"...I'm spiritual, not relgious."

I've heard it.  And I know that you've heard it too.  It goes something like this, "I'm spiritual, but I'm just not religious."  And sometimes this is a mantra for people who really don't want to address their wither their situations or their concepts of what being a Christian really means.  But, sometimes it is something else all together.

I have more than one friend who is a genuinely faithful Christ-follower who loves God, worships Him, accepts the redemption and renewal of Jesus, believes the Bible and practices it's message as authoritative, and serves a global mission to express and live the gospel.  But for some reason or reasons has found identity with the 'church,' as we currently know it, extremely difficult.  And as such experiences faith and the practice of faith in an odd kind of public solitude.

This scenario is both painful and detrimental to me.  And I suspect (well, I've seen and heard the symptoms of it) that it is painful to them.  I'm sure that it is detrimental.

Christian faith is at it's core a collective experience.  Yes, even salvation is a collective experience.  It is a kingdom, body, family, experience.  If we are to use Jesus' description of rebirth or spiritual birth, it is birth into a family (as birth always is).  If we are to use the Apostle Paul's description of salvation, then it is a rescue mission, delivering one from a kingdom of darkness that is shared with those who are darkened.  But also a deliverance into a new kingdom of light where light is lived out in a kingdom of light.  A kingdom has always been a community.  It was a city state where life was reliant upon the teamwork of a group of people who shared a geographic locality, and who lived under the protection of a regional land-holder.  If we are to see redemption as our primary definition of salvation, then it is redemption from uselessness in a function that did not fit us into a function in a body that perfectly fits us.  While we experience conversion on an individual basis, it is fundamentally a part of the life of Christ's community of believers.  It is a shared experience.

And so the axiom, "spiritual but not religious," seems to me to epitomize a cataclysmic failure on our part, their part, on my part.  This parsing of terms is a revelation of our failure to be a Christ-like community.

Unfortunately, I don't know that I can blog a singular entry that will propose a complete solution.  Nor am I willing to suggest that I'm the right guy to fully identify the solution.  I am only saying that our community needs improvement.  Since I need improvement, we need improvement.  (This is just one expression of the community experience.)

We must begin to do something to reunite these faithful ones with their community.  We must reconnect with our lost sheep.  (Not lost because they have become goats instead of sheep...  but because they are not living in and with the fold.)  There is a Christian expression that says that Satan looks for a vessel sailing with out a fleet.  And so our current propensity toward isolation appears to be a Satanic endeavor.

Life together is a gift.  It is not a curse or an obligation.  It is a gift.  It should seem as such.  And something about our ability to accept one another, forgive one another, spur one another on to love and good deeds, to encourage one another, to pray for one another...  something about these elements of Christian community must again become desirable.  We must shed the deception of the enemy of our souls who wants to delude us/them into a modern individualism and separate us/them from God's kingdom, His family, His body.  We must pursue wondering sheep, welcome them, love them, understand them, include them, rely on them.  We must make Christian community a gift that we give to them and to ourselves.  And we must preserve it.

It may seem uncomfortable as we begin to pursue it, but it will prove to be beneficial as we learn to live it.

I turn to Dietrich Bonhoeffer for one final thought.  As he wrestled in Life Together with the practice of confession of sins to one another, he laid out these thoughts:
"The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God's Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain; his brother's is sure."
Christian community is a gift.  As image bearers of God, our triune creator, we are made for relationship with one another.  Christian community is a gift given to us by God.  We dare not refuse it.


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