Faith & Encouragement | Spiritual Issues

I Have Seen The Enemy

January 18, 2009

Theres’ a little zoo in Red Lodge, Montana. Well, I think it’s still there. The last time I was there legwarmers were cool for the first time and Jamie Lee Curtis was producing work out videos. VHS and Beta bay-beee!

Yes, it’s been a while.

I was 5-ish and we saw ostriches, zebras and even rode an elephant and I was so impressed and so completely in awe. What a cool adventure for a little kid, huh? We walked the small loop and at the very end was a little hut with a thatched roof. We opened the rough door and walked into a dark room where the sign read “The Deadliest Animal On Earth”. A glint in the back caught our eye and we walked toward it, cautiously, carefully… A fun kind of spooky, you know?

Know what we found?

A mirror.

Yes, cliché. So very cliché.

Yet that is what I am seeing as the result of this entire conversation on the organization and exo-skeleton of fellowship.

The Word is clear that in any healthy and properly functioning group of believers there will be those given to the Body for a specific purpose.   A unique calling that is a heavier weight than the calling given to another.  Not levels of importance.  Don’t read that into it! Some were given (given to whom? The Body!!!) as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, (Ephesians 4:11NASB).  Why and when?  To build up their fellow believers, to disciple those younger in the faith than themselves.  To reflect Christ to His people in a unique and significant manner.

When? Well, anyone can see from even the most cursory study of the New Testament (B’rit Hadashah) this fledgling Body met daily, on the Sabbath, and any opportunity they were given. They met corporately and they met individually. They met casually and they met intentionally. They gave to help their brothers and sisters in far away places and they served each other and gave liberally to all those among them who were in need.

And while life was happening around them, those who were wiser, older, stronger and more importantly, specifically called and gifted, were recognized. Their leadership, their status (if you will) was an important part of the familial structure of the early church. The elders were granted positions of authority, recognized by Apostles and were commanded to lead well, with prayer and fasting, to maintain a heart of service and a sacrificial love for those who listened and followed as they led.

Those are non-negotiables. I don’t really care what you name them. Episkopos, overseer, Spiritual Super Heroes. It’s not relevant to the point I’m making.

There is an innate hierarchy in relationships. I don’t know why G-d made us this way, but He did. Leaders lead, helpers help, shepherds tend and teachers teach. Big brothers and big sisters who love their families will care for the little ones. And little ones will look up to, seek out and listen to their older (elder) siblings in the faith.

Together?

We look toward the Head of our Body, our Messiah Yeshua, and in moments of purity and righteousness we acknowledge a desire to look just like Him.

The system is fine. No problems with it. The best time in a fellowship I’ve ever had was when my Dad, Jack, Tim, Jamie & Allen led our little group of 150. These men spent alternating weeks teaching and stood shoulder to shoulder leading us in growing and understanding the faith.

The problem today is the “Deadliest Animal On The Planet”. The people!

We, the Body, have allowed our places of fellowship to become Petri dishes for producing the Perfect Worship Leader and the Super Star Pastor. We haven’t taken the time to know enough of the Word or of the nominees so that we can honestly determine if the guy on the voting ballot is Elder Material or if he’s just popular and makes the rest of us look good.

We’ve abdicated our own personal responsibility to pray for and seek out and treat like a human being the men who lead us. We’ve chosen to stay blind when the men we’ve put in front of ourselves behave badly or even abusively.

It’s so much easier to pin point the problem, to point fingers at the other side and to personalize issues as a way of buffering ourselves from the reality of our own choices.  

I have to make choices. IF I am commanded to love the Body, the good, bad and ugly of the Family, then I must choose to be where they are. I can’t hide away in my home only taking the time and effort to seek out those who are comfy, warm, and pleasant. Safe. I can’t refuse to listen to someone who speaks abrasively, who perhaps offends me. I have to suck it up and hug the person across from me, look for those who stand alone and earnestly, intentionally and consistently lay down my life for those around me.

Honestly? I don’t want to. And that really doesn’t matter. Maybe I have a small piece of truth about the sweetness of “organic” fellowship. How can I invest that in the greatest number of believers?

Go where they are and show them.

There is a saying that I have said for years, I’m sure you’ve heard it. “You can’t pick your family.”

How true is that, huh? Well, you can’t. I can’t pick and choose the Family either. I need to be where they are. Not because of the Pastor, not because of the fear of being alone and not because of a sense of obligation to the traditions of our church fathers.

I can’t say what your choice and your path should be. I would caution all of us to make sure we haven’t painted ourselves into Freedom or Function corners and thereby eliminating the opportunities to be sharpened by the steel of a brother.

I don’t know you all very well. I know one or two well and a few more a little better. Doesn’t matter. You speak, I listen. That is my commitment. I don’t hear the audible voice of G-d anymore. He uses you, the radio, the guy up front on Saturday night, my son in the back of the van. I need to be ready to listen.

And learn. And grow. Especially when it hurts like hell. Even when I am so confused I can’t see straight.

Wanna know something I’m learning? Slowly and painfully?

I can’t blame G-d for the behavior of His kids, or those who call themselves believers but sow only seeds of destruction. Free will swings both ways. I can’t also see the good around and not acknowledge Him working in the lives of those who do call on His name.

If I seek Him earnestly and I take step after step after step and still end up disappointed and broken it’s not because He led me astray. My motivations could have been pure as driven snow (not that they have ever been that…). Still I cannot coerce those around me to respond in the same way and if I am offering chocolates and roses and they are only seeing manure and weeds… G-d isn’t any less faithful.

I need His Body. I need His people. I need the ones who won’t “support my every decision” but will call me on it, at a risk, if they see the need.

I believe this controversy, as with many Biblical controversies, finds its Truth smack dab in the middle. We need order, we need structure, we need the Elders to speak into and lead those who are the Youngers. And we need free-form fellowship outside the structure to prompt personal growth and the accountability of fellowship and family. I know I need to be among the Body in a corporate sense, in an intentional manner. And I have this hunger for fellowship and study that doesn’t find itself hindered by the walls and man-made traditions.

So, I’m going in among Them, taking this desire for fellowship with me until They become Us.  And I’ll stick with it.

Until the next time they kick me out.

Then you’ll probably find me back here again. Wondering how to make it all work.

  • First I want to say. QUIT READING MY MIND! Its spooky. A good portion on what I was thinking about on church structure is right upon the lines you are talking about. Natural hierarchies, need for leadership be it in the form of a single shepherd or a team of shepherds, and the need for unstructured fellowship.

    “I have to make choices. IF I am commanded to love the Body, the good, bad and ugly of the Family, then I must choose to be where they are. I can’t hide away in my home only taking the time and effort to seek out those who are comfy, warm, and pleasant.”

    This has been my battle of late. For too long now I have walked away from from the body because I was hurt and broken by those who would abuse. I let my Asbergers tendencies to be an excuse rather than allowing it to be a place Yeshua can shine through. Thank you for hitting me between the eyes on that one. 😉

    “I can’t refuse to listen to someone who speaks abrasively, who perhaps offends me. I have to suck it up and hug the person across from me, look for those who stand alone and earnestly, intentionally and consistently lay down my life for those around me.”

    A hearty AMEN to that. I was disappointed that earlier conversations had devolved to the point of “I don’t like your tone or attitude so I’m taking my ball and going home”. Not every one is going to meet your personal definition of being “Christlike”. How you respond to that says a lot about your own character. I have been guilty on both sides so I understand how easy it is to go there. Getting off soapbox now.

  • momma dragon

    ahhh… refreshing to see you come to some sort of conclusion and an understanding about where to go from here.
    Remember the song,
    “we fall down, we get up….
    saints are just sinners,
    who fall down and get up.”
    so true..
    keep getting up and some day(soon I hope)we will all ‘fly away- oh, glory!’

  • Jason

    Heidi,

    Just an observation (and I could totally be wrong), but it sounds like you’re making a decision based on what you think you “have” to do versus what you “want” to do. I get the feeling that even if something specific is on your heart, you ignore it for the sake of “doing.” Again, I could be totally off base, but that’s what I get.

    I wonder sometimes if we as believers try too hard to find just the “right” way to approach God and fellowship. I’m convinced it’s not near as hard or as agenda-driven as we make it out to be. Of course I could have a screw loose, but that’s just me.

    Also, one question: Since the Synagogues were created by the Jews as a meeting place to replace the temple after it was destroyed and while in Babylonian captivity, can we really base our fellowship and sabbath meetings on that? I just read through the entire Torah the past few months and unless I’m missing something, I never read anything that said fellowship/teaching/meeting was commanded by God to take place on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day of rest, a day of reflection and praise to God.

    What do you think?

  • AW

    I think that in normal circumstance – especially if I am following my doormat – I mean servant heart the my “worship” day be it Sabbath or Sunday – is the busiest hardest crankiest worstest day of the entire week. . . . I have worked to make Saturday a day for family and rest – and Sunday a day of gathering and fellowship – but not work and expectations. . . .

  • WARNING: Long…

    Jason, I appreciate the open discussion and the willingness you’ve shown to ask me hard questions. Here’s my response:

    Well, according to the Word loving and fellowshipping are not optional for folks who follow Christ. I’m not sure where you are coming from, honestly. I don’t “have” to go to church on Saturday, Sunday or on the 14th of July. In fact, I don’t have to do any of that sort of thing. In order to stay in community consistently, at this point in my life, I must. It could be Tuesdays at 3, Fridays at 4 or every 3rd Monday at 2pm, you bring the cookies. It doesn’t matter, at least not to me. That’s not my point.

    Obviously I didn’t make it clear enough. I’m not attending a “regular” service in a building because I need the “structure”, am looking for accountability, or give a rip about the pastor or the elders. I am attending because that’s where the greatest concentration of believers in my life happen to be located and I need to be where they are, even though most of them are flawed, weak, and stupid sheep. Just like me. I am going because I am commanded to love, serve and live sacrificially among those who are The Called According To His Purpose. I’m going because that’s a place where my children can also interact with children their own age and discuss the Word. Believe it or not, it happens.

    Will that be the end of it? Is it enough to just sit in the back row and that means I have done my duty to G-d and man? No. And that’s my point.

    You see, I can be still. I have been still for 11 months and while I don’t want to go into details right now it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Not because G-d wasn’t present and not because I didn’t feel like I was “doing enough for Jesus”. It was hard because after the trauma of the last few years began to fade I made a choice. I chose to intentionally isolate myself from the Body unless they were the one’s I “liked” And by so doing, I was denying Christ in them. I was despising His people and not taking the risk required to walk with them. This doesn’t mean I am going to immediately sign up for every ministry available. Fortunately I can see that I have not the desire, the spiritual strength or the calling to do that right now. What I will do is be available to love the family around me today, tomorrow and on Saturday night in the main commons when we sit at tables and drink coffee.

    Agenda driven? Absolutely. I’ve been living in 1 John since Saturday and it’s the first glimmer of hope I’ve had in awhile. And the main command there, given by the Apostle John. Love one another. I can’t stand on the sidelines and wait for accidental opportunities. When they come I hope I recognize them, enjoy them and make the most of them. Whether that’s in a backyard BBQ or in line at the grocery store. Or maybe, just maybe, at the women’s bible study or during a meet and greet.

    The Body does ridiculous things that help to create a sense of accomplishment and achievement while we “earn” our way to a place of relationship. You and I see that. I don’t think anyone here is denying that. I see believers trying so hard to be good enough to warrant friends, ministry, relationship with Yeshua. And it both breaks my heart and gives me a smidge of a desire to try to show them “the comfort which I have been given”. (Loose paraphrase)

    My concern with the organic mindset we’ve been discussing is, among other things, this… What if every person who sees the issues with modern worship leaves the larger group of believers? Who will tell those who remain that there is something more precious, intimate, and enduring than what they know? If we are screaming from the outskirts and not coming along side them will we be anything more than a clanging gong or a crashing cymbal? Probably not. And these precious Children will stay lost and confused and keep playing church until they wander into the kingdom. Little fat sheep.

    The other day, as we were settling in to go to sleep, a wise man said the following to me: “The Body is given both clear guidelines and opportunities to be creative. We know that there are callings and gifts for the Body but we know that the way we orchestrate our gatherings is open for discussion.” In short? Free will… No boxes. No religiosity. Human creativity. A gift.

    Perhaps someday the Lord will call us completely out. But He hasn’t yet. I hope I’m able to hear Him if He does. Then we’ll be pinkies alone for Jesus and He’ll get to figure out how that works.

  • Heidi,

    Nice stuff. God is in charge and I know you will do what He tells you to do now what others think you should do. I like that about you. We are all on different journeys and we need to remember that. It’s so great to read along with you as yours moves and changes.
    Fear not.

  • Heidi,

    Nice stuff. God is in charge and I know you will do what He tells you to do now what others think you should do. I like that about you. We are all on different journeys and we need to remember that. It’s so great to read along with you as yours moves and changes.
    Fear not.

  • Two other things. You are correct. We should not leave a building because we don’t like those in it.
    I think you are onto something with the Organic thing.
    But you said above “I’ll Go where they are and show them”. I caution you on this idea. Don’t try to show anyone, anything. Instead just go live it among them and watch them become infected by it. I think that’s the way Christianity is supposed to work. We are taught to teach when instead we should live and let people get it for themselves. You know what I mean.

  • Two other things. You are correct. We should not leave a building because we don’t like those in it.
    I think you are onto something with the Organic thing.
    But you said above “I’ll Go where they are and show them”. I caution you on this idea. Don’t try to show anyone, anything. Instead just go live it among them and watch them become infected by it. I think that’s the way Christianity is supposed to work. We are taught to teach when instead we should live and let people get it for themselves. You know what I mean.

  • I do know what you mean, Rick. And I agree. By “show” I meant live by example. ie. I won’t tell you how to make a cake I will demonstrate in front of you how it is done, offer to share what I have and trust the Holy Spirit to either prompt you to come with me or trust Him to lead you away from me. I can’t control the behavior, the calling or the whisper of G-d in the life of another believer. All I can do is live, in front of everyone, as I am.

    The Word says it is His kindness which leads us to repentance but I think in our fervor for purity and righteousness (which I am all for, by the way) we’ve forgotten that it is first HIS KINDNESS that leads us. Period. Anywhere. And I hope I can show that to any believer I meet, any person I am in contact with. Simply because it is foundational to the relationship that I have. His kindness leads me, guides me, shapes me and comforts me. It’s a reality of faith that is necessary to prove that G-d is more than just a set of obligations and social requirements.

    We’ll see how it works, eh? It’s a grand social experiment that could end me up in the same boat all over again. *sigh* Such is life.

  • AW

    I’m pretty sure the one thing you can count on after the Hope of Christ’s Return – is that the Body will fail you. We’ve seen several congregations in our community split or dissolve these past two years – leaving people who were sheep to just wander – looking for another man to be their shepherd. Sad.

    We too will continue to plug in, continue to trust the Lord as He prompts us to take down the shields of defenses and get close to his other crazy children again. Its uncomfortable – and hard. But He keeps leading our family to interact with His other children.

    I too have had times where I’ve actually prayed for God to erase the desire of corporate worship for the pain of the social scene. So far He has only increased my desire and need for fellowship.

    Oh to find my cave an crawl in – – – –

    But I’m with you – and most of your posters – My truest most wonderful times are waiting for the cake to come out of the oven and waiting for the steaks to come off the grill.

    Oh- I’d love to watch you make a cake . . .

    🙂 Love to watch you grow and share your intimate walk.

  • Jason

    Heidi,

    Thanks for the clarification. Hey, don’t ever worry about being too long with a response – I’m guilty of it every day! 🙂

    Heidi, I totally get it. I think some who visit your website assume that I don’t believe in any sort of organization, order, leadership, or purposeful gathering. On the contrary (and I think you know that). Leadership is important, just not in the form of a TMUF model, as you put it.

    I also agree that people shouldn’t leave their congregations just because. I haven’t. But we can’t continue to chase after rituals and routines in hopes they alone bring us closer to God. There is no amount of church attendance that will cover you in righteousness. That’s a works-oriented religion.

    Constant fellowship with other believers who love you, support you, enjoy you, ask hard questions, keep you accountable and vice versa, is way more important to me than any church service I’ve ever attended.

    How each of us finds that fellowship doesn’t look the same; just that we have it in our lives is what really matters.

  • Jason

    Heidi,

    Thanks for the clarification. Hey, don’t ever worry about being too long with a response – I’m guilty of it every day! 🙂

    Heidi, I totally get it. I think some who visit your website assume that I don’t believe in any sort of organization, order, leadership, or purposeful gathering. On the contrary (and I think you know that). Leadership is important, just not in the form of a TMUF model, as you put it.

    I also agree that people shouldn’t leave their congregations just because. I haven’t. But we can’t continue to chase after rituals and routines in hopes they alone bring us closer to God. There is no amount of church attendance that will cover you in righteousness. That’s a works-oriented religion.

    Constant fellowship with other believers who love you, support you, enjoy you, ask hard questions, keep you accountable and vice versa, is way more important to me than any church service I’ve ever attended.

    How each of us finds that fellowship doesn’t look the same; just that we have it in our lives is what really matters.

  • Jason

    Heidi,

    Thanks for the clarification. Hey, don’t ever worry about being too long with a response – I’m guilty of it every day! 🙂

    Heidi, I totally get it. I think some who visit your website assume that I don’t believe in any sort of organization, order, leadership, or purposeful gathering. On the contrary (and I think you know that). Leadership is important, just not in the form of a TMUF model, as you put it.

    I also agree that people shouldn’t leave their congregations just because. I haven’t. But we can’t continue to chase after rituals and routines in hopes they alone bring us closer to God. There is no amount of church attendance that will cover you in righteousness. That’s a works-oriented religion.

    Constant fellowship with other believers who love you, support you, enjoy you, ask hard questions, keep you accountable and vice versa, is way more important to me than any church service I’ve ever attended.

    How each of us finds that fellowship doesn’t look the same; just that we have it in our lives is what really matters.

  • Great post! Interesting discussion. Not much time lately… Sigh.

  • Heidi, I think we all struggle with how to do church which is why so many post here. I’m glad Kathy and I have been released from a building we will never be released from the church, nor do we want to be.

    People ask me why I don’t go to a building all the time. They assume someone hurt me. People hurt me in life all the time I’m not running away. We find church to be something other than a Sunday Service and for us Church doesn’t include a Sunday Building Service. You get to a point where you just don’t explain yourself anymore. In fact, I said to Kathy this morning “From now on when people ask what church we go to we should say we’re inbetween right now”. It would save lots of un-needed discussion.

  • BTW, I like the new header with the rock pictures. Fits nicely!

  • BTW, I like the new header with the rock pictures. Fits nicely!

  • BTW, I like the new header with the rock pictures. Fits nicely!

  • AW

    Thats a great thing to think about Rick – Why is is to important to people – after what do you do is “Where do you go to Church?”. There are different personalities shown in different congregations – are they trying to sort us out by which doctrine we adhere to – or vote for by our attendance? Hmmm. My mind is thinking. I know I’m guilty of categorizing families based on the What do you Do question – I’m really working on NOT doing this – but I hadn’t thought of the categorization of Where do You Attend question . . . Hmmmm. Thinking.

  • AW

    Thats a great thing to think about Rick – Why is is to important to people – after what do you do is “Where do you go to Church?”. There are different personalities shown in different congregations – are they trying to sort us out by which doctrine we adhere to – or vote for by our attendance? Hmmm. My mind is thinking. I know I’m guilty of categorizing families based on the What do you Do question – I’m really working on NOT doing this – but I hadn’t thought of the categorization of Where do You Attend question . . . Hmmmm. Thinking.

  • AW

    Thats a great thing to think about Rick – Why is is to important to people – after what do you do is “Where do you go to Church?”. There are different personalities shown in different congregations – are they trying to sort us out by which doctrine we adhere to – or vote for by our attendance? Hmmm. My mind is thinking. I know I’m guilty of categorizing families based on the What do you Do question – I’m really working on NOT doing this – but I hadn’t thought of the categorization of Where do You Attend question . . . Hmmmm. Thinking.

  • farmer Tom

    Praise the Lord, that you have some clarity.

    I John has some very powerful stuff in it.

    ” 7Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

    8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

    9In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

    10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

    11Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

    12No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

  • farmer Tom

    I take it I’m not allowed to comment.

  • farmer Tom

    I take it I’m not allowed to comment.

  • farmer Tom

    I take it I’m not allowed to comment.

  • farmer Tom

    BTW, it still vexes me that you have no pre-view.

  • farmer Tom

    BTW, it still vexes me that you have no pre-view.

  • farmer Tom

    BTW, it still vexes me that you have no pre-view.

  • Great, great discussion here. I think I’ll steal Rick’s “we’re in between right now” line, it’ll save me a lot of judgment from others.

  • Great, great discussion here. I think I’ll steal Rick’s “we’re in between right now” line, it’ll save me a lot of judgment from others.

  • Great, great discussion here. I think I’ll steal Rick’s “we’re in between right now” line, it’ll save me a lot of judgment from others.

  • farmer Tom

    Hey, what’s going on with the commenting?

    I tried to post, it didn’t work, so I tried again and it still didn’t work, so I sarcastically asked if I wasn’t allowed to post, that didn’t work either.

    Now it’s all here! What the heck?

  • Heidi,
    Here is a comment preview plug in for WordPress.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/ajax-comment-preview/

  • Heidi,
    Here is a comment preview plug in for WordPress.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/ajax-comment-preview/

  • Heidi,
    Here is a comment preview plug in for WordPress.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/ajax-comment-preview/

  • I’m smiling and yet it makes me very sad in some ways. I can speak more frankly about my “Church Life” or in some of your minds, lack there of, with my secular friends and must make up white lies to my church friends. What is wrong with that picture?
    Why can’t we as believers accept that God does different things in different people? We say we do but that’s such a huge lie. We think in the back of our minds, what, they can’t do that?
    How darned sad is that?
    Makes you wonder why the world feels so uncomfortable setting foot in our institutions doesn’t it. Oh, it’s okay for anyone to come in as long as they behave themselves. I’m in one of those spunky moods tonight.