I can’t think of one individual in the world that would ever turn down belonging to a community of people especially if they share things, believes, and interests in common.
In fact, I know this is something that is part of our DNA as we have been made to be relational beings and not isolated ones. Our hearts long for fellowship and that is why we see this outplayed in many facets of life from biker clubs, chess clubs, fan clubs, churches, and bands of friends.
My experiences in these kinds of clubs or communities has been limited to professional communities and congregations of faith. This last one I joined back in my teen years when I had just turned 19. I found much warmth, care, and love as I began to get to know people yet over time I realized that the initial welcome and warmth turned into a simple routine where people met together to do no more than share something in common.
Eventually due to the circumstances of life I ended up in a job that meant I had to travel much of the time which meant not being able to regularly attend a community of people as I had done until then. This as you can imagine meant having serious withdrawal symptoms not to mention the anxiety and fear I carried knowing that I had been warned that people like me on their own faded away. I battled through many days of forcing myself to keep the same illusion I had when I was part of the community but eventually like all things that are forced it broke down.
My faith slowly but surely faded and as I got to the end of the barrel I realized that my belief in God was simply a mental illusion I had picked up from others and my experience was no more than an often rehearsed play. I also realized that my understanding of God was limited to the revelation of the person that I chose to listen to every Sunday. Plus those I hang out with at the community, and this inevitably led my heart towards resignation and stagnation. In other words I, too, had fallen into the lie that somehow if I didn't belong to a local community I would not be able to belong to the Kingdom either. Quite simply, God without others around me, no longer seemed as real.
As I considered over time what had happened I realized that communities are good as long as they are complementary to our faith and not central. You see I discovered that when they become central they actually have the potential of becoming our god. We live to attend them, to keep them, and to even fight and live for them. We fall into the illusion that we have to be there in order to be fed and that without them we will fade away like coal that falls away from the furnace - though of course there is no Biblical reference to this last statement.
Much has been said and made about the passage in Scripture where we are told not to forsake gathering together. Like with everything in the Bible in order to accurately understand it we need to be aware to whom it was talking to and what the situation was about at the time this was said. As we all know this was spoken to the first believers which were mainly made up of orphans, older people, and widows. The numbers were few and far in between which meant that they outworked their faith on their own most of the time. Hence, why they were invited to try and make an effort to get together whenever they could or met someone new that shared their own journey. In other words, friendships and relationships were being encouraged here and not a weekly meeting on the same day and time.
Now I know some of you or perhaps many of you will be thinking “Pablo are you telling us to leave the Church”? Well first of all no I am not, but while I have your attention is important that you understand that you can never leave the Church as the Church is much bigger than a local community. So what I am encouraging you to do is to allow the concept of an organized congregation to leave you. Allow the false net of security it provides for you to go. Allow it to stop providing you with the balance and spiritual health that can only come from a real-time relationship with God, and allow the lie that you can only truly experience Gods presence on a Sunday to also leave you. These mind sets are not easy to let go. However as God helps you to do so you will be able to better understand that what Jesus truly meant when he told us that the Kingdom of Heaven was within us, was that our salvation needs to be centered in a personal journey within our hearts and not a corporate one in some sort of community or gathering we attend once or twice a week…
You see I believe that what we need to desperately realize in the Church today is that our revelation and experience will only be able to go as deep as the one we follow. The man at the front was therefore only meant to ever be responsible for sharing his discoveries and his journey with us and not limiting ours through them. This is because he, like the community, was never meant to be the ones we followed as much as they were meant to be companions of ours as individually we each followed the only one that can take us as deep as it can go.
Finally, our interconnection as a body was never meant to come through an institution or a membership as these two are just superficial labels. This was meant to come from and through the Kingdom within us where we realize that we are all connected in and through Him whether we attend a congregation on the weekends or not.
See you at the lodge on Sunday.
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