photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Tyson couldn’t stand his family. They were screwed up. They were embarrassing. They didn’t live their lives the way normal people did. So he left, deciding that if no one else was going to do life right, he would.
It was scary at first, but getting away from his crazy family was exhilarating. Tyson felt free. He felt real. He felt true to himself and to the life he was supposed to live.
But after a while, the thrill wore off and he felt...lonely. He got angry with his old family because he knew that if they had just lived the way they were supposed to, that they could still be together.
Tyson decided that the best solution was to start a family of his own. So he got married, had children, and started befriending people who he thought were living their lives as normal people do. Everything was wonderful.
But, after some time, a few of his new relatives and their families started doing weird, embarrassing things. They stopped living the way they were supposed to.
Tyson did his best to talk sense into them, but it didn’t do any good. The way he thought life should be lived and the way they thought life should be lived, though similar, was different. There was nothing that could be done.
As Tyson’s children grew older, they too got tired of their family’s weird, embarrass- ing ways of living. It broke Tyson’s heart. He tried pleading and reasoning with his children, but it was no good. They grew old enough to leave Tyson’s family altogether.
They wanted to live their lives the way they thought was normal.
THE SPIRITUAL RUNAROUND
Tyson is like the person who leaves the church. First, it’s scary. Then it’s thrilling. Then lonely. This loneliness eventually leads to a sort of non-traditional, solo way of following Jesus that doesn’t adhere to what we see in the New Testament. Not only that, but solo followers tend to be pretty vocal about their disdain for the church, slandering her via the internet and social avenues, or quietly speaking badly of her—both of which are extremely harmful to God’s people.
If loneliness becomes too much for the solo follower, he usually finds and befriends other believers who share his likes and theology, or he begins a house church or small community of believers.
These communities can be awesome— gatherings where you can find real authenticity and a longing to follow Jesus, do justice, love mercy, walk humbly, and go into the world to make disciples. But, as good as these small groups of believers can be, they eventually run into one of two problems:
They either refuse to let others into the inner circle who don’t think and live like they do (i.e. getting rid of the filth). Or else they accept every believer who comes along and eventually face the same questions that led to the creation of churches and denominations as we know them today:
• Where might be a place we can meet regularly? When is the best time to meet? How should we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and baptism—or should we do them at all?
• Doesn’t Scripture infer that we should have a pastor, elders, and deacons? Should we have some sort of membership?
• What if one of the group sins big-time?Do we just forgive and move on, or do we practice church discipline? Who makes the final decision when there is disagreement?
• Who’s going to be there for the needier people in the group?
• What do we do when one of the group interprets Scripture differently from the rest of the group on core issues?
• Should children come to the meetings? If not, who’s going to watch them? What about the electric bill? Who should handle the money side of things?
Churchless groups of believers either suppress those who have beliefs and ideas that are different from theirs (Just like traditional churches) or they grow in numbers and diversity until a building and structure is absolutely needed to survive ( Just like traditional churches).
In other words, those who leave the church in order to be the church end up needing a church.
If local churches just went away, we’d all start building new ones. Because we need authority and roles to survive. Apart from structure, people fail. Just imagine a busy airport’s security line without those roped-off lanes. No one would take off without the organization implemented.
Positives definitely arise out of the grassroots church experience, but at the end of the day, it’s kind of a spiritual runaround.
Infiltration is different.
Infiltrators infuse the love and truth of Jesus—the very ingredients that transform messy people—into already existing structures. The time to stay in church is now. We’re already promised success. But God’s given us the responsibility to love the church, forgive her, and give our lives to her.
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1-2).