What are the advantages in looking for heart change, rather than institutional change to connect with his body?
I have been meditating on a concept lately that I want to share briefly. In Romans 12 1-2 it says “No longer follow the patterns of this word but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s perfect and pleasing will is.” The same word for transformed is the same word in greek as transfiguration which happened to Jesus before he went to the cross and three of his disciples witnessed it. I believe we need a transfiguration experience or a change from the inside out of both our heart and mind before we can understand, recognize, and participate in the Church that God is building. This kind of change cannot happen from the outside by program or rules or laws. God has to change our hearts and our thinking first and then this brings lasting change and fruit that will last from any work or ministry we may do in or with His body the Church. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship (connection) with one another and He purifies us from all sin.” Jesus had no sin but I think His transfiguration was Him walking with the Father and Spirit and being so one with them that He understood God’s will perfectly of what He wanted to do with the sin of the world and to invite all people into fellowship with Him. I want to experience this myself and die to self and the worlds ways of doing things and let God show me His way. He is inviting each of us and it is the greatest invitation we will ever get.
The obvious answer would be, the heart is always with you. It’s impossible to take the institution where you go. And if you are limited to the congregation as the church body, save immediate family and maybe some coworkers and friends, the church is only present when you come together. No room for people in other churches or of no church. Kinda limits you, until building expansion, or a satellite church is built in another city. And not to mention, much more expensive as well.
For me, the focus gets to shift from trying to change others or seek a better model to letting God cultivate my heart so it makes room for the people he wants me to engage. My FaceBook feed is full of the battle over what’s the best way to do church and it is all so much chaff blowing in the breeze. I know people need to work out their angst some way, but I treasure much more those learning to live in the reality of love for people around them and stop trying to justify themselves or to change others. His church is better seen living in a flow of love, than still playing the approval game that shame draws us into.
There are many advantages, but these are a couple that came to me.
1- Heart change endures, while institutional change fizzles.
2- Heart change is scriptural and Godly, while institutional change is abiblical and fleshly.
3- Heart change gives evidence of the Divine to others, while institutional change tries to reformat a lost cause.
4- Heart change helps you to know and be known better, while institutional change is a mirage drawing the thirsty deeper into the desert.
This resonates with me deeply. Having been saved in a very legalistic environment I found myself in a constant state of “us and them.” Oh they think that then they must not really know God. Now, when I’m out and about I find myself looking at people with eyes that say wow God loves that person, do they know this? I know that I personally need to be touched by God’s love. I’m not saying that God hasn’t been there or done anything in my life. Quite the opposite. It’s just that once I started going to church, God became a monster that really couldn’t be trusted. I knew He was the only one with answers but I also felt crushed by Him and the rules. I felt like Christianity was schizophrenic. I’m forgiven and it’s grace alone but someday God will play a videotape of my life and I’m going to have to explain why I didn’t do this or that. My perception not fact. I am asking God to just show himself to me. Whatever that looks like. I am asking that he would bring others where good conversations can happen. I live in a town full of Christians and it is the most lonely of places. You say you don’t want to go to church they will look at you like your one of those who are falling away. They respond with you just need to push through, try harder memorize more scripture. I’m not leaving Jesus or the body, I’m just dying to know God and be secure in his love. I want to love others and see them with the eyes of Jesus and care about the dignity of another human being no matter how different they are from me. I long for relationships but my greater longing is to be touched by the hand of God first.
Gadiela, the longings in your heart are a testimony to your relationship with Jesus right now. Those longings are from him and testify to the reality of his Spirit in you. I understand the legalism as that was what my first 2 years as a believer were like and it is very difficult to be completely free from it. Thanks for sharing.
I have gotten that look too…I like to say they look at me like I have two heads because I am saying things I’m not supposed to say. And then they tell me they are going to be praying for me. So I let them… --joan
People rarely agree about “institutional changes.” But no one can argue with a true heart change.
Instituational change is man made, man generated. It calls for better programs, greater effort, its all about doing for God and never about being in God. Although they can sometimes talk a good talk, they stumble when it comes to walking it. That kind of effort may show some form of change but it is not sustainable or true. It builds kingdoms for its successes and shines unholy light on its failures, pointing fingers and laying blame on the humanbeing not the institution. This type of change connects with A body, but I am not sure it can ever connect with his true body, if it does not want to be seen for what it truely is.
His life is not in brick and mortar, its not in regimes and well planned services with high powerered “worship” and excitable preaching, its in the humans within that, and when those things become life instead of Him then Ichabod is written over the doors.
I cant say that I have never found life within the institutional church, however it has always been brief, fleeting life. It came in the midst of vulnerability and brokenness, it came from humility. It came from discovering everything was about love, it came from the understanding that it was no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.
BUT, when we then put walls around our new revelation, build dogma and rules to define and control it, life is squeezed right out of it.
I find his life now in heart connection to another, deep calling to deep, the joy of enjoying another in the moment and not building anything other than relationship from that.
I thought that heart change could happen quickly with the Holy Spirits help, and it could also happen within casual conversations and fun interaction with others on this journey.
I would also say that institutional change is difficult, it takes a long time (if it ever happens at all), and it can be a painful process.
Heart change, as in spending time with God and allowing Him to effect a change in our hearts, at least improves this part of the body of Christ… it will ready me for what He wants to do and help me to be more sensitive to His voice and to the people He wants to connect me to.
Looking to institutional change is beyond our control… it depends on others… and may not happen, …it is also maybe not our responsibility.
As followers of Christ we are called to love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with our God. We are responsible for OUR response to Christ, only that. Fighting to change an institution could distract us from really seeking God and surrendering to what He wants to do in each of us.
Gadiela , the way you express your heart is awesome! I can relate to much of it.Thank you for sharing
Johanna Lemmon from Federal Way Washington
Years ago I heard someone say that when a group/church gets an idea that they have the Holy Spirit around which they build a fence, and then turn around and announce to everyone else that they have the Holy Spirit, they need to turn around and see that all they really have, is a fence.
That thought has stayed with me ever since then. It was back in the late 70s, so that might give you an impression of how deeply that talk lodged into my being. I was a young believer at that time, having responded to a personal touch of the Lord just a couple of years prior to that.
When I had my eyes opened to a reality of Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, I knew that my life had been profoundly touched and changed. I had grown up in a denominational setting, but the reality of the reality of Father, Son, and Spirit had never impacted my life that way before. I accepted Christ into my inner sanctuary and shortly thereafter received the fullness of the Spirit. Neither of those two occurrences happened within the fence of any institution. They happened in solitude, in the privacy of my room. I read a couple of books that were testimonies of others who had come into these awareness’ in their own journey.
Unfortunately, as I sought to fellowship with others in an effort to expand my understanding, I was soon faced with the assertions that unless I responded to an altar call and prayed a ‘pre-ordained and sanctioned’ prayer I could not trust that I had legitimately responded to the invitation to partake in Christ Jesus. Additionally, I was admonished that I had to undergo a water baptism, along with the appropriately framed prayers and in the company of witnesses, in order to be assured that the spirit I received was indeed the Holy Spirit. This set me into a bit of a tailspin of doubting the direct engagement of Father, Son, and Spirit. It seemed that no matter the institution I associated with, I could never quite trust that personal relationship.
If only I could have had the confidence that the change which came upon my life in that time alone was proof enough that Father, Son, and Spirit were indeed partakers. An outside proof of that was how people I knew at the time realized something had happened in my life… they felt and saw visible changes that they voiced to me. And then to have the story of the fence make such an indelible impression. Instead, I stumbled along until one day I couldn’t self-justify pursuing the elusive approval in the institutions. I, as respectfully as I could muster, communicated to Father that I just couldn’t go on anymore, and hoped that he would not take personal offense. After a time of allowing me to cool down, without condemnation, He drew me back into His presence… and guess what? It wasn’t within the confines of a religious organization, it was at a convention center where I worked that the drawing in took back up again. Through other non-institutional means He continued to guide me along in gentleness, using such things as, God forbid - facebook, youtube and book tables in non-religious based commercial businesses. Through books and online podcasts of those, like Wayne and Brad, I began to finally hear confirmation of whispers within my own space that naysayers ‘naysayed’ when I dared to share those thoughts. I also had a wider view presented through these other individuals of the richness and fullness of what was available to those who believe.
My vote… give me the heart changes… leave the fencing to the institutions. The heart changes that occurred, not only in my life, but in the lives of the individuals who have also followed the inner promptings, questions, and observances inspired by the inner workings of the Holy Spirit who share(d) their journeys to any who will take the time to read, watch, and listen. Focusing and building on the relationship through the Holy Spirit at the personal level provides the freedom to associate openly. To rely on the fencing of the institutions runs the risk of becoming more of an obstacle and a cause for discord and fighting.
I’m aware that my heart changes have been gradual, sometimes subtle, and definitely transforming. I never want to become a judge of others’ heart changes, as I believe that those of us who are discovering more and more about the love of our God are all on a very personal journey. In fact, aren’t all humans on a personal journey? Institutional changes are often brought about by programs. Heart changes are deeply personal and ultimately, in Christ, manifest themselves in greater love, less judgment and condemnation. Sometimes, it is easier to be “right” than to be loving. I pray that God would transform my mind into the mind of Jesus. I know this will be a lifetime, never-ending process. The fruit of true heart change is the way we love.
When I was a part of “clubhouse Christianity”, It didn’t matter what the name was on the sign out front, as soon as I planted myself inside, I had no other choice but to believe I was finally right. I had to be right or I didn’t belong. The problem with believing that I was right, was the result of believing others were wrong. With so many denominations, someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong. We couldn’t all be right.
The walls grew high between me and anyone else who didn’t belong to the same club. In my mind I had to believe that they hadn’t caught up to me yet, or it was my responsibility to make them “see the light”. That is not good soil for growing relationships. My attitude really showed up in my relationship with my family. I couldn’t see how arrogant I was at the time, but looking back, it was obvious in their responses.
I believe now it is easier for me to connect and have relationship with others because I don’t have a club or clubhouse to defend. I don’t even know if I am right anymore, all I know is that it is much easier to love people if it is not my agenda to change them.
That arrogance still rears its ugly head from time to time, but now it’s much more obvious to me now. My family still sees value in the “club” world, and I need to be okay with that, I am learning to be okay with that. To be grieved is not helpful. To see God connecting with every one of them on their own journey… that brings me joy. How and where He does it… that is not for me to debate.
Ruby from Calmar, Alberta, North of the 49th (Canada!!!)
This rings true for me as well. I find myself unburdened from the constant thought that It is somehow my responsibility to convince people of what is “right”. And the whole right and wrong thing; it more often seems to close a door to further communication with someone when the we start off declaring what is right, instead of simple trying to understand where the other person is coming from regardless. Today I’m much more relaxed and can simple enjoy people in my life. It’s very freeing! Blessings to you Ruby
Johanna from Federal Way Washington State
I love your name. Johanna was my grandmother’s name, and her mother’s name and her grandmother’s name… Three generations of Johanna. It means God is Gracious.
Thank you, Johanna… I like enjoying people too… even with the quirks that come along with them.
A Weekend with Wayne Jacobsen
I came out Friday and Saturday to a relatively new “church” in a neighbouring town. Wayne was meeting with a group of people from the area. I had it on my schedule to come but had no one on my list of people that I connect with that, in my mind, would be interested in coming. The only people that I have connected with, that listen to the God Journey, are on line.
When I got the email from the local contact, I was surprised to see the name of someone I used to know on the list of invitees. He and his wife hosted the “house church” that I attended over 7 years ago. I had thought of that little community and wondered if any of them had read Wayne’s books or listened to the God Journey. But I summed up my experiences with them and concluded that the answer to that was probably a resounding “NO”.
A friend of mine that I met through that group noticed my post on FB and told me she got the email passed along to her and suggested that she wanted to go with me. We met for supper on Friday and caught up a bit before heading over to the “church”.
The coffee and goodies were out and a few faces from that local congregation were there. To my surprise, another familiar face from my former group had also came that night. There were about twenty some people gathered and we visited, met new faces and Wayne shared with us a bit of his story. I felt a bit out of place… the veteran God Journey listener among people who didn’t seem to know who Wayne was.
Saturday came with more surprises… More people from my former “house church” came. I passed along a few hugs and tried processing in my brain where I went wrong in my assumptions. It was evident that I misjudged my friends. They came asking questions and wanting to learn more.
Somewhere in our conversation, I found myself asking the people, from the congregation where we were meeting, their story. I was curious to know where their journey as a group was taking them. I got some interesting feed back from a few of the them. It sounded familiar. A group of people meeting together to connect “more relationally” with others. They seemed to have good hearts and passion to connect with others on a real level.
I brought up the “entity” issue and the “pastor” issue… I wanted to hear how it was working for them. Maybe they had a chance at connecting more relationally. Even it it was in a building that looks more like a sign of the “entity” than the “relational” community.
Honestly, I don’t know if I was convinced. I left that “church”, drove around the block and parked in front of another “church”. I let my pent up emotions out of the bag. I cried. The tears lasted for a few minutes and then I looked out the window at a building I had not forgotten.
This building had significance for me. It was a building project that my dad had been a part of years ago. My dad was a builder, site foreman and carpenter. He spend 15 years at the end of his working career life… building additions and renovating Lutheran church buildings across Alberta and Saskatchewan. I was a teenager and young adult during this time. Not only did my parents have their fingerprints on the building of this church addition… I did. I worked there as well. I remember drywalling, caulking and numerous odd jobs I was given as the boss’s daughter.
To see and remember what my parents did for 15 years, and now to look at the one of those buildings and remember everything I have been learning about “Relationships, not Institutions”. Needless to say… I still get messed up emotionally.
I understand where the buildings have messed things up for people, but I also know that buildings have brought people together.
Maybe this family has a chance at a relational community… I have my doubts, and know the challenges they have, and will have, very well. I still believe that buildings and programs are the “entity” that work against the community and their attempts to get more relational.
That was my weekend.
Ruby from Calmar
(trying to focus on the baby instead of the dirty bathwater… but finding it difficult at times, because of the soap in my eyes)
It was great to meet you, Ruby, and hear some of your story. Thanks for joining us this weekend.
Wayne from Thousand Oaks, now in Stony Plain, Alberta