Why We Crave Religious Systems...and Why I'm Not Leading Churches for a While Longer

Monday, September 21, 2015

I've had a love/hate relationship with "Christianity" for many years. Since 11 years old, as a matter of fact. Here's the part I've loved: the Jesus I see in Scripture. Here's the part I've hated: conformity to a system or structure that I could not see in Scripture. So I've come to call the thing I've loved, Christianity, and the thing I've hated, churchianity.  

As I reflect back on my churchianity years, I can recall this outward compulsion to conform to the system and structure of the organization I happened to be attending at the time, also called a local church. I can also recall this inward compulsion to conform and meet the requirements. The outward compulsion always came from the pastor, which was only compounded for me since my dad was a pastor of a local church. The inward compulsion came from me, as I made so many attempts to inform myself, reform my behavior, and conform to the requirements. 

Years later as I grew up into churchianity, I became a church leader. And in so doing I began to pastor people like I was pastored. The outward compulsion I placed upon people began to grow almost to lengths that I had perceived and experienced it personally when I was younger. I then watched with expectation as those I led also attempted to inform themselves, reform their behavior, and conform to my requirements (which pastors tend to call "principles", by the way). 

Meanwhile, the reality of pastoring took its toll on me inwardly. Whether pastors want to admit it or not, they are the leaders of a religious, charitable organization. As such, it must be created with articles of incorporation, and eventually a charter constitution and bylaws. This means there is a hierarchy.  After all, somebody's gotta determine who gets paid and how much they get paid. And if it's not one man, it's usually less than handful of men.  Like it or not, this necessarily makes a local church an organization which reports to the government. And just because it's tax exempt doesn't really make it any less what it essentially becomes: a business.  

With this reality as the foundation of every church I pastored, the inward compulsion continued to work strong within me. Even though I was a pastor outwardly compelling people to conform to certain standards and requirements that I thought were biblical and necessary in order to be a member of my religious organization, I was also a believer who was inwardly compelled to inform myself about everyone else's business, reform my behavior constantly to not disappoint people, and thus conform my life to this invisible demand for one primary reason: so that I could keep my "job." 

Oh sure. It was easy to speak boldly that my ministry was all about faithfulness to God and His Word. But when humility gave birth to brutal honesty, I freely began to admit that there was undoubtedly this constant undercurrent of concern about my future. If someone else in leadership began to be at odds with me, it could go sour and I could end up looking for another church. If a long-standing and prominent congregant took issue with me, they had the power to influence others against me, and I could end up looking for another church.  At almost every point in pastoring, I constantly stood a chance of losing something.

Here was the frustrating thing, though.  I lived with a genuine heart to love people and honor Jesus. I couldn't help myself.  I simultaneously felt this surge in my heart to be vulnerable in my own life while reaching out to others with a variety of needs.  Parallel to that track, however, was my constant fear for my "job."  This included, of course, my financial security and my future. Thus, the perpetual inward compulsion to live as close to Jesus and others as I possibly could, while also living as close to conformity to others as I could (so I wouldn't have to leave) worked constantly inside of me to tear me apart emotionally and spiritually. And it could not help but tear me apart psychologically, as well, since I was essentially living and working like some split personality, with two versions of me living inside the same head and heart. 

Reminiscing about this brought me to an important reality followed by an important question. The reality is this: people crave religious systems. The question is obvious: why? 

Reality Check: We Crave Conformity

Let's start with the reality. I lived the religious system growing up as a young believer. I lived it growing up in a pastor's home. I lived it as an assiduous and zealous member of churchianity. I was taught that following Jesus was about confessing your sins and asking God to forgive you so you could have eternal life. I caught, from the lives of those around me, that following Jesus is largely about creating systems, structures, principles, standards, and guidelines around your life so that you make sure you wouldn't fall into the sins you were afraid of committing.  

Essentially, trying to make sure I didn't sin was the bullseye of my life.  Imagine what that's like if you are a boy who decides to follow Jesus at the onset of puberty. Yeah. You get the picture. I felt like I was constantly on the verge of spiritual, sexual, and psychological disaster. It was horrific. The outward compulsion to conform to all the stuff I felt like I had to follow ended up creating and maintaining an inward compulsion to conform. These compulsions worked together, night and day, to supposedly keep me "safe." But conform to what? And safe from what? 

The reality I came to see many, many years later is that we as human beings deeply crave conformity. I truly believe we are hardwired for it. It's part of the sin nature we are all born with. I also think that conforming to God was a part of Adam and Eve's inner desire before they sinned and were exiled from the Garden of Eden.  I think God created us as people who want to belong to someone, to something bigger than ourselves. 

Thanks to the problem of inherent sin, however, we now find ourselves naturally gravitating toward others who share our likes and dislikes. Then, in order to gain regular access to the group, we have to constantly monitor the moods and views of everyone else in the group and monitor their reaction to our mood and view. Meanwhile, everyone in the group is constantly inform themselves, reforming their behavior, in an attempt to conform to the group. And it never stops. And if it does, you will find yourself on the outs with that group. Then you'll be off to find another group. 

Plug this model into religion and it's really no different. If you're a Christian, just add whatever flavor or brand of Jesus you like, and the pattern is almost exactly the same. You find a group, denomination, or movement that shares your theological or religious likes and dislikes. You draw close, monitor the moods and views, monitor their reactions and responses to your mood and view, and reform your behavior in order to conform to the ethos of the group. The moment you begin to think or feel differently, you suddenly perceive a strange distance and coldness forming which eventually means your departure. And off you go to start all over again with another group or movement. 

But why do we behave this way? 

Why do we as human beings crave conformity from birth? 

I believe there are two important reasons why. First, we crave human leadership in our lives. Second, we crave performance. I'm convinced by what I read in the Bible that both of these cravings are unavoidable fruits of our fallen nature because of sin. Sin is a part of the "old nature." It's what drives anything that does not come from Jesus, who is "new life" or "new creation" in Christ.  

When I read the Old Testament, I see an unfolding story of humanity trying to relate to God through the old nature. I also see a simultaneous story of God relating to His creation through love. I see humanity craving a human being to lead them. And I see humanity craving a system and structure of laws that allows them to perform and earn God's love. I see both of these things in two particular stories in the Old Testament. 

We Inwardly Crave Conformity Through Performance 

Moses was used of God to lead a nation of probably two million slaves out of one hostile country, across a piece of ocean, into another hostile country. After every one of them survived the crossing of that ocean on dry ground, guided by a fiery cloud at night and a cloud pillar in the day, they came to Mt. Sinai where God wanted to reveal Himself to them. This was the birth of the nation of Israel as a formal, national people. Prior, God had revealed Himself in an intimate relationship and friendship with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and later to Moses. At Sinai He revealed Himself to the people of Israel in a cloud, a mountain, and a promise. 

His promise to them is found in Exodus 19:3-6. It involved the truth that the people would "be my treasured possession among all peoples" (v. 5). If ever there was a group one would want to belong to, it would be this one. The one led by the God who said, "all the earth is mine." The God who led them out of 450 years of slavery through the most miraculous national rescue and delivery in history to date. God promised that they would "be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (v. 6). 

But how did the people respond to God's promise? The promise seemed to be conditional, based on obeying God's voice and keeping His covenant. But His covenant had not been given...yet. And here's the most interesting feature of this passage to me personally. Without a covenant, and without laws which they were to obey, and without even hearing what God would say yet, their knee-jerk response was, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do" (v. 8). They were relating to God out of fear, I think. And who can blame them, right? A culture of fear through slavery in Egypt had dominated them nationally for 450 years, to the point where every single one of them, except for about three (Moses, Joshua, and Caleb) lived and breathed in fear. And out of fear, they respond to this God in a way that seems opposite of the friendship we see in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph with God.  

This shows me that fear drives this inward compulsion to conform. You are afraid of not belonging any longer. So you behave the way you need to in order to stay with the group. When this translates into churchianity, you come to believe that staying with your local church is tantamount to staying with God. And to not conform to the church is to be marginalized or expelled by both church and God.  

So the people of Israel craved performance. They craved a relationship with this amazing God, but out of fear chose to relate to Him through performance of religious rituals. I often wonder whether or not we would have an alternate ending to movies about Exodus if the people would have responded instead, "God! We are so afraid of you and there's no way we can possibly be as holy as you want us to! Please, show us another way!" But that's not how the story goes. And of course, that's on purpose in order to show us a repeated pattern of a craving to perform and conform in order to belong. 

And how did God respond to the people's response to His promise? "And the Lord said to Moses, 'Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you...And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, "Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death".'" (vv. 9, 12). Again, I wonder how God would have responded if the people had not responded with the old nature response of fear and subsequent craving to conform. 

The story continues. The people responded this way more and more. The fear of God seemed to drive a conformity that required performance. After receiving the ten commandments and other laws, God confirms this covenant with Israel. "Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered, 'All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do'." (v. 3). Stunning.  

So Moses wrote down everything the Lord had said, built an altar, burned an offering, read the covenant he had just recorded, read it in front of everyone. And how did they respond? "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient" (v. 7). Amazing.  

Let this be a lesson to everyone, whether you're a follower of Jesus or not. God has made promises to you. They are promises to love you, bring you into His family, and give you the same inheritance He gave His own Son, Jesus. When we respond to God's promises with fear, we will then relate to Him through performance. Our lives will turn to a performance-based conformity, driven by fear of no longer being accepted or belonging...even though a promise is not conditional based on our performance. Unbelievable. 

To summarize the first reason why we crave religious systems, we do so because we crave performance. We give in to the old nature belief, driven by sin and our separation from God, that the best way to relate to God is to live up to His expectations. We come to believe that the only way to be loved by God is to perform. We live like the only way to belong to God is to conform to a particular group who professes to represent Him. Disastrous. 

We Inwardly Crave Conformity to Human Leadership 

The second reason why we crave religious systems is because we also inwardly crave human leadership. The thought of relating to an invisible being Who makes such wide-sweeping, almost-too-good-to-be-true promises is frankly unfathomable. The old nature has no category for relating to such a thing.  

Adam and Eve once walked with God in the Garden of Eden, in the cool of the day, as intimate friends.  When they sinned and were put out of the Garden, the new nature in them died and withered, giving way to the old nature. Intimacy with God was no longer a reality. And within a few short generations, humanity was looking to the powerful to gather them, lead them, and tell them what to do, to give them purpose. 

Fear Seems to be the Father of the First Cities and Their Leaders

The first picture of this we see is Cain, who killed his brother Abel, and was driven away from everyone else by God. Cain killed his brother, in part, because he was afraid of being rejected by God.  Following that, Cain was the first to build a city (Gen. 4:17). That's significant to me, that the first person to gather a people and build a city was a cursed murderer who was afraid of not being accepted by God.  A man who would live the rest of his life in fear (v. 14), fathered a group of people whom he gathered and built a city for, so that he would have a place to belong. I see in this story the beginning of human leadership and city-builders, and the very first one was a human driven by fear of exclusion. 

What follows is not reading into the text of the Bible something that Isn't there. It's reading the story as it unfolds. And what unfolds after Cain and his city building? Generations upon generations of people which eventually produced the environment we see in Genesis 6. Hundreds and hundreds of years later, "when man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose" (6:1-2).  

Also on the earth at that time were a group called the Nephilim. "These were mighty men who were of old, the men of renown" (v. 4). It's highly debatable who these men were. But in light of the context, I see them as powerful human leaders who had developed a pretty huge reputation. And what of their influence and accomplishments? All we know is what follows in the very next verse: "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart" (vv. 5-6).   As I read the unfolding story from Genesis 4 to Genesis 6, I see human leadership taking root in Cain in Genesis 4 and developing into the mess of Genesis 6. 

I perceive that a fear of exclusion by God and other people drives some human beings,in their very core, to become a leader so that they will have a people to belong to.And everyone else, in their very core, follows the human leader,because they too want a people to whom they can belong. 

Compare that to this fact:  there's not a single mention from Genesis 4 to Genesis 6 of a member of the line of Seth building a city or leading anyone. 

After God has erased humanity from the earth in the flood, He started again with Noah and his family.  Yet the old nature of sin and fear took root once again and grew into another human leader named Nimrod, in Genesis 10:9-10. "Nimrod was the first on earth to be a mighty man" (v. 8), probably a Nephilim himself, since the same phrase is used here as it is in 6:4. "The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erich, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria and build Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah that is the great city" (vv. 10-12). 

Notice the first city that was a part of Nimrod's kingdom. It was Babel. Genesis 11 unfolds the story of that first city in Nimrod's kingdom. As we read that story, his leadership influence becomes obvious. The arrogance of such a people can only be a reflection of their human leader. "Then they said, 'Come let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth'" (v. 4).  

And there you have it. It couldn't be any more plain to me personally. Nimrod and his people built their first city in an ultimately expansive kingdom, that was driven by fear, namely the fear of being scattered. To be scattered means you don't have a group to belong to anymore. So out of the old nature fear of not being able to belong, they followed a leader who led them to build a city, in order to make a name for themselves.  

How did God respond to such human leadership and arrogant plans? He came down and miraculously confused their languages so that they couldn't understand each other. "So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city" (v. 8). Nimrod later went on to build other cities and continue to lead people. But God was not going to stand for any worldwide city to dominate His earth, nor for any human leader to control such a city. 

Trust Seems to be the Father of Family and Community and Their Leaders

What follows is another unfolding story by the author of Genesis, who turns a corner and describes the lineage of Shem, which led to Abram. Whereas the lineages of Cain and Ham were a people and their human leaders driven by fear, the lineage of Shem and Abram became a people driven by friendship with God, with God Himself as their leader. We watch a life unfold that is matured, even it the last years of life, around God's promises to build a family for Himself out of all the nations of the earth. We read highlights of a man's life whom the writer of Hebrews summarized as one who was looking to God as the builder and maker of His own city (11:10).  

Following Abram through his name change to Abraham, we come to the lives of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, all of whom reveal to us the unfolding of God's promise to build a family for Himself. In so doing, the writer of Genesis finishes the book and successfully completes an intentional comparison of  the origins of two tracks of the human race: those who crave human leadership and the need to build people groups and cities (in the lineage of Cain and Nimrod), and those who crave friendship with God who is building a family (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph). This is the very point the writer of Hebrews makes regarding Abraham, in 11:8-10.

"It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God."

The differences between both tracks are enormous, each of which has radically different implications. Cain and Nimrod's track lead onward to the nations of the earth who congregate together into cities out of fear and end up conspiring against the Lord. Contrast that to Abraham's track, which leads onward through the nation of Israel to Jesus Christ, the ultimate fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham, and the only way into God's family.  I'd rather be a member of the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob than be a citizen of the cities of Cain and Nimrod.

What Happens When Fear Infects a Family

As one moves through the development of Abraham's family, we find a toxin infecting it from time to time. An infection from the track of Cain and Nimrod makes it way into the family God is building. Fast forwarding generations later from Abraham to 1 Samuel 8, we see one such example. God had, up to that point, previously led His people through the heroes of Judges, the priest Eli, and the prophet Samuel. But when Samuel became old, he appointed his sons as the next ones to be used of God to lead Israel. However, they were pretty awful guys. And the thought of being led by those guys wasn't very appealing, when compared to being led by Samuel the prophet. 

"Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, 'Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations'" (v. 5). And there you see again this craving for human leadership. The thought of not being like the other nations, who had a human king, who could exploit people to build something really big, deeply bothered them. And it bothered Samuel, too, but in a very different way than the type of bother that was bothering the people. 

"But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, 'Give us a king to judge us.' And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, 'Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them'" (vv. 6-7). What follows is Samuel's description of what it will be like to have a king. In short, he describes a scenario much like one I can imagine from the days of Nimrod.  

"These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves" (vv. 11-17).   Exhausted yet? That sounds utterly horrific to most. 

In short, choosing a king essentially means choosing slavery, taxation, and conscription. A human leader in the form of a king will build a city for himself, as well as an army,and force the people into his service, while forcing all the people to pay for it.And as awful as that sounds, when you are driven by the old nature of fear,and when you crave human leadership so that you will have something to belong to,like everyone else seems to have, you will eventually choose this monstrous,invisible machine that has very visible, monstrous consequences. 

When a family is moved to fear, they move away from being a community of trust to those conquered by conformity.  "And they said..."But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles'" (v. 20).  If you don't recall the rest of the story, they got what they wanted. 

Saul became their first king. He turned out to be a pretty good fellow at the start. But the old nature of fear and craving conformity to the people he wanted to belong to was his undoing. When Samuel issued a specific command one day concerning a battle he was to fight, Saul jumped the gun and did things his way. Samuel's confrontation yielded Saul's confession that he was afraid of the people. That fear cost him his kingdom. This was the first and most important lesson for the family of God who chose the pathway of the human kingdom instead of the divine one: 

Human Kingdoms 101
Human leaders will always fail.

This lesson was the preface to the second lesson: 

Human Kingdoms 102 
When human leaders fail,there are always consequences for the followers. 

If that's always true, then why do humans keep following human leaders? Because we crave human leadership. And we do so generally out of a fear of not having a people to belong to. We crave for someone to lead us and tell us what to do, to give us purpose, to turn us into a force to build something great. God was gracious enough to fulfill this craving in us, due to sin's entrance into the world, by giving us the God-Man, Jesus Christ. 

This is the heritage for those who are a part of the family God is building, and the hopeful destination for those who are not a part of that family. Unfortunately however, that toxin of Cain and Nimrod, which infected the people of Israel enough to bring them to want a human king, still infects the family of Jesus today  That infection in the church today has translated itself into what I have come to call "churchianity." 

In this altered reality of Jesus' family, we see movements, denominations and mega-churches today being built and led in order to supposedly give people a purpose and turn them into a religious labor force to build something great. They are often, though not always, started by people who are driven by the same fears as Cain and Nimrod and their people: a fear of not belonging. And they are built upon followers who have the same inward craving to belong, and who will perform in order to conform. They want to be told what to do, because they want to belong. Meanwhile their leaders have to lead so that they will have a people to whom they can belong. 

The New Covenant - New Creation Family of Jesus

Meanwhile, beneath this constant undercurrent of fallen humanity who try to navigate their life-long mess of fear, performance, conformity, and corrupt human leadership, there is a subversive force working beneath the undercurrent. It is liberty. It's freedom. It's rescue and deliverance. And it was brought to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. 

God answered the craving of humanity for human leadership by coming to earth and becoming a human being. Now He could be seen, talked to, touched, and observed. Now He was relational. He made friends. He wept. He was lonely. He was exhausted. He was hungry. He could be hurt. He could suffer. And He could be killed. But He could also be raised from the dead. And He could ascend to heaven. And He could send His Holy Spirit so that He Himself could mysteriously and miraculously live inside of each and every member of His family. All of this happened. All of it is true and real. 

God also answered the craving of humanity for performance. The bottom line is that no human being could actually perform well enough in life to make God happy. That's because God is holy. People by birth are not holy. Yet God welcomes them into His family anyway. But unholy people by birth cannot be holy enough to take God up on His invitation to join the family. So we try to perform to get in. Yet we can't perform well enough because we're unholy by birth.  

God fixed all of that. The problem of God's holiness and our unholiness was bridged by Jesus Christ, who obeyed everything God ever said, and followed every law Moses ever wrote down. If there was anything required in order to obey God perfectly and completely, Jesus did it. While Israel said "All that the Lord has spoken we will do," they failed...over and over and over again. But Jesus said it and did it. And when He did it, it was done. With His last breath on the cross, He said "It is finished." Everything God ever expected of humanity in order to be holy has now been completed and fulfilled.  
So what now?  

There's nothing left to do.  


Performance is obsolete. Jesus already performed perfectly. He now invites us into God's family through believing in what He did on our behalf. And we become part of God's family and enjoy His inheritance by living in faith in the Son of God who died for us (Galatians 2:20). Living by faith looks like a lifestyle of choosing to believe that the old nature of sin, fear, performance, conformity, belonging, and human leadership has been consumed by Jesus Christ. Faith is living in light of the promise that God has adopted us as His children into His family, that we do belong to His family and will forever, and that He Himself is our leader through the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ inside of us. As Paul taught in Romans 8:2, "For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." Paul goes on to explain that 

"God has done what the law...could not do. By sending His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit...You however are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you...For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ..." (vv. 3-4, 9, 14-17). 

Our inward cravings of fear-based conformity, both in following a group and in leading one, make us slaves to that fear. But Jesus fulfillment of God's requirement of holiness means that the Holy Spirit sets us free from that fear. Forever. Becoming a part of His family means getting a new nature. It replaces the old nature. Completely. And that new nature craves something different.  

The very first thing the new nature craves is to be led by Jesus personally. He told His followers in John 10:27, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." There is relationship with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, which mysteriously takes the shape of supernatural communication. It's called revelation. And it's all about God talking to you and you talking to God. 

It's about a return to the kind of friendship Adam and Eve had with God, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had with God. It's about having the kind of relationship Jesus had with the Father, where they actually talked to each other. This is built in to the new creation. If the new creation is in you, you have undoubtedly felt, though you may not have known up to this point what to do with it. Relax. It's Jesus talking to you.  The New Covenant promised that this supernatural communication would replace the old nature communication of human leader to followers. 

"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 31:33-34).  

The inheritance of the New Covenant is personal, supernatural, revelatory communication from God to each individual in His family. No exceptions. And those who come into His family experience a forgiveness of sins and receive a new nature which deeply craves to hear from Jesus Christ. The apostle John later wrote to Christians, "But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you have all knowledge...But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you" (1 John 2:20, 27). This doesn't mean there's nothing to learn from one another, of course. It simply means that we have primarily learned from God, through the voice of Jesus. 

I'm Excited About the Future Days of This Kind of Community

In future days I am personally excited beyond words to have experienced the beginning of a transition from the old nature ways of churchianity to the new nature ways of living with Jesus in real Christianity. Churchianity was comprised of me wanting a group to belong to, whether I was following or leading. Churchianity is driven by fear of being dispersed or expelled because I couldn’t perform or conform.  

Conversely, Christianity is driven by the promise that I have already been accepted into the family of God. I already belong. I've got nothing else to be afraid of. Jesus is my leader now. I no longer crave the leadership of a human being to tell me what to do. Jesus Himself talks to me. He leads me beside still waters, as contrasted with the incredibly noisy waters that most human leaders led me to. And the closer I stay to Him, the louder I can hear His voice. And the louder I hear his voice, the easier it is to recognize old nature voices, systems, structures, laws and principles that tell me I'm supposed to conform to something and perform to keep up.  

Life is awesome in the new nature of Christianity. Life sucked while I was in churchianity.  Life was sucked away from me in churchianity.  I don't ever wanna go back. I've tasted a freedom from performance and conformity that has me chasing after more. I've experienced a joy that can only come from freedom and liberty from the kind of stuff I could never actually do in the first place. And even though I have no group, movement, denomination, or local church to which I now belong, the truth is that I belong to Jesus. And His people belong to Him. That makes me a part of a family which doesn't necessarily look like a group, movement, denomination or local church.  

Instead, the new nature looks like whatever it does and wherever it lands based on what Jesus is talking to me about. And as I intersect with others, the new nature is now driving that interaction and relationship instead of performance and conformity. That means authenticity can really take shape now, the kind that we only preached and wrote about when I was serving under the old nature system and structure of churchianity.  

If you're reading this now and you feel something inside swelling or about to burst, it could be you getting angry with me. But I'll bet it's more likely the new nature inside of you. It's growing. And it wants to get out. It wants to be born and take shape in your life. It's Jesus Christ within you. Perhaps now is the time to say "no more" to churchianity and say "YES JESUS!" to Christianity. If so, take that step, whatever Jesus is telling you to do next, and then sit back and watch what God's about to do next! 

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