Religion is temporary. Once we catch a glimpse of what it points towards, it begs to be discarded. Should we hold onto it long after it has served its only true purpose, we only slide back into a state of being that ushers us away from the simple joy of living life with friends and neighbors.
More and more I have a burning passion to enter into a community of faith that has more in common with family then it does with club. So much of institutional Christianity gets bogged down with structure and maintaining what it is, that it misses out on being family. The other side of this coin is those that discard the institution and enter into distant family relationships. Sure they get together, but it is almost by accident.
I believe the true church – the ekklēsia – involves a coming together with intent. In the comments to a blog I wrote:
I hate using the word ‘church’, as it has come to take on so much baggage that is not what ekklēsia means. Sure the ekklēsia will meet and have gatherings, as a matter of fact, it could be said that a group of individual Christians who never come together in community are not the ekklēsia. Ekklēsia holds within it an understanding of gathering together.
My belief is that the ekklēsia gathering need not, and possibly should not be institutionally structured. It is more organic and simple. the ‘Institutionally structured’ church requires effort to be put into the structure by many people and requires a top down leadership structure not unlike the gentiles (Luke 22:25) The result is an exoskeleton structure that will remain even if the Spirit leaves.
Jesus said that were two or three are gathered… Assembling together is all about relationship. If an institutional ‘church’ is the ekklēsia it is because of the relationships and is despite of the structure.
Institutions are a product of this world. Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world.
The institution gives us a glimpse of this coming together with intent that the non-church ekklēsia neglects. However, I have the conviction that “with the institution comes much baggage”. God has placed on many hearts a desire to leave this baggage behind, and there is a growing contingent of faithful believers who are struggling to come to grips with a religion-less, non-institutional expression of our faith.
The early ekklēsia met daily.
We are leaving a Christianized culture that met twice on Sunday and a few times throughout the week.
We are becoming/ have become a post-Christian culture that is swamped with time commitments which makes meeting once a week burdensome.
In one sense, we have an even greater need to get together; however, to survive in our culture, we become so busy that there is little time left in a week. All too often, I fear, we neglect relationship building – both within the ekklēsia as well as missionally – due to time constraints that result from our religious commitment to go to our weekly events. We use up our relationship time with our religious meetings.
I guess the warning is that as we ‘discard the religious’, we do not neglect relationships.
I have no doubt that this process of working out our faith outside of the institution will be messy. But I also have no doubt that it will be worth it.