free counters


Self Isolation

Greetings All,

As a pastor, this weeks 'thought' resonated with me -- since yearly I become increasingly more and more convinced that what he says is true!

In Scripture one is hard pressed to find any justification for a spirituality divorced from commitment to, and involvement in, a local church body. As with marriage and family, the church is also a God-ordained means for sanctifying, growing and maturing us spiritually. I need to rub shoulders with others I am committed to in order to grow.

Though the thought that I can grow spiritually in isolation from a church is immensely popular at the present time (even in supposedly Bible believing circles) it is hard to advocate such a ruggedly individualized, private, isolated from the believing community of faith, do my own thing, designer type of spirituality in light of Scripture. For conversion in the New Testament, is not simply conversion from worldliness and sin to Christ, but also conversion away from the staunch and rugged individualism that fed sin, and into the support, and moral accountability, and spiritual fellowship the believing and covenant community of the faithful can offer me.

Donald Whitney, in his book "Simplify Your Spiritual Life -- Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed," speaks of this under the heading "Experience Congregational Spirituality."

Even if all do not agree (and given the contemporary mindset some surely will not!) his thoughts are worth your consideration. Enjoy!

" 'I want God and spirituality, but not the church.' More people say this today than ever before. Spirituality is in; church is out. Why? For some, the painful memories of previous church experiences keep them away. For others, church problems aren't worth the hassle. For many, church just seems irrelevant or unhelpful to their own spirituality. Perhaps most would simply say, 'I'm too busy for church.'

But the Bible specifically addresses a churchless view of spirituality. To begin with, a person who wants God, but not the church, needs to come to grips with I John 3:14: 'We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.' A sacrificial love for Christian brothers and sisters is one of the first, best, and most reliable evidences of having passed from spiritual death into eternal life through Christ. Anyone who claims to possess this love for God's people, but avoids their regular gatherings, needs to reexamine his or her relationship with the Father of this family.

Second, anyone who calls Jesus 'Lord' must submit to the authority of His Word and His Word warns against 'forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some' (Hebrews 10:2). The New Testament knows nothing of the individualized spirituality of today and nothing of a Christianity that exists apart from the local church.

Remember too that the church is Jesus' idea, not man's (Matt. 16:18 / Matt. 18:17). More than that, the church is His body. The apostle Paul reminds us, 'Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior,' and 'we are members of His body' (Col. 1:18 / Ephesians 5:23, 30). Even though it may sometimes appear otherwise, the body of Christ has not been severed from it's Head; Jesus is still the Head of the church. Why wouldn't anyone want to actively participate in the only organization on earth where Jesus Christ is Head? When one of His earliest promises was, 'I will build my church' (Matthew 16:18), why wouldn't one want a part in what Jesus Himself is building?

Look at Jesus' own example. He wasn't a spiritual loner. Twelve disciples always traveled with Him, often teaching and ministering as well. Furthermore, Luke 4:16 reminds us that, 'as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.' Why did Jesus make it His custom to go to the synagogue every Sabbath? Because He would hear the Word of God, worship God, and fellowship with His people there...

Christian spirituality is not an isolationist, self-absorbed spirituality. True spirituality is relational -- not only toward God, but also with the people of God. Proverbs 18:1 teaches: 'A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.' Don't isolate yourself from the people of God. Take God, and spirituality and the church. That's God's plan. His ways are simpler and healthier for our souls than any we contrive on our own."

Just to add more weight to what has already been said, it is important to remember:

The apostle's were servants of Christ and the church, and thus to us only in the sense that we are part of it (II Cor. 4:5-15)

The New Testament epistles were written to churches, and thus to us only in the sense that we have become part of one (I Cor. 1:2 / II Cor. 1:1 / etc.).

Elders or pastors are shepherds of the church, or the flock of God, and to us as individuals only in the sense that we are part of that flock (Acts 20:17).

Spiritual gifts are given to individuals not simply to edify themselves, but that the entire church might be built up and reach maturity (I Cor. 14:1-5 / Eph. 4:1-16).

God's manifold wisdom is made known to all, "through the church" (Eph. 3:10).

And last, Paul reminds "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her" and not just "me" (Eph. 5:25). You and I as individuals are simply an infinitesimally small part of "the church" He loved and died to rescue and redeem!

With Love in Him, Pastor Jeff