Disclaimer – These thoughts are simply how I see life and I only share them because I was prompted to. Everyone has their own relationship with Father, and will see life differently. ?
Unless you have been travelling outside usual Christian circles, ‘going to church’ is a normal weekly event. It has been happening this way for as long as anyone can remember, and most people think that this is the way it has to be! Most Christians think that because they believe in God and are saved, they must attend a church.
If we look back past things which just ‘are the way they are’ and see what things might be like without 2000 years of human tradition placed over the top of our relationship with Father, we may find that attending a weekly event may not be the best for our health!
So in the first century, Paul preached a lot, and lots of people believed. These people naturally got together a lot, and chatted about what they believed, encouraged each other, and did amazing things like talk in different languages, made prophecies and healed people.
Being people in groups, Paul heard of various problems, and wrote letters to these different groups, encouraging them and making suggestions as to how they can sort out their problems and get along better.
So as time went on, like 300 years, a full religious system called the Catholic Church had developed, and much stuff was written into place which was called doctrine and theology, and systems were implemented to ensure the smooth running of this organization.
However, if we try to ignore all this history, and look back at what Jesus was trying to do, he was trying to connect people with Father. People who believe that Father loves them no matter what, will develop a deep relationship with him, and those around them. (See my article on the trinity)
Jesus wanted us to love other people just like he loved us.
This is a deep and big sentence, and too often, we get sucked into the mindset that it is a ‘command‘ like we can will our subconscious to feel differently about others. Let’s chat through how this works in a relationship.
First, remember that Jesus was totally loved by Father and he knew it. He was confident and assured of himself, because he knew that, no matter what, Father loved him. He was also extremely interested in everyone else, seeing that Father loved them the same way! His love for others always directed them to Father! He wasn’t the point of the exercise (so to speak) Father was.
So Jesus loved us, because he felt fully loved by father, and because of his deep connection with Father, he loved us as well, because Father loves us as well.
So I believe that what Jesus was telling us, was that just like he had a deep relationship with Father, and his love extended outward to everyone else, that as our relationship with Father deepens, our love for his other children will also deepen.
True love cant be faked, or forced, and it cant be made to fit inside a set of rules or expectations.
This brings us back to ‘church’.
So later on, when Jesus had gone to be with Father, and the apostles were left to spread the good news that Father loved them, many many thousands of people believed. There had never been any precedent for this message. Believe and you will be saved. So now what? What do we do now?
It seems to be hard wired into human dna, that nothing is free, and we have to ‘do something‘ if we receive a gift. The apostles tried their best to convey the message, that what people were actually believing, was that they were being brought close to Father in an intimate, adult friendship. That Father wanted nothing more than to live and enjoy their lives, and see the healing result of what living loved does to a persons soul. unfortunately, lots of different groups of believers has various issues, mainly related to the culture which they lived in, and how this new life they had fitted with ordinary life. Quite a few groups also had issues with catching up with each other, and it only took 50 years or so, for a big focus of a lot of christians to be on what to do when they met with other christians, and how they should interact etc.
Of course, by the time AD300 came along, the church system had been established, and right up until the time of Luther, the formal gathering together was set as law, and was not to be questioned. Even though there are now thousands of different denominations of christian’s now, most if not all, still meet regularly in organised meetings, brought together by the common set of doctrines they hold.
Is it a bad thing to meet regularly, and discuss things which are important to you?
Not at all, unless :-
- the how you meet and what you discuss is a set thing!
- there are programs and rituals which have to be followed.
- one person gets up and does most of the talking.
- there is a structure and different people are assigned different roles.
- money changes hands.
- different opinions are discouraged or forbidden.
- care or support is delegated to a specific person or committee.
- there are so many people who meet, that not everybody gets to know each other and develop relationships.
There are as many view of what ‘church’ should look like, as there are believers, however it appears that the basic and fundamental truth gets lost quite often, when people start organising how they get together. This is that Father loves you no matter what!
When groups tie themselves together, quite often somehow, ‘what you do’ becomes important. Instead of encouraging each other into a deeper relationship with Father, which will naturally outwork itself in each others life, the group dynamics take a larger role than is healthy.
So the title of this post was church vs Institution. Church is the individual members of Fathers family, who interact naturally, encourage, love and build each other up. Institutions are ( in this context ) groups of people with structured programs, systems and some form of official leadership.
There is, in my view, a very unhealthy focus on ‘how do we ‘do’ church’. What is the best format? How often should we attend? What could we be doing different?
Remember, we are saved so that we can have a deep relationship with Father. This is the main focus of our lives. Everything we do and say and think is all in the context of us being deeply loved, adult children of Father. He will give us advice, encouragement and so forth, and as with all relationships, there will be ebbs and flows, but he is the main and driving relationship we have.
With this as reality, the meeting and catching up with other believers will sit in its proper context, as a natural outworking of our love of Father, wanting to encourage and be encouraged, and spreading the good news that Father loves people!