But Never Alone
by Chip Brogden
I have said many times before that if everyone who tells me they are "alone in the wilderness" were gathered together in one place, you would have a hard time fitting them all into the building. I wish you could see how many emails I get from people who think they are the only ones left!
I was listening to a nationally syndicated Christian radio program the other day as the panel was lamenting the fact that so many people are not going to church anymore. They seemed to believe this would lead to the collapse of Western civilization. Their solution? Try to make "church" more appealing, make it more relevant to their needs, and help them feel more "involved". No mention was made of the hundreds of thousands of people who are loving and serving God "outside the camp", pursuing a relationship with Jesus and with one another apart from Organized Religion. Either mainstream Churchianity doesn't realize there is such a phenomenon or they see it and are unwilling to admit that it exists.
I hope the following will be an encouragement to those of you who have been written off as unchurched, unsaved, unChristian, and unspiritual because you don't participate on Sunday and Wednesday.
Lonely, But Never Alone
There are many in the Body of Christ who are in transition between "going" to church and "being" the Church. The Lord is speaking to many at once and calling them aside from the traditional church building meeting to gather together in homes. The more in tune with the Lord we become, the more dissatisfied and uncomfortable we become with what is being said and done in His Name. Yet, there is an uncomfortable pause between where we used to be and where we are called to be. It is a lonely time in which we will be misunderstood by many that have not seen what we have seen.
What God is
impressing upon many of us who are in-between the church as a building and the
church as a lifestyle is how to walk ALONE. We must not forsake the assembling
of ourselves together when we are able to do so; yet God would have us learn to
fellowship with Christ, even it means to take the lonely path.
Many times the
desire to find other "like-minded believers" is not a spiritual
desire. It is rather our emotion, our soul, which longs to be with people who
understand us. We must love not our life (Greek: soul life) and be willing to go
for a time without the comfort and fellowship of brothers and sisters if God has
called us unto Himself. If we simply MUST be in the accompaniment of other
brothers and sisters in order to have any sense of Christ then we are not
abiding in Him as we ought.
In many parts of the
world brothers and sisters in Christ are not able to meet together because of
persecution. They would certainly desire to do so if they could, but if they
cannot, how will they maintain fellowship and connectivity to the Body if they
are unable to gather? Why, they must know Christ as Fellowship. Abiding in Him,
connected to the Head, they maintain oneness with the rest of the Body.
Someone will say,
"We are not persecuted. We have the freedom to gather together. Should we
not take advantage of our liberty as Christians and fellowship at every
opportunity?" The answer is yes, we should thank God for our freedom and
make the most of it. But my question to you is, what will your spiritual state
be like when that liberty is no longer permitted? Have you resources within
yourself to stay in your place of abiding in Christ, or is your usefulness to
God limited by your ability to fellowship with others? Can you maintain
connectivity to the Body when isolated, or will you grow faint and fall away?
Some are able to
maintain a sweet spirit so long as they are in fellowship with other believers.
But when God allows that fellowship to be interrupted, observe how quickly that
sweet spirit turns sour. They will even acknowledge their poor state and say
things like, "My temper has become awful. It is because I have been out of
church. I must go back this Sunday." Then they will go back to church, feel
uplifted, and the sweet spirit returns. Sadly, this is the experience of a
majority of people who have not learned to take Christ as their Life. Is this
walking in the Spirit? It is not.
It is true that
"whenever two or three are gathered in My Name, there I am." Praise
God for such truth. It is equally true that, "I am with YOU always
(singular)." We do not want to be lone ranger Christians who do not seek
fellowship with other members of Christ's Body. At the same time, we cannot
allow the absence of such fellowship to make us despondent or depressed, should
we be deprived of it. If it causes us to fall away, then perhaps this is the
reason God allows us to go through periods of solitude, that we may be reduced
to CHRIST as our Fellowship.
When we find
ourselves in such a place, let us not be too quick to seek out others until we
have reaped the benefits of being alone with God. Let us remember that Christ's
Body is a spiritual Body. Being in the physical presence of other members does
not make us more of a member, and being removed from the physical presence of
other members does not make us any less a member. Of course the exact opposite
is true for those meeting together as an institution; without their physical
presence and support they lose place as a member. But not Christ's Body, the
Church. We are not more or less of a member by reason of our physical contact or
lack of physical contact with one another.
And again, we may
thirst for fellowship not so much to edify the Body as to be edified ourselves -
a mindset carried over from when we used to go to church to "be fed"
once or twice a week. If this is the case, it is no wonder that God would have
us look to Him alone as our Edification and learn to draw upon Him before
placing us in close proximity with others. One weakness of the institutional
church is that the majority of members are coming to receive, to be edified, to
be encouraged, to be fed. It is all "take", and very little
"give". Hence, there is little Life.
When we learn to
draw upon Christ as our Source we will have abundance to give away. Fellowship
with others cannot replace our daily abiding in Him. If we gather together in
the Name of the Lord, yet outside of Christ, we will have much religious
carrying's on but little Life to impart to one another. God would have us look
to His Son as our Life, and as we do we find our need is met. Then, when we
gather together, we are givers and not takers, and with all giving out of
Christ, we have the blessing we sought.
Let us press into Christ with all our heart, and not be discouraged if we find ourselves temporarily without the fellowship and comfort of our brothers and sisters. Though we are lonely, we are never alone.