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Committed Christian but not involved in church?


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#51 marbel

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 11:14 AM

Because God directly affirms the need and blessing of communal worship and the necessity of regular communion together with believers. An impulse contrary to that, which separates the believer from the flock, wouldn’t line up with what God has already disclosed about himself and his church and worship in biblical revelation. It would be one thing if it was an extra opportunity, like a bible study or class, but the main weekly meeting? That wouldn’t pass my sniff test either, though it would certainly appeal to my flesh.

<snip>

 

Just following on with this.  God is not going to tell an individual to do something contrary to what he has already said.  I've heard it said many times, in many different pulpits, "the voice in your head is not God."  Some say it is Satan, some say it is our own self speaking.  

 

Even before my husband was a pastor, we were pretty careful about our reasons for staying home from church.  Tired and just don't feel like it?  I always think of the early believers who had to hide out to worship because of persecution but took the risk rather than stay home.  Or, for that matter, believers in some places today who have to meet in secret. People who travel great distances to go to church.   

 

Now that doesn't mean there aren't reasons to skip church sometimes, besides sickness. But in my experience those times are pretty clear and I don't have to try to justify it in my mind.  

 

BTW all my comments are assuming the family is in a healthy church, no scandals or other nastiness going on. 


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#52 Bluegoat

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 11:21 AM

I'm just curious and there is no judgment in this question.

 

Why do assume that it is the devil on your shoulder making this statement?  Maybe it is God letting you know that is okay to spend time with your family on this particular morning and that is how He wants you to serve Him on that particular day.

 

 

One thing I would say is that this is typically how the Devil on the shoulder works.  Or self-justification, if you want to put it that way.   

 

There isn't much point trying to get most people to do things, or convince them of things, that they simply won't do, or accept.  You have to create a plausible argument, one that seems rational, and maybe is partly true, and also is appealing in some way.

 

You can rationalize anything, if you start from the right premises.   So that's the stuff that you really need to look out for.  


Edited by Bluegoat, 12 January 2018 - 12:25 PM.

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#53 Bluegoat

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 11:35 AM

I guess I just do not see how all of these things cannot be done at home sitting at my kitchen table or in my living room.  I can worship, have fellowship, teach and honor God within the confines of my home on Sunday morning.  

 

I'm sitting at a Doctor's office and don't have access to my bible or the exact verse but I know it goes something like this, "where two or more gather in my name, I am in the middle of them"

 

I totally respect where you are coming from but I disagree with you that these things can only happen within the walls of a church which is how I am interpreting your statement.

 

A church is really a Christian community though, which is kind of a special part of the community as a whole.

 

The church building has a function, in the sense that it is set apart for certain purposes, and is open to the community to come into it and do those things.  So - it is a kind of a way that all of these types of observances become a living part of the community.

 

Doing these things at home, even with family and friends - that's ok, but unless the home is actually being used in the same way a church would be, it's a private function.  It isn't the community - it's your family and people you know.  It teds towards a much more individualistic approach.

 

There is something about sitting in the same congregation as the guy you think is a dodgy businessman, or the insufferable bossy person, or the heroin addict, or the guy who shouts odd things, or even strangers, and be involved in a corporate act and taking communion from the same cup - that is kind of the opposite of individualism.


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#54 DawnM

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 11:52 AM

Interesting article on some of this:

 

http://www.outreachm...ing-church.html

 

But I still would argue you don't have to go to church to be a Christian.  I know some who don't attend church.  

 

And there are home churches.

 

And there are other ways to get "church." 

 

 


Edited by DawnM, 12 January 2018 - 11:54 AM.

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#55 Arctic Mama

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 11:58 AM

Interesting article on some of this:

http://www.outreachm...ing-church.html

But I still would argue you don't have to go to church to be a Christian. I know some who don't attend church.

And there are home churches.

And there are other ways to get "church."


That was a nice little article, I totally agree.

I think home churches are just fine, personally. I do think it needs to be made up of people outside of just your own family if at all possible though. Reduces the echo chamber effect a bit :)

Edited by Arctic Mama, 12 January 2018 - 11:59 AM.

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#56 ktgrok

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 12:13 PM

 

 

There is something about sitting in the same congregation as the guy you think is a dodgy businessman, or the insufferable bossy person, or the heroin addict, or the guy who shouts odd things, or even strangers, and be involved in a corporate act and taking communion from the same cup - that is kind of the opposite of individualism.

 

This is a big thing for me. It reminds me that we are all, even the really annoying people, part of the same family of God. I need that weekly reminder! Maybe others don't. 

 

I do think maybe that feels different in a liturgical church vs non liturgical? If church feels more like a Bible study, I can see how I'd feel I could get that at home, or online. If it's me sitting, passively taking in information, same. If it's me actively participating and worshipping, in communion, and partaking of the sacraments...can't do that at home. 


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#57 Liz CA

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 12:26 PM

 

My faith hasn't wavered, but it seems to be changing.  I am seeing some things through different lenses, and I want to find a church, but I am not sure where I fit in.  And part of me just wants to sneak in the back, and leave without getting involved for a good, long while!  It just wears me out.

 

 

So many people get burned out from being asked to serve repeatedly. One could of course argue that we need to remember our boundaries but I know there are many pressures involved. When my ds was little, I felt obligated to work in the nursery, later in the children's classes. I did enjoy it but when it's rotational and others are often not showing up you can end up doing this for several Sundays in a row. And nursery / kids is just one example. There are so many more. Sometimes we need to just sit and receive and it can feel frowned upon (subjectively perhaps but nevertheless) if you are not stepping up to the plate constantly.

 

At my age, nobody approaches me anymore about kids' church so I do think there is a lot of pressure on Moms with young ones in the program.


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#58 ktgrok

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 12:33 PM

I should also add I think I was just as dedicated to God when not attending. My faith was still there. I think I'm a better person, and a better Christian, however, by attending. Even when it feels pointless. 


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#59 Nemom

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 12:57 PM

Just following on with this.  God is not going to tell an individual to do something contrary to what he has already said.  I've heard it said many times, in many different pulpits, "the voice in your head is not God."  Some say it is Satan, some say it is our own self speaking.  

 

Even before my husband was a pastor, we were pretty careful about our reasons for staying home from church.  Tired and just don't feel like it?  I always think of the early believers who had to hide out to worship because of persecution but took the risk rather than stay home.  Or, for that matter, believers in some places today who have to meet in secret. People who travel great distances to go to church.   

 

Now that doesn't mean there aren't reasons to skip church sometimes, besides sickness. But in my experience those times are pretty clear and I don't have to try to justify it in my mind.  

 

BTW all my comments are assuming the family is in a healthy church, no scandals or other nastiness going on. 

Marbel help walk me through this statement and understand I am basically thinking out loud here.

 

If the Holy Spirit is living insIide me, what exactly is He doing inside me if not at some point speaking to me, guiding me, showing me how to live and what to do?  Is His spirit silent inside me and just along for the ride so to speak?

 

I'm not saying the voice inside my head is always God but I am asking is it never God?

 

 

ETA:  "God is not going to tell an individual to do something contrary to what he has already said"  

 

Isn't this exactly what He did when He saw that the ways of the old testament were not working?  We are no longer bound by the laws of the old testament.  

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by Nemom, 12 January 2018 - 01:14 PM.

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#60 Serenade

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 01:00 PM

I pulled away from attending a church a year or so after I got married.  I am (now lapsed) Catholic, and my DH is Lutheran (WELS).  Neither of us could take communion in the other's church, and neither of us wanted to convert.  We agree on most Biblical/religious teachings, and the things we disagree on are not deal breakers.   For a while we each went to our own church, alone, but that just felt so weird, so we stopped going.  Our boys were baptized in the Catholic Church, because that is the one thing the priest who married us asked us to do in pre-marriage counseling.  

 

I feel really strongly that God brought my DH and I together.  I got married late, I met him in an unconventional way, and he is a near perfect fit for me.  Only God could have done that.  I wish I knew as clearly which church we should go to.  I don't think my faith as weakened in this time away from a church.  I actually feel it's strengthened because I've had to think about things a lot, and because our family has made Bible study part  of our homeschool, and we discuss Biblical principles and how they relate to things going on in the world today. Yes, I do worry that I might have things wrong or might not understand correctly, but I pray that God leads me closer to him.  I would like to go to a church, but I'm not sure which is the right one! Is there even a right one?  I just think God must be weeping at the way his Church has been divided.  I wish all Christians had one church that we all attended. 


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#61 ktgrok

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 01:05 PM

I pulled away from attending a church a year or so after I got married. I am (now lapsed) Catholic, and my DH is Lutheran (WELS). Neither of us could take communion in the other's church, and neither of us wanted to convert. We agree on most Biblical/religious teachings, and the things we disagree on are not deal breakers. For a while we each went to our own church, alone, but that just felt so weird, so we stopped going. Our boys were baptized in the Catholic Church, because that is the one thing the priest who married us asked us to do in pre-marriage counseling.

I feel really strongly that God brought my DH and I together. I got married late, I met him in an unconventional way, and he is a near perfect fit for me. Only God could have done that. I wish I knew as clearly which church we should go to. I don't think my faith as weakened in this time away from a church. I actually feel it's strengthened because I've had to think about things a lot, and because our family has made Bible study part of our homeschool, and we discuss Biblical principles and how they relate to things going on in the world today. Yes, I do worry that I might have things wrong or might not understand correctly, but I pray that God leads me closer to him. I would like to go to a church, but I'm not sure which is the right one! Is there even a right one? I just think God must be weeping at the way his Church has been divided. I wish all Christians had one church that we all attended.


Hugs! I think this is one of those times you can't let perfect be the enemy of the good. Could you alternate weeks? Go to his one Sunday and yours the next, as a family? Or was going separately really worst than not going at all?
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#62 Chris in VA

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 02:46 PM

I have, for various reasons, including family members that were not willing to attend, etc. And a misguided time of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

 

It did effect me spiritually in some ways. Some may be fine without Church, but I needed that weekly time to remind me of what was important. If nothing else, I needed the regular practice of self sacrifice...of giving up what I thought needed to be done or what I wanted to do in order to dedicate that time to God. Sometimes something I hear at church will move me, or inspire me, but sometimes, it's just proving to myself that it is important. That my whole week is mine and this one hour is not about me. Otherwise I get self important I think. Weekly time set aside keeps me accountable. 

 

Plus, what is kind of crazy, is that my most heavenly moments, for lack of a better word, don't come from the homily or the scriptures being read. It's from the people. It's being there, in the midst of humanity, seeing old and young, sick and healthy, men and women, all different races and ethnicities, people in fancy clothes and men in their paint spattered work clothes, kids in uniforms, all kneeling down to the same God, all drinking from the same cup, all praying the same prayers....that's what gets my cynical, sometimes too rational heart. That's when I see the face of God. So for me, no, I can't get that at home. Nor in a video, or podcast. I have to take my introverted, would rather be curled up with a nice thick book self, half the time looking crappy, feeling guilty about yelling at the kids to get ready self into that Church and SEE it up in my face to get it. THATS what I missed when I wasn't attending. That is why I attend now, even knowing that I will never totally agree with everything any single denomination does or believes. 

 

YMMV. 

I can't like this enough. You speak to my heart-- my sore, grieving, angry, sad and broken heart. 

Thanks, Katie. I really appreciate your words. 


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#63 Bluegoat

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 03:15 PM

Marbel help walk me through this statement and understand I am basically thinking out loud here.

 

If the Holy Spirit is living insIide me, what exactly is He doing inside me if not at some point speaking to me, guiding me, showing me how to live and what to do?  Is His spirit silent inside me and just along for the ride so to speak?

 

I'm not saying the voice inside my head is always God but I am asking is it never God?

 

 

ETA:  "God is not going to tell an individual to do something contrary to what he has already said"  

 

Isn't this exactly what He did when He saw that the ways of the old testament were not working?  We are no longer bound by the laws of the old testament.  

 

Historically, what you were describing would actually be an unusual way to think about how the HS talks to us.  Not that it isn't active in individuals, so much as that it was understood to be active in the Church as a corporate entity.  It's not just chance that the idea of it communicating in this way with individuals comes at the same time that the individual came into focus in thought more generally, in the modern period.

 

I don't know that what you are describing in terms of not being bound by the law is actually a very common teaching.


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#64 marbel

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 03:24 PM

Marbel help walk me through this statement and understand I am basically thinking out loud here.

 

If the Holy Spirit is living insIide me, what exactly is He doing inside me if not at some point speaking to me, guiding me, showing me how to live and what to do?  Is His spirit silent inside me and just along for the ride so to speak?

 

I'm not saying the voice inside my head is always God but I am asking is it never God?

 

 

ETA:  "God is not going to tell an individual to do something contrary to what he has already said"  

 

Isn't this exactly what He did when He saw that the ways of the old testament were not working?  We are no longer bound by the laws of the old testament.  

 

This is what I believe, based on what I have been taught and on my own experiences. 

 

God speaks through Scripture.  The Holy Spirit guides us, sure.  I can point to many situations in my life in which the Holy Spirit seemed to be leading me but it was not through words I heard or thought I heard.  

 

An example not from my life but a life I observed: a woman leaving her husband for another man, saying God told her to.  (This was not an abuse situation, just a woman meeting someone she loved more than her husband.)  No, God is not going to tell someone to leave their spouse for another person.

 

An example from my life is when my husband and I decided on his mid-life career change, from engineer to pastor. We spent two years praying and talking between ourselves and to other people about this seemingly crazy idea.  At no point did God say "do it" to me or my husband. But people around us encouraged us; situations fell into place that made things easier for us; for example thinking we would rent out our house instead of selling right away, and then learning that someone we knew was moving back to the area and wanted to rent a house.  

 

The only time I have thought I heard God speaking to me was at a women's retreat during a worship service. I married late in life and we started trying to conceive right away but I passed my 40th birthday without being pregnant. At this retreat, I distinctly heard a voice in my head, purportedly God, saying "you will never have a baby."  That devastated me, and I was ready to tell my husband to divorce me so he could marry a woman who would be able to have children. But by the time of my next birthday I was pregnant, and went on to have a second child.  So what was that voice all about?  

 

So maybe I should just say I would be very cautious of a voice in my head telling me to do something that was not in line with what we know of God's revealed will.  Hard to imagine God saying "yeah, you deserve a break today; just skip church" when there are no other reasons for staying home except our own desire to do so.

 

Re your ETA, if I'm understanding correctly, you are talking about Jesus and the new covenant?  That wasn't God speaking in one person's head, right?   (Not being snarky, if it sounds that way.)


Edited by marbel, 12 January 2018 - 03:25 PM.

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#65 Bluegoat

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 03:29 PM

This is what I believe, based on what I have been taught and on my own experiences. 

 

God speaks through Scripture.  The Holy Spirit guides us, sure.  I can point to many situations in my life in which the Holy Spirit seemed to be leading me but it was not through words I heard or thought I heard.  

 

An example not from my life but a life I observed: a woman leaving her husband for another man, saying God told her to.  (This was not an abuse situation, just a woman meeting someone she loved more than her husband.)  No, God is not going to tell someone to leave their spouse for another person.

 

An example from my life is when my husband and I decided on his mid-life career change, from engineer to pastor. We spent two years praying and talking between ourselves and to other people about this seemingly crazy idea.  At no point did God say "do it" to me or my husband. But people around us encouraged us; situations fell into place that made things easier for us; for example thinking we would rent out our house instead of selling right away, and then learning that someone we knew was moving back to the area and wanted to rent a house.  

 

The only time I have thought I heard God speaking to me was at a women's retreat during a worship service. I married late in life and we started trying to conceive right away but I passed my 40th birthday without being pregnant. At this retreat, I distinctly heard a voice in my head, purportedly God, saying "you will never have a baby."  That devastated me, and I was ready to tell my husband to divorce me so he could marry a woman who would be able to have children. But by the time of my next birthday I was pregnant, and went on to have a second child.  So what was that voice all about?  

 

So maybe I should just say I would be very cautious of a voice in my head telling me to do something that was not in line with what we know of God's revealed will.  Hard to imagine God saying "yeah, you deserve a break today; just skip church" when there are no other reasons for staying home except our own desire to do so.

 

Re your ETA, if I'm understanding correctly, you are talking about Jesus and the new covenant?  That wasn't God speaking in one person's head, right?   (Not being snarky, if it sounds that way.)

 

 

That experience makes me think of prelest, spiritual delusion.  It's why in some traditions it's taught that people, especially those who are undergoing spiritual exercises, should always have an experienced person overseeing them


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#66 marbel

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 03:31 PM

That experience makes me think of prelest, spiritual delusion.  It's why in some traditions it's taught that people, especially those who are undergoing spiritual exercises, should always have an experienced person overseeing them

 

I have never heard of that, so thanks for the link.  That seems reasonable.  


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#67 jewellsmommy

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 03:39 PM

Marbel help walk me through this statement and understand I am basically thinking out loud here.

 

If the Holy Spirit is living insIide me, what exactly is He doing inside me if not at some point speaking to me, guiding me, showing me how to live and what to do?  Is His spirit silent inside me and just along for the ride so to speak?

 

I'm not saying the voice inside my head is always God but I am asking is it never God?

 

 

ETA:  "God is not going to tell an individual to do something contrary to what he has already said"  

 

Isn't this exactly what He did when He saw that the ways of the old testament were not working?  We are no longer bound by the laws of the old testament.  

 

Not a Bible scholar but this is my understanding and how I operate:

 

The change from the old covenant to the new was not God changing his mind. The new covenant was preached/prophesied and part of a continuum. I see this similar to how we parent our children as they age. As humanity aged, God was consistent in message and self but shifted methods.

 

The Holy Spirit does speak to us or, more accurately perhaps, deciphers for us. The Holy Spirit is incapable of contradicting the Word of God, though, because it is God, there are no split interests here. Human thinking and understanding is seperate from the Holy Spirit and also has a voice...so I hear both. The Holy Spirit interprets and helps me apply God's Word to my life and circumstances. In my experience, it is a work in progress to hear the Spirit over myself. Sometimes I can hear it clearly, other times not so much. I know that it's the Spirit because it "fits" with the Word. 

 

ETA: By "hear" I do not mean audibly, personally. I mean hear in the same sense that people talk about the voice of reason or a conscience speaking to them. It is an understanding and a feeling not a voice per se.


Edited by jewellsmommy, 12 January 2018 - 03:42 PM.

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#68 Nemom

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 03:53 PM

Not a Bible scholar but this is my understanding and how I operate:

 

The change from the old covenant to the new was not God changing his mind. The new covenant was preached/prophesied and part of a continuum. I see this similar to how we parent our children as they age. As humanity aged, God was consistent in message and self but shifted methods.

 

The Holy Spirit does speak to us or, more accurately perhaps, deciphers for us. The Holy Spirit is incapable of contradicting the Word of God, though, because it is God, there are no split interests here. Human thinking and understanding is seperate from the Holy Spirit and also has a voice...so I hear both. The Holy Spirit interprets and helps me apply God's Word to my life and circumstances. In my experience, it is a work in progress to hear the Spirit over myself. Sometimes I can hear it clearly, other times not so much. I know that it's the Spirit because it "fits" with the Word. 

 

ETA: By "hear" I do not mean audibly, personally. I mean hear in the same sense that people talk about the voice of reason or a conscience speaking to them. It is an understanding and a feeling not a voice per se.

Agree.


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#69 Nemom

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 03:54 PM

 

Re your ETA, if I'm understanding correctly, you are talking about Jesus and the new covenant?  That wasn't God speaking in one person's head, right?   (Not being snarky, if it sounds that way.)

No, not God speaking into one person's head.


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#70 Aura

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 06:09 PM

The following is what I've come to believe after years of sincere searching for God. It's not popular among most people I know IRL, other than the few that I meet with monthly. I'm simply sharing it to present a different way of looking at things--because Attolia asked about church attendance, and this directly plays into that--not because I'm trying to upset or argue with anyone.

 

How do you discern whether the voice inside you is of God or not? 

 

If you try to figure it out based on anything other than God personally, I think you're going about it backwards. If you want to learn to listen to God, go directly to the source. Skip all of man's interpretations and sermons and learn to be still and quiet and to listen.

 

Yes, I mean meditation. I have yet to find a traditional church that isn't afraid of meditation. It's all about come listen to what man has to say about God. It's as if they're afraid that *you* won't be able to listen to God, that you'll end up listening to demons or Satan or whatever.

 

As far as I'm concerned, Jesus set the precedence. He spent his younger years learning and memorizing scripture, but when he really needed to grow, to connect with God, he removed himself from everyone else. IMO, the cornerstone of spiritual growth is meditation. If you [generic you] really want to grow, learn to meditate and listen to God. 

 

Meditation teaches you how to discern whether that voice telling you to skip church is from God (maybe he wants to talk directly to you, maybe he has something else for you that day) or from self or Satan.

 

I personally feel that the emphasis on church attendance has become a hindrance to real spiritual growth. It has its place, but if you've already spent years learning the Bible, memorizing scriptures, attending sermons and Bible studies, and you've never separated yourself from man's teachings to focus on what God is telling you personally, then maybe it's time to do that. 

 

edited for typos


Edited by Aura, 12 January 2018 - 06:11 PM.

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#71 MegP

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 06:10 PM

A church is really a Christian community though, which is kind of a special part of the community as a whole.

 

The church building has a function, in the sense that it is set apart for certain purposes, and is open to the community to come into it and do those things.  So - it is a kind of a way that all of these types of observances become a living part of the community.

 

Doing these things at home, even with family and friends - that's ok, but unless the home is actually being used in the same way a church would be, it's a private function.  It isn't the community - it's your family and people you know.  It teds towards a much more individualistic approach.

 

There is something about sitting in the same congregation as the guy you think is a dodgy businessman, or the insufferable bossy person, or the heroin addict, or the guy who shouts odd things, or even strangers, and be involved in a corporate act and taking communion from the same cup - that is kind of the opposite of individualism.

 

In most large churches nowdays, you don't even interact with anyone at church. You go in, find a seat, and after the service is over everyone goes home. Even if you know someone who attends the same church as you, they often will go to a different service and you may not see them.


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#72 marbel

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 06:16 PM

In most large churches nowdays, you don't even interact with anyone at church. You go in, find a seat, and after the service is over everyone goes home. Even if you know someone who attends the same church as you, they often will go to a different service and you may not see them.

 

I found this to be true when we attended a huge church (not quite mega-church) some years ago.  But even then the pastors understood that the church service was not providing everything people needed from church, and encouraged people to join small groups for building relationships.  

 

But that is also why since then we have always sought out smaller churches.  Our current church usually has about 120 - 150 each Sunday (many of those are children), and except for visitors most people know everyone by name, though of course some relationships are closer than others. There is lots of interaction - lively coffee hour after church, small groups, frequent socializing, etc.  


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#73 Free Indeed

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 06:27 PM

I have enjoyed this thread. Glad to see I'm not alone in the struggle of wanting to go and be in church, being worn out from serving, and just not agreeing with everything. I struggle with wanting to pull away, but I struggle with not wanting to pull away. I have loved reading other people's thoughts and experiences.
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#74 ktgrok

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 06:37 PM

 

If you try to figure it out based on anything other than God personally, I think you're going about it backwards. If you want to learn to listen to God, go directly to the source. Skip all of man's interpretations and sermons and learn to be still and quiet and to listen.

 

Yes, I mean meditation. I have yet to find a traditional church that isn't afraid of meditation. 

 

There are plenty of Contemplative Catholic (and I bet  other) orders of nuns/monks. And my parish has contemplative services in Lent, that are mostly silent. Taize services are meditative. I'd argue that traditional Quaker meetings are as well. 

 

And of course the Rosary can be done as meditation, or any repetitive prayer. The oldest being the Jesus prayer. Maybe repeating it doesn't count as the same kind of meditation, but it is referred to as meditating. 


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#75 bethben

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 06:56 PM

I am finding more and more committed Christians ditching church.  I have thought about it a lot but Biblical admonitions and going so my children get in a habit is the only reason why I go.  Everyone can find sermons online and worship music is abundant.  Why get out of our house and go to the stress of getting everyone else out the door so that we can get a time that's the same as what we could get without having to leave the house?

 

Here's what we have going on.  We just left a church because despite our efforts to have people over to dinner, run a small group, and get involved in the youth group for over two years, we were still our own little island.  We had a lot of junk that we were dealing with 4 months ago and our last thought was to call people in our church to pray.  So, we are looking for a church where people actually get to know each other and get involved with each other.  Where the Bible is preached and not just shoved into a topic the pastor wanted to talk about and found verses that related.  We believe the church is meant to get "messy" with people as we all walk our faith out.  It is not meant to be some worship music, a sermon, and announcements -- go home.  We are meant to share each other's burdens - their joys and their sorrows.  We are determined to find this.  Granted, in 23 years of marriage, we have only really experienced something close to this at a church before we moved 1000 miles.  People have trouble finding a church like this here.  A lot of people church hop.  A lot of people just stay home.  And I can't find a good enough reason to encourage them to go to church.  


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#76 PeachyDoodle

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 07:12 PM

I found this to be true when we attended a huge church (not quite mega-church) some years ago.  But even then the pastors understood that the church service was not providing everything people needed from church, and encouraged people to join small groups for building relationships.  

 

But that is also why since then we have always sought out smaller churches.  Our current church usually has about 120 - 150 each Sunday (many of those are children), and except for visitors most people know everyone by name, though of course some relationships are closer than others. There is lots of interaction - lively coffee hour after church, small groups, frequent socializing, etc.  

 

This is one of the reasons we left our former church. The problem with the "small group" fix is that it ultimately outsources pastoral care to the congregation. Not that I don't think members of a church can and should take care of each other. But there are some things that only a pastor is (or should be) equipped to deal with.

 

When our pastor refused to drive to a nearby city to be with us while our son was in the NICU, that was the end for dh. We had multiple visits from the clergy and lay people from the Episcopal church where I worked at the time over the course of the week ds was in the hospital. Which we greatly appreciated. But we expected and needed to have the spiritual care of our own pastor.

 

By contrast, the pastor of the online congregation we were part of during our wilderness wanderings ( :lol: ) literally drove across the country to baptize dd. 

 

It made it harder that we had decades of history with our former church during a time when it was small enough to provide decent pastoral care. When it went seeker-sensitive and exploded, we could no longer recognize our home.


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#77 Nemom

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 07:20 PM

 

How do you discern whether the voice inside you is of God or not? 

 

 

 

For me personally, I don't rush into anything.  If something comes to me and I believe it is from God, I pray about it first and then I take a step back and see how I feel after a certain unset amount of time.  If I feel a sense of peace about whatever it is, I assume that is because I am following God's will.  If I forget about it or feel a sense of unrest or uneasiness about it, I assume it is because it is not God's will for me.  

 

So not exactly what I would call a formal form of meditation but a very informal meditation that works for me.

 

For me personally, I can give you a lot of examples where I did not follow that little voice inside of my head and wound up in situations that possibly could have be avoided had I listened.  

 


Edited by Nemom, 13 January 2018 - 12:55 PM.

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#78 Bluegoat

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 07:42 PM

In most large churches nowdays, you don't even interact with anyone at church. You go in, find a seat, and after the service is over everyone goes home. Even if you know someone who attends the same church as you, they often will go to a different service and you may not see them.

 

I don't know that I think the mega-church is a robust model.  It is impersonal, and I think inclined to be rather shallow.

 

But I wouldn't say that being friendly with the people at church is really completely the same as the Church as community.  In some ways, Church as community rather implies that you won't always be friends with everyone, or know them that well.


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#79 samba

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 08:00 PM

.  I have always been taught the scripture, "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go to the House of the Lord" and it is ALWAYS important to honor God on the Sabbath with worship, and it is good for bretheren to dwell together in unity, and, and, and......

 

Sundays are for the Lord, for worship, for fellowship, for teaching, and for honoring the Lord.  

 

Therefore, doing something as mundane as breakfast, which you can do other days, is not a reason to skip church.

 

However, for me, the above is never the issue.  I won't skip church just to make breakfast or whatever, I will skip (recently anyway) because I am tired of some things in the evangelical American church.

 

 

 

This describes where I am exactly. I don't expect churches to be perfect but I think there is something very wrong with how church has evolved to its current state. We've been out for a couple of years, although we've tried several times to find a new congregation. They all seem to be the same, regardless of denomination. And I don't like it.


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#80 WoolC

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 08:04 PM

This has been an interesting thread to me. I have never stopped going to church altogether but I have stayed home for weeks at a time dreading a particular church situation and I've had periods of going to a different church every week for months trying to find something that would work for our family. It has been almost a decade since I have been truly connected to a church. I relate to so many of you who have said that it's hard to drag yourself to church when you have access to better music, preaching, books, etc at home.

My old church would talk every week about being an Acts 2 church and figuring out what big things God wants us to do. I became so frustrated with how the church seemed to be trying to reinvent the wheel with every passing generation. My frustration led me to church history, reading the church fathers, reading all of the wonderful threads here on the hive regarding Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

I realized that for me, a sacramental faith was what was missing. I'm still figuring things out. My family was strongly pulled to Orthodoxy, we attended a parish in a neighboring town for a few months. Sadly things aren't working out at this time for us to continue there. We've settled at a local Lutheran church now. Maybe one day I will become Orthodox or we might settle into the Lutheran church for the long haul; I honestly don't know. I do know that for me, realizing the importance of the Eucharist, the sacraments and the history of the church made all the difference in my motivation to be a part of a church body. So, I'm not securely "plugged in" to a church but I'm still seeking and trying.

Hugs and prayers to all in this thread who are struggling to find the right place for their family as well; it is such a trying position to be in.
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#81 ktgrok

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 08:32 PM

 

They all seem to be the same, regardless of denomination. And I don't like it.

 

 

Well, they will all be made up of people, who are pretty much all the same in most ways. Flawed, sinful, proud, self absorbed....every church will deal with this. Probably always has. 

 

That said, i do think if all one is looking for is music and a sermon, you can get that elsewhere. So one has to decide if there is MORE to going to church than that?

 

Edited to add: For me there is. There are the sacraments, for one. If I didn't go for any other reason, I'd go for the Eucharist.


Edited by ktgrok, 12 January 2018 - 08:39 PM.

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#82 scholastica

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 08:50 PM

I have, for various reasons, including family members that were not willing to attend, etc. And a misguided time of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

It did effect me spiritually in some ways. Some may be fine without Church, but I needed that weekly time to remind me of what was important. If nothing else, I needed the regular practice of self sacrifice...of giving up what I thought needed to be done or what I wanted to do in order to dedicate that time to God. Sometimes something I hear at church will move me, or inspire me, but sometimes, it's just proving to myself that it is important. That my whole week is mine and this one hour is not about me. Otherwise I get self important I think. Weekly time set aside keeps me accountable.

Plus, what is kind of crazy, is that my most heavenly moments, for lack of a better word, don't come from the homily or the scriptures being read. It's from the people. It's being there, in the midst of humanity, seeing old and young, sick and healthy, men and women, all different races and ethnicities, people in fancy clothes and men in their paint spattered work clothes, kids in uniforms, all kneeling down to the same God, all drinking from the same cup, all praying the same prayers....that's what gets my cynical, sometimes too rational heart. That's when I see the face of God. So for me, no, I can't get that at home. Nor in a video, or podcast. I have to take my introverted, would rather be curled up with a nice thick book self, half the time looking crappy, feeling guilty about yelling at the kids to get ready self into that Church and SEE it up in my face to get it. THATS what I missed when I wasn't attending. That is why I attend now, even knowing that I will never totally agree with everything any single denomination does or believes.

YMMV.


You’ve just proven the old adage that the Catholic Church is “Here comes everybody”. It’s one of the things I love best about it. We are the most mixed-up, ragtag bunch of sinners anywhere. It’s so beautiful.
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#83 Bluegoat

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 08:57 PM

 

This describes where I am exactly. I don't expect churches to be perfect but I think there is something very wrong with how church has evolved to its current state. We've been out for a couple of years, although we've tried several times to find a new congregation. They all seem to be the same, regardless of denomination. And I don't like it.

 

 

Would you mind elaborating in what way you find them all the same?


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#84 8circles

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 09:31 PM

 I am not looking for a response from those who are faithfully attending a church and are eager to back up the Biblical reasons to stay plugged into a church setting.  I know those reasons/thoughts/feelings.  I have heard them my entire life.  My dad is a pastor.  

 

 

Just a reminder.


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#85 samba

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 10:31 PM

Well, they will all be made up of people, who are pretty much all the same in most ways. Flawed, sinful, proud, self absorbed....every church will deal with this. Probably always has. 

 

That said, i do think if all one is looking for is music and a sermon, you can get that elsewhere. So one has to decide if there is MORE to going to church than that?

 

Edited to add: For me there is. There are the sacraments, for one. If I didn't go for any other reason, I'd go for the Eucharist.

 

I don't like how church seems to be an event, a program. I don't know if I can explain how I feel better than that. I have no problem with the people.

 

I have felt drawn for some time to a more liturgical service. 


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#86 ktgrok

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 11:09 PM

I don't like how church seems to be an event, a program. I don't know if I can explain how I feel better than that. I have no problem with the people.

 

I have felt drawn for some time to a more liturgical service. 

 

Ah, okay. That I get. BTDT in fact. 


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#87 Attolia

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 09:44 AM

Thanks for all of the thoughtful conversation surrounding this topic, for not throwing rotten apples at my head, and for keeping the conversation amiable.

 

I "like" to mark what I have read.  I always do this when I start a topic because it helps me know what I have and haven't read.  If you have had a bad experience then I am so sorry and I am not "liking" that you had it.  

 

To make a very long story as short as possible, I need to ditch some details but here is where we are....

 

DH and I met in a Bible college setting.  DH was on staff at a church for a few years before taking a secular job.  We have always been active and involved in church.  DH has always had periods of questioning the legitimacy of the church, while also being one of the most praying, God-seeking individuals I know.  His parents are Atheists who were vehemently opposed to religion.  He came to faith at 17.  It crushed them.  Whether he realizes it or not, I think that his doubts are the seeds planted by his father who has always been super outspoken against the church and super suspicious of it.  We have also had our own plethora of bad experiences to add to that because the church is full of broken, sinful people.  We have had our hearts broken by the church and people in the church at times.  I have always pushed him through the moments of wanting to pull away.  He will want to step away from the church setting and I will basically talk him out of it.  Then he will be fine for a while until it resurfaces.  I am just tired of talking him out of it.  In a way, I want to step away too and just see what it is like for him.  See if he feels the need to return (I think he will, honestly).  Maybe he just needs a break?  Maybe we as a family just need a break?  We are in the best church situation we have ever been in with fantastic leadership, great teaching, etc.  This isn't about the church we are currently in.  We changed churches a few years ago and because of some other issues I never really plugged in to leadership or service so maybe this is why I am willing to try this now?  Before this church, I would have been dropping commitments, etc and now I am not tied.

 

 


Edited by Attolia, 13 January 2018 - 09:47 AM.

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#88 ktgrok

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 11:33 AM

Hugs to your husband! Is he questioning his faith, or just the church? Maybe some gifts of books about others that struggled? Or maybe he does need a break, but more of a sabbatical than a walking away? What I mean is, when you take a sabbatical from teaching, you still immerse yourself in your field, but in a different way. Research, or experiencing something new. And it is for a set length of time. So taking a month or 3 off, but using that time to actively pursue his faith in a different way. Be that an online course, a new bible study, volunteering on Sundays with a faith based non profit, or even just attending services at OTHER churches. Not church shopping, no intention of staying, just visiting. A cross cultural experience, if you will. So maybe visiting a Catholic church, an Eastern Orthodox, a Quaker meeting, even a Synagogue or Mosque. (I'd avoid non Abrahamic religions at a time when he is spiritually struggling, personally, having seen what has happened to others in that situation). Places he can worship God without all the responsibilities and social obligations that go with attending your home church. Maybe keep a journal of his impressions, feelings, experiences..or a blog! A blog would be fantastic. Then at the end of the set aside period of time he can read back over it, revisit his thoughts, and deal with everything then. 


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#89 Liz CA

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 12:05 PM

Sounds like you both need a break and there is NOTHING wrong with that. From how I am reading this, it is a break in the work and not a break in faith.

Ministry work is top on the burn out list. It is constant giving and draining oneself and sometimes little in return. If he is in a position that could fit these criteria, he just may need to step back for a while, reflect, seek and breathe. 


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#90 Attolia

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 01:24 PM

Hugs to your husband! Is he questioning his faith, or just the church?

 

 

 

Not questioning his faith at all, just the church...whether it really reflects what Christ intended, whether it is worth the investment emotionally, mentally, and physically, whether it actually glorifies God in its current state?  He craves community in a way that you just can't seem to find in current day church.  Is that possible?  All of those sort of questions. 


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#91 ktgrok

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 09:04 AM

Not questioning his faith at all, just the church...whether it really reflects what Christ intended, whether it is worth the investment emotionally, mentally, and physically, whether it actually glorifies God in its current state?  He craves community in a way that you just can't seem to find in current day church.  Is that possible?  All of those sort of questions. 

 

Hm.In that case I'd suggest (not that it is my place, lol) that he do two things. 

1. Take a planned sabbatical for a set length of time, where he visits various faith communities, reads outside his normal range of theology, etc. Read about the history of the Church, read books from other denominations, visit them, etc. Explore the larger world of faith for a bigger picture of it all. Especially maybe some liturgical traditions if he normally doesn't. Some Jewish synagogues maybe. Places where he won't have the baggage that follows him now. 

 

2. Seek out community in other places, outside of church. A low key sports team or club or volunteer opportunity or something. 


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#92 Bluegoat

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 02:47 PM

Yeah, I think I'd go with something like what ktgok suggested.

 

I think even when there is no intention of leaving an organization, leaders sometimes need to take retreats from there leadership situation.  It's important for many reasons.  A priest I know went last year and lived for several months in a Coptic monastery.  

 

But in this case, it sounds like he also is wanting to think of the form of the church, how the Christian community is meant to organize itself for worship and other activities.  That sounds like a bit of a research project to me as well as a period of internal reflection and listening to teachers.


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#93 ktgrok

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 03:40 PM

Yeah, I think I'd go with something like what ktgok suggested.

 

I think even when there is no intention of leaving an organization, leaders sometimes need to take retreats from there leadership situation.  It's important for many reasons.  A priest I know went last year and lived for several months in a Coptic monastery.  

 

But in this case, it sounds like he also is wanting to think of the form of the church, how the Christian community is meant to organize itself for worship and other activities.  That sounds like a bit of a research project to me as well as a period of internal reflection and listening to teachers.

 

Yup, in fact I think some denominations require a break of their clergy every so often. Retreats, sabbaticals, etc. 


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#94 solascriptura

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 07:11 PM

Because God directly affirms the need and blessing of communal worship and the necessity of regular communion together with believers. An impulse contrary to that, which separates the believer from the flock, wouldn’t line up with what God has already disclosed about himself and his church and worship in biblical revelation. It would be one thing if it was an extra opportunity, like a bible study or class, but the main weekly meeting? That wouldn’t pass my sniff test either, though it would certainly appeal to my flesh.

Taking a break because someone is sick or circumstances don’t allow it is being providentially hindered and very different than opting out of meeting because it’s more relaxing, fun, or convenient to hang around in PJs with family.

That might not be the case for every believer, but I’m right there with her on this one. God doesn’t separate me from his people, he urges me toward them for love and the best refreshment of my soul. My family is not better served sticking together alone instead of with other believers, unless we are in the midst of a circumstance or crisis where we physically cannot join.


Yeah. I agree with this. Above what we feel or think, Scripture is the one to guide believers.
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#95 Aura

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 10:42 PM

Yeah. I agree with this. Above what we feel or think, Scripture is the one to guide believers.

 

I disagree, and this is one big reason why I don't attend regularly anywhere: having people tell me what God says based on their interpretation of man's interpretation of man's interpretation. 

 

Scripture is a tool, but it is not infallible, and it is not synonymous with the Word of God.

 

Church is not a requirement for spiritual growth or to be a committed Christian.


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#96 Patty Joanna

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 12:34 AM

Thanks for all of the thoughtful conversation surrounding this topic, for not throwing rotten apples at my head, and for keeping the conversation amiable.

I "like" to mark what I have read. I always do this when I start a topic because it helps me know what I have and haven't read. If you have had a bad experience then I am so sorry and I am not "liking" that you had it.

SNIP


I do the same thing re: “likes”. :0)

I tried to send you a PM but it wouldn’t go through. Idk why. But I tend not to force those kinds of issues, so I will let it lie. :0)

I think the key question you/dh will need to answer is “What is the Church?”

I’m not unfamiliar with your situation. Asking that question and answering it was the thing my dh and I had to do in our very different struggles.

🙂
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#97 Frances

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 02:01 AM

Yeah. I agree with this. Above what we feel or think, Scripture is the one to guide believers.

If that is true, then why do so many believers interpret scripture differently, even when it comes to some very big questions and issues? It seems most people think their interpretation is the correct one and interpretations that disagree are false or misguided.
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#98 Bluegoat

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 09:17 AM

I disagree, and this is one big reason why I don't attend regularly anywhere: having people tell me what God says based on their interpretation of man's interpretation of man's interpretation. 

 

Scripture is a tool, but it is not infallible, and it is not synonymous with the Word of God.

 

Church is not a requirement for spiritual growth or to be a committed Christian.

 

 

If that is true, then why do so many believers interpret scripture differently, even when it comes to some very big questions and issues? It seems most people think their interpretation is the correct one and interpretations that disagree are false or misguided.

 

 

 

The answer I'd give to this is actually that individuals aren't able to "interpret" Scripture individually, rather, it's meant and can only be understood within the context of the Church community.  

 

The idea of individuals doing this isn't something you see until after the Reformation, and even then not among groups like Lutherans.  

 

So, the idea that individuals coming to different conclusions shows that they don't need a community is a bit odd, at least historically speaking it's the opposite of what you'd expect to see.


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#99 Liza Q

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 09:42 AM

I am curious about the experiences of those who have stepped away from church but not away from God.  

 

What events caused you to stop being involved with a local church?

 

It happened twice for us. The first time was theological issues and the second was distance.

 

How long have you be out of church?

 

First time about 6 months, the second almost 2 years.

 

How has this changed/affected your life, your relationship with God, and your friendship with others?

 

The first time I was actively searching for a new church home and I did not feel distant from God at all. I kept up some friendships from that first church and let others go.

 

The second time...we had been through some horrible family issues and we were just weary. My husband didn't want to drive out to the church we'd been attending for a few years any longer - the preaching was solid but we were too far to be involved and had never developed any real relationships. I figured that we'd find a new place soon but we just couldn't find anyplace with even 75% of what we were looking for anywhere near us (his stipulation was roughly in our neighborhood - not more than 20m or so) and I got discouraged. As time went by we cared less and less and my relationship with God suffered. We were both depressed. Our children were older and things really changed - it was no longer finding a church for the family and I started to wonder if it even mattered if we weren't going together? My oldest visited churches occasionally with friends, my second became involved in a church she loved, and my younger ones didn't care. It was a bad time in our lives made worse, I think, but not being part of a community of believers.

 

Do you do anything to try to meet or be with other believers?

 

I am a member of a Christian homeschooling group so I was able to continue in fellowship with many Christian women, which was great for me. And my closest friends and my family are Christians as well.

 

Is this (or was it) a temporary situation for you or do you imagine that you will someday return to a church?

 

Explained above!

 

 

I apologize if this might seem limiting to add, but I am not looking for a response from those who are faithfully attending a church and are eager to back up the Biblical reasons to stay plugged into a church setting.  I know those reasons/thoughts/feelings.  I have heard them my entire life.  My dad is a pastor.  

 

 

ETA:  I am mainly just curious about other's experiences.  We have been having our own struggles lately, yes, but we have come to no conclusions.

 

Specifically, we really struggled with finding the right fit. I realize that there are those who feel that church is church but I believed that the wrong place could make things even worse.

 

Eventually we found that a church we had liked but was too far away was opening a daughter church close to us. I saw this on Facebook when I was no longer looking actively and was pretty lethargic about the whole thing. We've been attending for over two years now and it has been a solid, not perfect, place for us. I've found that I need the weekly reminder that God loves me and that I am not alone in this life and that is not all about me lol! When I skip a week I miss it! My husband won't join but we are involved a bit - he willingly and cheerfully does some stuff, no pressure from me - and our youngest really likes it and comes with us willingly.


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#100 Aura

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 10:01 AM

The answer I'd give to this is actually that individuals aren't able to "interpret" Scripture individually, rather, it's meant and can only be understood within the context of the Church community.  

 

The idea of individuals doing this isn't something you see until after the Reformation, and even then not among groups like Lutherans.  

 

So, the idea that individuals coming to different conclusions shows that they don't need a community is a bit odd, at least historically speaking it's the opposite of what you'd expect to see.

 

I don't see this at all. Churches, denominations and religions can use the very same text and come to vastly different interpretation. There is wisdom in many minds working together, so it can certainly be helpful, but I don't see how that becomes "can only be understood within the context of the Church community."

 

Further, church as we see today did not exist when any of the Bible was written. People had a choice. Listen to man's interpretation (which may or may not have been right) through varying spiritual leaders or listen to God.

 

Historically (going back into B.C, well before the Reformation), when people wanted to gain a greater knowledge and understanding of God, they separated themselves from others and sought God directly. Community only got them so far, and then they had to let that go and move beyond.

 

I see church in its varying forms as being something that is good for a variety of reasons.

 

First, it does help to keep one focused on the spiritual side of life which can often be overrun by the demands of the physical.

 

Second, it serves to strengthen communities. It helps people to become aware of the needs of others and do something about it. It strives to help lift the whole community to a better life, both spiritually and physically.

 

However, many people reach a ceiling on their spiritual growth inside a community environment and must step back and take a different approach to continue growing. I think there's Biblical precedence for this as well as a broader, historical precedence.  


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