In my post about why I have left church, I addressed some of the issues that I have faced personally. But I haven’t left it at that. My goal was to try and also give some sort of remedy. In the last few days since I posted that, I have had people asking me a lot of questions. Some of them are easy to address, and some of them are very difficult to address. Ultimately, when you ask a question about something that seems like the whole Bible has something to say about, I’m not sure I can give a quick 1-sentence answer. But this is something that I have noticed is lacking in the questions: a reality of eternity.
Many of the questions have to do with what church would look like outside of church. Some are asking about the performance, but not everyone. A lot of the questions are more geared toward: if you don’t meet together weekly, how do you function? This isn’t so much a performance question as it is pertaining to questions about lifestyle, submission to authority, confession, sharing faith, evangelism, and all of the important aspects of Christian life that are difficult to understand outside of the church building context.
Let me expand a bit of what I see missing in these questions. The first century church seems to speak unwaveringly about a soon coming return of Christ. That actually might even be their most prominent topic of discussion in the New Testament epistles. There were a lot of questions in regards to church service and how we live out our lives daily, but all of the answers to those questions seem to be a way in which the writer refers back to Jesus is coming back.
I am reading a book with my wife called “True Fellowship.” The author in the sixth chapter has taken up the question of apostolic lifestyle. What kind of lifestyle did the apostles have, and what was their reason for having such a lifestyle? He links their reason to their full expectation of a soon returning Jesus in order to establish His Kingdom on earth, in which we will then be partakers. Some will be found worthy of ruling over 10 cities, some over 5, and some over 2. Eternal rewards and the understanding that Jesus returns directly after great suffering and tribulation seemed to dictate the way that these people lived.
The chapter started with a statement that declares apostolic poverty is a necessity. Where do we hear such things? Why would poverty be a necessity? He later addresses that the first century Church sold their possessions and gave to the poor. Why? It was because they knew that Jesus was coming back soon, so why do we need these things? The chapter then continued in expressing all of the ways that we have been all too casual and living in luxurious manner. Our retirement funds, pension plans, “eating out,” needing coffee in the morning, church budgets, hopes of building the ministry, million dollar building projects, etc are all connected to a “scoffing” at the Lord’s coming. We can scoff without using words.
In our daily lives, how much is lived in an expectation that the end is soon coming? How many of our choices are predicated upon a belief that I might not live to old age? The answer to those questions should be quite revealing. If we put trust in our retirement and desire to build for ourselves a “good life,” are we really believing that Jesus will return? We might subscribe to the doctrine, but how much are we truly believing that if we aren’t living like we believe that?
This was a challenge for me. It caught me off guard. In a sense, I am living like I expect Jesus to return, but in another sense, I’m one of those people writing up articles about why I left church. Is that even important? Are there more important things to be occupied with?
When being asked about what it would mean to be Christian outside of church, and how are we supposed to meet together, and what about all of the details, I find that the reality of Jesus’ second advent is not present. Of course, I don’t expect people to ask what we’re doing to prepare, but I would at least expect that if this was a living reality in our confession that the questions would be phrased and posted in a different manner. How many of the questions that come to mind are truly important, and how many are simply being asked because we want to perpetuate our Sunday culture?
This isn’t an in depth blog post or even an indictment. As I’ve been reflecting, I just wanted to share some of my thoughts. I do have answers to the questions raised, but so many times I feel like to address the question is to somehow cheapen my stance. When asked “What is truth,” Jesus said nothing in response to Pilate. That moment of silence answered the question better than any exposition could. Pilate is standing before the very man that said, “I am the Truth,” and if Pilate cannot see it before his eyes, then he cannot see it at all. In the same way, I almost feel as though some of these questions and statements are merely ploys to say that there is no answer, or there is some sort of faulty ground, so that the questioner can then justify every point that I brought up.
I could be wrong, and I know that some are honestly asking. I just hope that this is not one of those times where truth is standing right in front of people, and they are so despising toward it that they look for any out they can take. The road that I have chosen to promote and strive toward is a difficult road. Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. Is that a reality that we can truly obtain? Can we truly be one in that same kind of relationship together? If so, I want it. Enough with our talk, enough with our egos, enough with everything that hinders us from achieving so great a calling. If it is even possible to live as Christ as lived, then I want that. If it is not possible, then the Bible is a lie. I see no way of obtaining this without community.
By community, I mean a group of believers that meet together frequently – if not daily – to share life together and pour into one another the reality of Christ that has been manifest to us. What does that look like? I can’t give a formula. All I can say is that it is predicated upon the blessed hope of a soon coming Jesus to restore all things. Every aspect of life and interaction is first sought out with His Kingdom in mind. If my location is too far away to be able to frequently meet with other believers, then I’ll move. If employment (which I don’t have, but just to make the point) takes up much of my daily life so that I can’t spend time with the brethren, then I either cut back my hours or quit my job. The focus is upon His soon coming, and His Kingdom – never upon this life and how do I survive?