if you just read the Bible, you would not think of doing church the way we do it today; his church is trying to function more biblically, and one aspect of that is to eliminate youth ministry.

 

Next is what I see as the strong point, the most useful part of the documentary, dealing with the history of age-segregated church, beginning with the origins of Sunday school classes for children.  The rest of the movie seems unlikely to enlighten or persuade anyone, as the philosophies of each side (pro-youth ministry and pro-family-based discipleship) are not tested against a biblical standard.

 

Afterward, Philip Leclerc interviews a series of leaders in the FamilyIntegratedChurchmovement, who point out that the Bible’s prescription for discipling children is that their parents train them up, and that youth ministry – separate from the main meetings and activities of the church – is never mentioned in the Bible.  Questions are brought forward, like the argument that since parents are not taking responsibility for training their own children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, if the Church doesn’t, the youth will fall through the cracks.

 

I found a few things lacking in Divided.  At the end of the movie, I felt that the criticism against youth ministry was directed at its fruit: people who abandon belief in God and the Bible.  But the alternative put forward is not judged by the same measure.  I remain curious how successful family-centered discipleship and family-integrated churches are at retaining the next generation.  The filmmaker’s mentors are full of ideals which they claim are biblically based.  If the fruit is different from what statistics show for youth in the past several decades, this gives us hope.  If the fruit is the same, perhaps more is going on than negligent parenting and segregated churches.

 

The movie relies on the worldview of its audience to refute the postmodernism of most youth ministries which is put on display in the first half of the film.  Though presented as the unwanted results of age-segregated ministry, we are left to judge what is wrong with the youth interviewed based on our own notions – whether we would judge them for their style of music or dress, for their poor communication skills, for holding to false doctrines about creation, for caring about authenticity and relationship, for lacking discernment, for laziness, for postmodern relativism.  And if we only notice a couple of these, perhaps we are absorbing the rest of their subtle messages as true – or maybe we are judging everything they say as wrong because of the other things they are packaged with.

 

This highlights the next difficulty I had with the movie: some of the youth and youth leaders made really good points about what is valuable to people, what they expect – even need – to find at church.  When a student says he is looking for people who will tell him the truth and be real with him, and that he values a mentor for being involved in his life, surely the Church could learn from those needs.  A woman who leads training for youth pastors points out that they need to be relevant to the everyday lives of kids.  True – who has more relevance to the ins and outs of a young person’s life than the family he lives with?  Who is more real to him than his own parents?  But this point was not made, this challenge not extended to parents who are choosing to take up the biblical mandate to be spiritual leaders to their children.  Also, those concerns recognized by the representatives of youth ministry are really universal needs, not applicable just to teenagers, but also to adults.

 

Throughout the movie, the experts skirt the issue that the way we do church is fundamentally unbiblical.  We have not sought God’s design for our gatherings and Christian life.  The Church that was intended to be a community has become an institution full of programs, and people fill slots and categories and statistics instead of being directed by needs and gifts in the Body.  Perhaps parents are abdicating their spiritual roles because the Church isn’t allowing discipleship to happen among its members, leaving parents ill-equipped to train their children – but also leaving pastors ill-equipped, unsupported by the edification they are supposed to receive from the rest of the Church.

 

Finally, there is the question of whether people who are middle school, high school, and college age ought to be considered adults, invited and expected to contribute their spiritual gifts (if they are believers*) to the unity and edification of the whole church just as the rest of adults ought to be (but often are not).   I say “the rest of” because until the last hundred years, people in their mid-teens and beyond were counted adults.  In the very least they were not considered children.  And on the assumption that youth ministries are dealing with children rests the crux of the argument made by the Family Integrated Church proponents.  They argue that parents own the responsibility for the spiritual growth of their kids.  But if they’re not kids, in the biblical sense to which the commands would apply…

 

And even if they are children, if they are saved*, they are members of the body of Christ and the instructions about Church should apply to them.  They ought to receive instruction and admonition from any believer who is so gifted and led.  Parents are responsible, and not to shirk their duties towards the children God has entrusted to them, but they are not alone, and do not own exclusive rights to their child’s discipleship.  Perhaps they ought to do “catechizing” and “worldview training” at home instead of expecting it to be done at church.

 

I appreciate the call Divided puts out to parents to fulfill their God-given roles in the family.  The documentary shows the variety of people who believe in family integration, and the different reasons people practice it.  Exhorting the Church to be unified by ending age segregation is a great start.  When asked about children whose parents are not believers (the original target of Sunday schools), Family Integration proponent Scott Brown suggested an intense, personal solution: sound families should bring those children into their home during the week to witness to them and disciple them (sending them back to their own families with deference to the parents’ authority), and have those children sit with their family during church meetings.  The family is upheld as an important player in education and morality.  Ultimately, Divided exalts God for designing well, however dismal the results of man’s corruptions of church and family.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

*If a child is not yet a professing follower of Christ, should he be required to attend Church gatherings with his parents?  Should he be allowed to participate if he is there?

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What if the Bible isn’t enough?  What if God desires us to have more of a relationship with Him than a hermeneutical understanding of morality and doctrine?  And isn’t that what the Bible teaches: walk in the Spirit, walk by faith, the Spirit will guide us into all truth, despise not prophesying?

If you’re anything like me, first you rejected these speculations.  Then you couldn’t stop thinking about them, and started reading the Bible in a new light, considering the possibilities.  And now that you’re seriously tempted to believe in continuing revelation, you’re scared.  I’m not very good at explaining this fear.  I think about how I have relied on the Bible so much.  How do I appeal to fellow believers about their belief and practice except on a universally accepted standard?  How do I witness to nonbelievers except by demonstrating the inerrancy (internal consistency and outward truth) of the Bible?  Can I claim that internal consistency proves anything when that was a test for which books made it into the Canon or not?  Supposing God does speak to me, how will I know it’s Him?  What if He speaks to someone else?  Why should I submit to what He speaks through them?  How will believers be on the same page, with each one (or at least each congregation) receiving his own revelation?

Maybe I’m scared because I never dreamed I would be here, believing these things.  And where else will it lead?  Maybe if I need to hear from God today, or in the future, I have to trust that He will speak; I can’t just sit comfortably holding in my hand all He was ever going to say.  I have to believe in a God who is able to communicate not just to me, but to people around me.  I have to believe in a God whose mercy is so great that even when I’m sinfully not listening, He’ll cushion me from making mistakes too terrible.  But I need His mercy every time, because whenever I’m not listening to Him, I’m doing my own thing.  So maybe I don’t like this belief because it puts me out of control.  I can’t force revelation from God by being smarter or studying longer or even by asking the right teacher.

On the other hand, I like it.  The God of the universe is speaking to real live people today.  He has designed a community for His people that is interdependent.  We get to be a part of His ministry both to those who have believed and to those who have not.  God has not left us alone to make up our own decisions.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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This October my friends and I created yet another Pigfest.  It was a short two hours attended by about two dozen debaters.  There were four new Pigfesters.  A few children showed up and were passed around and played with.  The weather was fine.  My living room was packed, and the kitchen hosted an autumn afternoon feast of snack food.

Topics:

Pain and difficulty are the best ways to learn. The term learning applies to any lesson you need to learn.  You can learn bad as well as good things through pain.  But you can learn bad things in other ways, too, so the method is neutral.  “Best” in the proposition implies good.  But do we really mean most effective?  Or are we talking about the most moral way, or the most compassionate way, to learn?  Difficulty makes a student a part of the experience.  It is what makes you feel immersed in the situation.  Jesus learned obedience through suffering.  Failure, a frequent side effect of difficulty, is a memorable teacher.  It’s personal.  Perhaps pain and difficulty are good ways to learn some things, but not all things.  Does it make a difference if the pain is voluntary or inflicted from the outside?  Does the student want to learn?  An example was given where hearing and understanding are sometimes more effective than fighting through difficulty.  Different personalities learn in different ways.  Will we, if we grant this proposition, discount people who didn’t go through as much?  Should we seek out pain and difficulty?  It is wise to learn from others’ mistakes, from their pain and difficulty.  To what extremes should we seek out pain and difficulty?  Should we pick a wife who is opposite of what we think would be “compatible”?  Look at who Jesus picked for His wife.  They who are forgiven most love the most.  But we are taught in the Bible to not intentionally choose the wrong thing.  People can make mistakes without wicked intent.  Lessons are ineffective if the student is unwilling.  Where did you learn your best lessons?  Learning the clutch on a manual car is difficult.

Use of medical drugs ought to be discouraged because they treat effects while hiding causes of pain and illness and issues and are equal to the sorcery spoken against in the Bible. Is there a difference between pain medications, antibiotics, and anti-depressants for the purpose of this resolution?  Pain meds ought to be discouraged as instant solutions, as the first response.  How do we find out what’s really wrong if we suppress all the symptoms?  Medications are the result of lots of study.  Pills also enable reckless lifestyles.  By substituting for immunity, they weaken the body’s natural immune system.  But should people be required to use natural functions to their potential, without aid, like the ability to walk across the state?  If we were to grant competition and survival of the fittest, we are unnaturally increasing the survival chances of those who are not genetically and biologically as fit as others.  Pain medications are compassionate.  Side effects of some drugs are worse than what they are treating.  Some medications thwart your body’s own recovery system and make you worse in the long run.  When we use medications, we are not dependent on God.  What about sorcery?  Is it possible that sorcery is associated with pharmacy because sorcerers borrowed some legitimate techniques from doctors?  Was the herb itself wrong, or the context?  What about mind-altering drugs like LSD?  Do they open you up to the occult?  If you know the cause, are pain medications ok?  Like in childbirth?  (Isn’t pain in childbirth part of the curse?  Is it wrong to try to get around it?)  Antibiotics actually treat causes.  Relieving pain and curing diseases is trying to be most like nature before the Fall.  Is there a difference, for this resolution, between natural medications and synthetic ones?  Back to witches.  Maybe the word was translated sorcery instead of doctor for a good reason.  Are mind-altering drugs always bad?  They are bad to the point that they put you outside of your own mind.

There are legitimate reasons for polygamy, benefits from its practice, and it is acceptable in God’s sight. According to the prophet in the Bible, David’s wives, aside from Bathsheba, were gifts from God.  In history, especially biblical history, we see problems associated with many wives, some of which are peculiarly the result of polygamy.  There are blessings also, such as the ability to have lots of kids; delegating responsibilities.  What about the concept of two becoming one?  Isn’t that how God created marriage?  Yet God never condemned polygamy.  The New Testament requirement for elders is that they be the husband of one woman.  If we as Christians are to submit to the government, here in the USA polygamy is wrong.  1 Corinthians 7 teaches that each should have their own wife or husband, and that they possess each other’s bodies.  It was not a sin under the Old Testament.  Does it have benefits to the women, or just to the men?  What is a reason to practice polygamy?  Marriage was often culturally the only means of provision and protection for women.  Polygamy extends this to women who would otherwise have been single.  Women in some cultures derive their worth from bearing children, and the only moral way to do that is in a marriage.  War decimates the male population, leaving an imbalance corrected by one man marrying more than one woman.  You can take care of a woman without marrying her.  Fathers can care for single women.  It is impossible for there to be that oneness that marriage is supposed to create between a man and his multiple wives.  Marriage is a picture of how God wants the relationship to be with His Church.

Lack of submission by Christian wives is a major reason for the degeneration of Church in the West. We are not talking about Feminism as the movement, but about the specific point of wives not submitting (to their husbands).  What is the evidence that wives are unsubmissive?  The pervasiveness of jokes about women submitting is a cultural recognition that something is not right.  Has Christianity degenerated?  Evidence of famous pastors falling into sin.  Lack of submission comes from lack of respect (of wives for husbands).  But there is also lack of leadership from men.  There has been a drastic stepping down of men in their homes BASED ON the disrespectful reaction of their wives.  The blame is not solely on either, but it is a cycle.  How can this phenomenon be blamed for the degradation of the Church?  What does it do to the Church?  Marriage is an example of how the Church should respond to Christ.  Disobedience to God’s command (in this case, for wives to submit) makes us ineffective Christians.  Disrespect is not a license for men to be sinful.  Unsubmissiveness discourages leadership.  Women are not edifying men.  Promise Keepers encourages groveling instead of strong leadership.  Manhood and Womanhood should be exercised in the context of real life instead of just demonstrating manliness off hunting or femininity at a scrapbooking retreat.  Is the issue not submitting, or usurping authority, taking on the leadership that belongs to men?  Look at Deborah.  She became the leader in the army, but it was specifically described as a shame to the men for being unwilling to take the lead themselves.  Wives not submitting has an effect on children, who are left confused about authority.  God is not our servant to be bossed around by us; we submit to Him, as the Church.  Noted that one of the first reactions in discussion was to compare or shift blame.  Such avoidance is sinful.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Where do you go to church?

It’s a normal question, and I’m not offended by it.  But in the year since I stopped going to conventional church, I have yet to figure out an easy answer to this question.  I see the horror in friends’ eyes when I tell them I don’t go.  We’ve all known people who walked away from fellowship with believers, or who become apostate to the faith.  There is pity and skepticism if I tell friends I’m still looking.  And when I explain what I’m doing as a matter of practice without going into the reasons, it sounds apologetic.  I’m not sorry for my choices.  I believe in them.

So why do I not go to a church?

Five years ago I led a Bible study on the spiritual gifts.  We looked at what the gifts are, examples of people using them, how they build up the church, and how other believers should respond to them.  In that study I, at least, became convinced that not only was my church broken – but the whole model for “church” that I was familiar with neglected the body-participation and Spirit-ual power and guidance described in the New Testament.

For four years I studied ecclesiology – what the Bible says about the gatherings of believers.  After I’d worked out an idea, mostly based on 1 Corinthians 11-14, of what a church meeting should be like, I discovered some websites about house churches.  My favorite website was New Testament Reformation Fellowship.  On their site are articles about the exact points and questions raised by my study.  The men who contribute to NTRF are from several countries and about ten congregations.  There are people really practicing church like you read about in Acts and the epistles.

But though I was gaining conviction on these things, God was not releasing me from the church I had attended since I was 15.  Church is about God and people, God’s purposes in people.  I am not (even now) released from loving those people or even from fellowshipping with them as I have occasion.  My church was broken, more than its model and more than a church has to be broken (consisting of redeemed sinners).  Many people attending that church were trying to stay to help, to heal, to influence towards the holy and faith-ful.

Finally in 2009 conflict came to a head at my church.  I prayed hard.  God taught me a lot about love.  The result for the church was essentially a split.  For me, I was released from my commitment to that body and that authority.  My family also left that church.  We were then faced with the question of what to do next.  As a family and independently we visited several area churches, without finding any to belong to.

A group that had met for fellowship and Bible study before they left the church continued to meet and my parents joined, contemplating a church plant.  They met in a house and held Sunday meetings.  Members of that group began to explore models for church that appealed to them.  Family-integrated ideas and house church ideas were blended with more traditional ministry models.

Some wanted to expand out of the house.  Others wanted to stay small.  Some wanted to support a full time pastor and others sought bi-vocational leadership.  There were different ideas about the purpose of church: discipleship, evangelism, worship, fellowship?  Which one is the primary goal?  Instead of seeking as a group what the Bible teaches about church, the families mostly went separate ways according to their preferences.

My family had heard about house churches from me for years.  They decided that they believed in house churches, and also in some associated concepts like co-leadership and family integration.  For my part, I am unwilling to join an institution I don’t believe in; I think it would cause problems for them and for me.  I would still like to find a church that follows the 1 Corinthians pattern for church meetings.  Though my parents still meet with some families from our old church, in a house church format, I am concerned that there is still division about the meaning of church and that their practices are somewhat arbitrary and not Bible-based.  I attend a few meetings a month with my family.

Close friends from Awana – and friends of those friends – had developed in 2008 and 2009 a prayer meeting and Bible study.  It was informal, meeting every week or two to share what God had been doing in our lives, the things we were burdened for or convicted about, and Scriptures God had laid on our hearts to share or that had spoken to us during the week.  We spent about an hour each meeting in Spirit-directed prayer, each praying as led.  Our fellowship before and after was sweet, and we often gathered at other times to do ministry or to have parties or to encourage each other.  This was my support during the difficult church split.  And it continues to be God’s provision for a “church”, the closest meeting in my experience to what I’m looking for in a church.

On the side, I also visit a few friends’ churches on Sunday mornings, about 2 out of 4 Sundays.  I visit Sovereign Grace, Cornerstone Chapel, Agape Bible, and Summitview Community in Fort Collins.  Each of these churches has good, God-loving and Jesus-following people who believe in community and whose theology is orthodox and God-exalting.  When I visit them, I think of it as a sort of worship and Bible conference.  I’m also open to visiting other churches occasionally, especially to see people I don’t often get to see – but also to meet new people and see what God is doing in the lives of Christians all over Colorado.

I have a concern about this church practice I’ve adopted, and it is that I have no pastor.  There is no good example of walking in the Spirit whose gift is to shepherd other Christians, guiding and feeding them – none who knows me and my spiritual state whose authority I could submit to and whose leadership I could follow.  But I have been in many conventional churches whose men titled “pastor” do not fit that description, and so I know that there is no easy way to find one.  A pastor, like so many other things, is a gift from God.  And I’m asking God for one still.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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