Apr 20, 2009
The Truth About Fellowship
I was speaking with an old friend last week and the question finally came up about five minutes into our reunion. He asked, "Where are you going to Church these days?"
Trying to be as vague as possible, I responded simply, "We're not going anywhere at the time." The inevitable moment of silence came over the phone followed by an awkward and predictable, "What are you doing for fellowship?"
He wasn't being judgmental or religious. This man was sincerely concerned . The tone of his voice told me he was even a bit fearful for me, and he told me so before we parted ways. His concerns were born out of all that he and I had been told our entire lives. I could dry up spiritually or be open to attacks from the enemy. I could grow wrong and become susceptible to heresy. There are a thousand things that could become of me if I were not in fellowship with other Christians and any or all of them could decide where I ultimately spend eternity.
It's difficult for me to become angry in situations like this, because this person was clearly looking out for me and loving me to the best of his ability. This guy wasn't looking for a spiritual debate. He wasn't trying to put me in bondage or scare me, and he certainly wasn't acting on behalf of the institution as a mole or a recruitment officer. He cared for me. He was concerned.
I shared some of his fears when I first made the decision to walk away from the structure of Church. I'll admit that I was a bit skittish and apprehensive as to what would become of me in "the wild." Would I quit hearing God's voice? Would Satan gain special admission to my home or open access to attack me now that I wasn't under a covering? Would I dry up and lose interest in God? Would I become pagan?
I think most Free Believers who make the decision to leave their structured fellowship grapple with these same feelings. It's hard not to. We've all been warned of the dangers lurking. We've all heard the stories of the families who left "the fellowship" and ended up poverty-stricken or spiritually "off." Who in their right mind wants to risk that?
This one subject is discussed more than any other among Free Believers. People make the decision to enter the wild and they lose all their friends in about a week-and-a-half. They usually leave with a plan in the back of their minds. They concoct a picture in their mind of sitting with friends and eating dinner at their home. They picture something organic, something real, something simpler than the rigid form of fellowship they had grown tired of. Once they get out, however, they quickly find that those friends they had hoped to invite for dinner no longer exist.
This is the point where fear sets in. If not fear, it's usually depression. They had no idea that they are about to enter a world of loneliness that they've never planned for. A worldthat will at first seem to validate everything they've been taught about leaving church. A world where everything they've ever known or thought they knew will be put on trial. In the midst of this loneliness, they experience a nagging feeling that all they've been warned about is beginning to come true. The one base (fellowship) they tried to cover has fallen through. Every part of them knows that they NEED fellowship in order to survive, and their present lack of fellowship begins to take its choking effect on their lives. "If something doesn't change soon," they think, "we'll have to come up for air and go back."
I find that when many Free Believers are describing their new life to others, they are extra-careful to ensure that everyone knows THEY STILL HAVE FELLOWSHIP. That seems to be the first and most important thing for any Christian to survive. It's like oxygen. Without it, you will surely die. This has become a statement of fact throughout the Christian world. It's not even challenged any more because we've all submitted to this teaching. Anyone who says differently is headed for certain spiritual death.
I say different.
I know this may be hard for people to believe, but you can actually survive quite comfortably for long periods of time without fellowship. Moses was in the desert for 40 years before returning to his people and having "fellowship." John was exiled on an island ten miles long and six miles wide for years, and he didn't miss a beat in his Christian walk. John the Baptist lived allalone in the wilderness. The Apostle Paul spent most of his time secluded in a prison cell. The Bible is full of characters who spent years without fellowship and they not only survived, they emerged better and stronger because of it. I feel that the Church lost the truth about fellowship about a thousand years ago through our desire to manipulate folks and keep them coming back faithfully. It's time we recover it.
I am quickly arriving at the conclusion that when Free Believers begin to feel as though we are dying without fellowship in the wild; it's purely psychosomatic. We've been taught for so long that we couldn't make it without fellowship, that the first few weeks and months alone, we begin to feel that we're not making it. It's been burned into our brains. We psychologically conform to what's been drilled into our heads over and over.
About ten miles from our home, there is a power company. They have a large cluster of really tall power lines that sit together along side of the road. For the longest time, builders couldn't sell homes close to those power lines because word has gotten out that they could cause brain tumors in people who spent too much time in the vicinity. To this very day, when my wife, Angie, and I drive by those power lines; she gets a headache. We laugh about it every time. I believe that the empty and desperate feeling many new Free Believers get in the wild is exactly the same. It's the power of suggestion at work!
I know many sincere Free Believers who are eagerly seeking fellowship somewhere, some way, somehow, because they feel the effects they've been told about slowly creeping into their lives. Some folks have gotten themselves to a point where they are in an all-out panic. They actually feel the tumor growing in their head.
Many times, it's not even that people desire exuberant amounts of fellowship. Some people are just naturally private, but because of all the teachings they've endured through the years, they feel they can't live without it. The entire subject has become an exasperating carrot dangling in front of our faces, but always just out of reach. No matter how much fellowship we force ourselves into, it's never enough. There can always be more, and the truth is, everyone needs a different amount. Some people need bunches of friends and others only need one. When we make the private person have bunches, we disrupt their personal life flow and tweak their heart.
I'll be perfectly honest with you. I live in a home with five kids, a wife and a dog. My sister-in-law and her family of four kids, a husband and a dog, come over to our house for a few hours every day. The last thing on my mind throughout my week is, "Gee, I really wish I had some more fellowship." Chasing five kids around, bathing them, getting them dressed and loading them in the car so we can drive to a building and sit quietly for 40 minutes listening to a guy give a monologue about God, is NOT fellowship. That's self-abuse.
If you're living in the wild and freaking out because you don't have anyone; don't worry. Time alone is a good thing. You're not going to implode. Don't stress about not being in fellowship. You can survive for years without it. I'm not trying to get anyone to forsake fellowship; I'm just pointing out that the Christian slogans we've lived our lives by for so many years are not based on truth. We say things like, "Christians need fellowship or they will die spiritually," or "Fellowship is the most important thing for a Christian," and they have no Biblical foundation. They are all exaggerations that came from a simple verse that says "don't forsake it." That doesn't mean you'll die if you don't have it. It doesn't mean that it's the most important thing in the world and it certainly doesn't mean that you'll lose your salvation without it.
When making the decision to leave the structured system of Church, my advice is: Do NOT attempt to ensure you'll have fellowship on the outside, due to fear of imminent spiritual death. I would suggest that you PLAN on being alone. Pace yourself. Don't freak out when it happens because it will. Embrace it. Accept it for as long as it takes.
You're okay. Don't worry. You're fine.
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