God & Church are Not Synonymous: Pt 1

I think it’s taken me near 10 years to realize, that despite the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago, most people assume church and God are synonymous. They are not.  They never have been.

It took going back through the memories of being inside the church system to realize I believed it once. It was never spoken out right, but it has always been implied.

When I started weaning away from the church system my brothers had really critical things to say to me over the smallest detail. Stupid things that have stuck with me like thorns under the skin since that time. But I think I get it now. I think they saw the way I acted at or towards church was synonymous in their mind to how I was acting or respecting (or lack of {in their mind}) towards God. Not even that  it was connected, but it was a directly linked together in a full embodiment. If I didn’t mark the sign-in sheet correctly I was mocking God, not the sign-in sheets.

I never realized that this side of Protestant Reformation that there was still such a direct correlation in the minds of the masses of church goers. I mean I know that’s how masses of pastor think. I know the people are trained to associate the two. However, I just didn’t realize how much that is the reality within the church system.

There has long been this thought that if someone leaves their local church building and gathering times, that they’ve walked out on God. For many this does happen, because there is no separation between them.

I can’t emphasize enough that God and church are not synonymous.

Sometimes it takes looking at history to realize, that something that holds a scared title isn’t always what it seems. For me, the most simplistic words that really spelled this out for me was when Jesus said: “If you were Abraham’s children then you would act like it.” (John 8:39)

God judges someone by their heart, what’s on the inside, the true character which we develop within ourselves, our true motives and intentions. God sees that clearly. If that’s how God judges us, is it any different for an institution or an assembly of people?

God knows that our true intentions and our heart cause for us to do all things that flow out of us. All of our actions. The way we perceive people comes from our heart and our inner being. I believe this is also true for any system, corporation, community, assembly.

Now in a matter of speaking, a system has no heart, no inner being. Therefore those who align themselves with any given system become the heart therein. Yet so often we trade our minds & hearts for a go-with-the-flow mob mentality. We create a system to unify and drive us to our intend goal, but often it’s not long before we sacrifice our own goals, our own drive for the sake (health and sustaining) of the system.

I see this is still the reality of something called church. I too was part of  that once.

This is the strange thing about “church”:
It starts by saying that you can have a personal relationship with God. But then the whole time is spent telling you how to interpret God, how to serve God, how to do these things through more solidly aligning yourself with the local “church” and its “ministries”.  This happens so much so, that for those who actually do learn to grow and interpret on their own, they do not become the prize pupils, but instead are consider the ones who need to be corrected, or even broken in.
My husband and I have heard multiple stories like this. We’ve both been in these situations. We know it happens everywhere. It is not an isolated event.

We also know this isn’t God. This isn’t how God works. This isn’t the relationship that God had in mind.

A healthy body works together. Period. A body with auto-immune disease attacks itself. This is not consider healthy or normal. This is considered to be something that is in need of cure and of treatments, as there is often no known cures for many auto-immune diseases. Maybe especially spiritual ones which go unidentified. 

This thing calling itself church attacks itself. Am I to believe that is the resemblance of the body of Christ?

500 years ago (and more) there was something that was calling itself The Church. It was taught that this was the one way to know God, to honor God, to get to heaven, to be safe in this life, to be a responsible admirable citizen of your country. The Church was the guardians to Truth, or so it was taught.

But there arose men and women who disagreed with this thing called The Church. They disagreed that this system was not doing what it said it was meant to do. They disagreed that this system was honestly, openly, freely leading people Truth and to God.
To them the cruelties of the opposing a well-established system were unleashed. There was no mercy for such trouble makers. We are not too far removed from this history.

As a matter of fact, we maybe standing in the middle of an era where history repeats itself. We maybe at a crux of guarding and regarding the sacred words and descriptions back unto their true intentions. System or no system, when a people want to know God and want to know truth, there is an unquenchable thirst for the authentic thing.

Yet we have seen in history that the artificial thing will defend it’s stolen/assumed throne. The price for truth is high. Very, very high. Yet for something so priceless, we’d be fools to settle for anything less than the whole truth.

We can no longer bow our necks and bear this a little further in history. We cannot continue to plow for a master who is not our God. We must consider who and what we are truly serving. What do we truly fear? Whom do we truly want to serve? Are we interested in God? Or are we interested in our own rewards and security?

God and church are not synonymous. They never have been.

But woe to you … For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
– Matthew 23:13

Who left the what?

The best thing about my married life is that I can & do talk with my husband for hours. And I mean hours! We recently traveled hour a 8-9hr trip and I think we talked the nearly the whole time. Worst part about this sometimes we forget that other people don’t actually think/believe like we do. …and I can’t tell you how many downfalls that brings. We are that couple that when people meet us, they love us at first, but then get sick of us seemingly just as quickly. We’re kind of a novelty item. 

This probably shows up the worst for things we believe in the most. 

We are Christians, and we don’t go to church buildings for Sunday, Saturday, or any other midweek services. So… Mostly that makes us outside “the church” …apparently. We’re ok with that! There’s a lot of work to do out here! Yet we find that lots of people begrudgingly even considers part of the Christian faith because of this one thing. Apparently we are being a bad example. Good Christians “go to church”, but my husband & I have no idea what that means. So we asked some people!

We asked some good Christian people what “church” is… And they told us: the people! 

We thought this was great news! We love meeting with people and talking about life and God and where we are in modern history, ect. But apparently that’s not church, either. We simple misunderstood and/or asked the wrong question. If one is to “go to church” one must ask a Christian “What is a proper expression of local church gathering within the confines of modern understanding of the forebears of ‘church’ history and interrupted through modern day theologians and promising statics?” 

Unfortunately my husband & I were too simple to understand what we we’re suppose to ask in order to receive the correctly mapped out answer. However we weren’t too stupid to know to check the answers. After asking “what is church” we sake those same people to describe their church (you can try it, this is fun!) and those same good Christians began to tell us about programs, events, low-level hype, and maybe conceptual rules of engagement. …but never about one living person, let alone the living system of people which supposedly all engaged in these events & programs.

  It happened every time and without a thought. These good Christians were trained to a cue that we didn’t even mean to trigger, and they had no idea of the unrelated-ness that was spewing out their mouth because they were trained. 

Years later…

My husband recently wrote a great article about how we “left the church indefinitely”. I think it went down really well. People started asking questions, questions lead to more questions, more questions lead to accusations, accusations lead to… Oh well actually we’re still dealing with it and not sure what will come next. It turns out we sent forth a different kind of cue this time. It turns out we do not define church as many others might define church, and this is has to be corrected …apparently.  

So the issue of “what is church” now hides under the identity of “what is local church look/act like”.  Yet I find this to be like those kids movies were the bad guy (or good guy) disguises himself with a hat & a pair of glasses, and somehow no one recognizes him. Or how about the idea of “healthy fast food”?

The disguise is weak. 

We are still justifying programs, events, and concepts and saying that proximity to other people counts as fellowship of the believers, which is basically close enough to the original idea of “church”. Seriously? 

If healthy fast food is all the more you want to do, then I cannot convince you of the joys of gardening. But I assure you, I know something you don’t know. 🙂  I’ve worked food service, I’ve worked “church ministries”. I’ve “worked” multiple gardens, I’ve lived & tasted life outside the buildings, programs, and glib concepts of self-declared “church”. The proof is in the taste.

Changing the wording does not change the issue, I assure you. The issue is the concept and practice do not match… and apparently everyone is ok with that! This isn’t about hypocrisy, it’s about sleeping on the job. It’s about sleeping while Jesus weeps because the hour grows nigh, and we didn’t even notice something different about this time. 

Ask me about God. Ask me about the Bible. Ask me about sports. Ask me about my husband. But don’t ask me to call that systematic machine “church”.  I love the church, she’s my mother, and that is not her…